Sunday, 4 March 2012

Where everybody knows your name ?

Looking after your local, because it looks after you?

Do you have a local? You know, the place that you feel at home as soon as you walk in. Where you know you can have a great evening but equally a quiet drink if you like? Somewhere you can find your own space if you've had a hard day at work, or if you want to do some work?

I suspect you do. I also realise that by writing a beer blog that I am going to be read mostly by those of you who have more than a passing interest in beer and possibly pubs as part and parcel of this. Perhaps your lucky enough to have a pub that you know serves great beer and that's why you go there, perhaps it's just to meet you mates so you'll drink whatever's on offer, or maybe it's just because it's a bolt-hole just up the road and so you'll swallow whatever they are offering 

Having a 'local' is quite a subjective thing. You can have more than one, perhaps near where you work and where you live, perhaps more than one in both locations, although I'm guessing that if you have, say, more than five (!) in both locations you are either extremely gregarious or drunk most of the time! Enough has been written about pubs and the decline of pub culture that you know the importance of supporting your local pub, but how do you support it?

Is it enough to just drink there? Probably not. According to CAMRA, pubs which relied mostly on beer sales accounted for around half of all pub closures in 2011. There is obviously going to be some natural wastage, but back street locals and some historic building are being converted into homes or laying idle because they weren't supported. This may well have been because the beer was sub-standard, but do we have the ability to change that? I'll repeat that, do we really have the ability to change that? Does it make us arrogant to ask a landlord or a member of the bar staff if they would mind stocking a different beer or take a course in looking after their beer properly. The successful Cask Marque campaign has gone a little way to help this, but I have been discussing the disparity between pubs in the J D Wetherspoon chain online and with some friends. Now, I am fortunate enough to count one of the pubs in this chain as one of my locals. It keeps it's beer in excellent condition and always has a beer by a local brewery on it's hand-pumps except when there is a national festival, but I know that this doesn't apply to all Wetherspoon pubs. The staff listen to what the customers want, and indeed actively seek out the advice of it's regular customers on what beers they want (within reason), so you can see why I patronise it.

Could your local do this? Do you know? Have you asked? Perhaps it's times to be more than just a customer and be an active consumer, then maybe you'll fear more involved than just having the staff know you by name.

I'm not for one minute suggesting that every pub in the country should be a 'boutique beer bar' although if you've been to somewhere like Craft Beer Co of an evening you'll know that they have major pulling power, but actually I can't think of a single pub I know (and believe me, I know quite a few) that serves fantastic beer (or cider) that has a problem attracting customers. I'm not saying that this is certainly the case everywhere, particularly in more rural areas, but it has to be a major contributing factor.

If the landlord at your local is moaning about lack of custom or falling beer sales, then maybe you could offer to show them somewhere that isn't? Try and get the message through: good beer, served well is good for business. If you like the pub and support it like this, it surely must be mutually beneficial as a good pub gets a good reputation, which gets more custom.

If you care about beer and your local pub the what have you got to lose? If this fails then perhaps it's time to support a local that will listen.

Post scipt: I hadn't intended this to be my first blog proper, I was going to wait until after my brewery day at Brentwood Brewery on Wednesday, which I am quite excited about, but a couple of things got me thinking today so I decided to take the plunge. Feedback is really helpful so please leave some.

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