Archive for the 'Pubs' Category

The Pub Lifecycle

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Some thing I’ve remarked upon with friends but not really covered here before now is the seemingly cyclical nature of some pubs; Andy has mentioned it in a number of posts, and we’ve probably caught pubs at different stages of the cycle during 100pubs.

What’s prompted this post is one of my local pubs, seemingly on the rise about 2 years ago, has seemingly quickly declined and is heading for the bottom of the curve. I won’t name it.

The cycle seems to go like this:

New landlord/owner –> investment/refurb –> interest in the business –> good beer –> increased custom –> better pub.

There may be food involved, though it’s optional (I’ll return to this).

Then the landlord or the pubco lose interest.

pub gets tatty –> fewer customers –> beer quality down –> takings down –> possible closure/landlord leaves.

Some pubs survive at this low point: if you’ve got an established trade of less fussy customers who drink a basic lager such as Carling or Fosters or a keg bitter like John Smiths that doesn’t go off quickly, there’s money to be made. I’d also like to point out that only serving such beer isn’t neccesarily a sign of a poor pub- I can think of sveral fairly decent pubs with no cask ale near here- but here’s a list othings I’d consider warning signs:

1. Cask ale declines in quality or disappears.
2. “Premium” lager disappears.
3. Wine disappears.
4. Food, if it was served, disappears.
5. Basic maintenance/cleanliness disappears. The toilets are usually the worst thing…
6. Choice of the more basic beer/cider reduces.

Once you get to 6, that’s usually trouble. The locals start to abondon the place, so the money dries up, and this is exactly where we seem to be in this case, and the other local pubs (Walsall Wood being blessed with several) are gaining custom, and raising their game accordingly: one one occaision I’ve left the pub in question due to the poor beer choice, only to see 6-8 customers that left before me in another one nearby.

I know that it’s harder to run a pub these days, and the closures have complex and varied causes, but there’s still oney to be made running a pub, and around 12-18 months ago, this pub was very busy indeed: Walsall Wood isn’t a huge place, but there’s plenty of drinkers about willing to be seperated from their money if you do it even half right, and decent beer, decent wine, and bogs that are at least tolerably sanitary would be a good starting point on the way to a perfect pub. Food can spoil pubs done wrongly, but well done it can boost takings and footfall withoout spoiling atmosphere.

What I don’t understand is that I’ve seen all of the local pubs go through this cycle at least once in the last 20 years (and one of them manage it 3 times, at least). There’sobviously potential to succeed, as they do when a new landlord arrives, but why the rapid cycling when some pubs remain stable for decades?

A Noise Annoys

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Last night, I was a little later home than other days, and my dear other half suggested a visit to the pub for tea (for those of you of a posh or southern disposition, that’s the evening meal). I was, actually, very slightly reluctant, as I usually don’t drink alcohol in the week, but only for a short while: the idea of a sit with a pint while someone else cooks my food seems like a great idea, so off we went.

When we arrived, there was another group (of 3) in there. The pub was pretty quiet; that early-doors feeling of wind-down. In love pubs at this time, or on Sunday evenings: quiet, relaxing, peaceful. The pub is one that does good business with food, but it is still very much a pub, not a restaurant.

I was a little disturbed, but not too much, at the request to turn the TV on. After all, part of being in a PUBlic house is that it is shared space; and a bit of news or maybe, if you really, really must, some sport doesn’t seem inappropriate, even if not my choice.

This dismay worsened when the TV was put on to The Box, and some dreadful bollocks that I believe calls itself R&B these days was on, and not quietly. Some tracks sounded faintly like someone rapping over a car alarm. Dismay turned to disbelief when the party that asked for it then ignored it, and started playing videos on their smartphones- with sound (which alone should be a punishable crime). The result turned the formerly peaceful pub into a cacophony of noise: something you’d maybe expect on a Friday or Saturday night in a town centre pub frequented by the under 25s, but less in a community pub in Walsall Wood early on a Tuesday evening, and more importantly, a cacophony of noise that the instigators were largely ignoring.

Oddly, while I was halfway through writing this, Pub Curmudgeon came up with this post discussing a “real pub” guide, featuring

those dismal dumps where the only sound is the ticking of the clock and the plaintive miaowing of the pub cat.

[Quote from Cooking Lager]

while a pub trade website detailed a bar that has installed a Faraday cage to effectively disable mobile phones, and of course, we’ve discussed this before.

I can’t agree with the mobile phone blocker, or indeed a mobile phone ban: it is not unusual to find me surfing the web on a phone in a pub- but If I *really must* use sound, I’ll have headphones on, and I go outside if I need to take or make a call: it’s just good manners. I’m not entirely against music in pubs either- one of my favourites regularly has a band on, and at other times tends to have the radio on, but notably the band plays in one of two rooms, and the radio is loud enough to talk over (and Radio 6, so while not my first choice, at least it sounds like music), though at times it’s cursed with bastards standing or sitting at the bar.

Here’s my point: as asked in Andy’s post linked above and discussed here, how much of the noise in pubs is wanted? I’d personally love to see no TVs in pubs, and the quote above sounds perfect. Perhaps we need a return to multi-room pubs, as I can think of one or two like that round here that can accomodate the music or sport and still allow miserable twats like me a quiet pint.

Taphouse 6: The Park Inn

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Brewery Site

Taphouse 6, again with a brewery actually onsite- Holdens.

The Park Inn, with added Pete.

The Park Inn, with added Pete.

I was less enthusiastic than my last visit (but then, I was suffering with a worsening hangover), and we all agreed that while there was nothing wrong, it missed something. Pleasant enough, though.

Ambience 7.3
Beer choice/quality 8.6
Architecture 6
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 7
Toilets 6

Which means an overall score of 6.98.

Taphouse 5: The Beacon Hotel

Saturday, July 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Twitter

Taphouse 5, with a brewery actually onsite- Sarah Hughes.

Beacon Hotel. Image from Google.

Beacon Hotel. Image from Google.

More details in the PubBlog post. It’s still as good as ever, 3 years later.

Ambience 10
Beer choice/quality 8.3
Architecture 9
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 10
Toilets 6

Which means an overall score of 8.66, which I think makes it the leader so far.

Taphouse 4: The Gunmaker’s Arms

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Pub Website

Taphouse 4, this time it’s Two Towers‘ taphouse.

The Gunmaker's Arms

The Gunmaker’s Arms

More details in the PubBlog post.

Ambience 7.5
Beer choice/quality 6.3
Architecture 6.83
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 6.58
Toilets 5.5

Which means an overall score of 6.542

Taphouse 3: The Sow and Pigs

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Pub Website

Taphouse 3. Still on target! The taphouse for Two Crafty Brewers.

Had mixed feelings, but ended up liking this a lot. More details in the PubBlog post.

The Sow and Pigs

The Sow and Pigs

Ambience 8
Beer choice/quality 8.5
Architecture 8
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 6.375
Toilets 6.75

Which means an overall score of 7.525

Walsall Beer Festival

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

It’s beer festival time!

Walsall beer festival starts today at 5pm, running until Saturday. Details on Walsall CAMRA’s website (including a beer list, also reproduced here, thanks to Mikee from Walsall CAMRA). I’m hoping a good selection will be left by Saturday.

(more…)

Bristol City

Monday, March 7th, 2016

We went away for a few days, and my better half suggested Bristol. We’d never been, so it seemed like a good idea; pubs, restaurants, thibngs to see, and not too far to go. Given that parking was going to be expensive, and driving has certainly lost its allure these days, we chose to go by train. A lift to Walsall from a friend one Saturday morning saw us experience the joy of Walsall station, a structure seemingly designed to suck the joy of life from you (and no BOAK building as a comforting sight any more), but it is at least functional, and with a simple layout; something you can’t level at the glitter-rolled turd that is New Street and Grand Central now.

[note: at this point I split off my whining about New St to a separate post]

Anyway, enough whining. On to our train, and the bliss of first class (and without costing the earth, thanks to pre-booking), and around 90 mins later we’re at Temple Meads: a very different matter: Victorian, magnificent, easy to navigate, and within a few minutes, we’re in a cab. Our appartment wasn’t ready, so there’s only one place to go:

The Bag of Nails. Beer, cats, pie, music.

The Bag of Nails. Beer, cats, pie, music.

The Bag of Nails. A few pints in the company of kitties, and a half-mile walk across town past the stunning cathedral to the apartment, before heading out.

Bristol’s a nice city: architecture, pubs, restaurants, and things to see and do, and not remotely up itself, which suits me. We took an open-top bus tour (always a good way to orientate yourself), looked around the amazing ss Great Britain in its dehumidified dry dock, walked over the Clifton suspension bridge and wandered around Clifton, and looked around the Aquarium and cathedral after we’d tired ourselves out walking back and didn’t want to walk too far. Obviously, between those activities, we visited a few pubs too. There’s the usual suspects in chain pubs, chain restaurants, and chain stores, but look about and there’s independent places everywhere.

Coming back was a pain-free experience too: a bus to Temple Meads, train to New St (ugh), and on to Walsall, and a bus saw us home in great time (TM to home in under 3 hours), stress-free.

Taphouse 2: Hail to the Ale

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

PubBlog Link
Whatpub Link
Pub Website

Hail to the Ale!

Hail to the Ale!

The second taphouse, keeping us on target!

A bit more involved logistically, but not too hard. A meet in the very crowded Posada in Wolverhampton (it being match day with Wolves at home), then a walk outside to the 6 bus stop, a ride through Whitmore Reans, and a short walk down to the pub at Claregate.

It’s Wolverhampton’s first (and currently only) micropub, just one room, just one toilet, no draught lager.

It’s rather lovely. It’s owned an operated by Morton Brewery, located in Andy’s part of the world, but there’s a good selection of other beers, and it’s got a pleasant, community feel to it.

Ambience 8.25
Beer choice/quality 7.75
Architecture 5.75
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 10
Toilets 8.25

Which means an overall score of 8.

Taphouse 1: The Fountain, Walsall

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

PubBlog Link
WhatPub Link
100Pubs Link

Given that The Fountain is an easy one to get to, and well loved by everyone on the 100 pubs tour, it was a ideal start for our taphouse adventure. It is, of course, currently the only pub owned by the Backyard Brewhouse, and serves their excellent beer, as well as a few guests.

The Fountain, taphouse 1 of n

The Fountain, taphouse 1 of n

It scored as Follows:

Ambience 8
Beer choice/quality 8.8
Architecture 6.8
Cobs/Pies/Snacks 9.6
Toilets 9

Which means an overall score of 8.44.


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