Cask Ale, No Frills, and Plenty of Conversation: Reinventing the English Pub for the 21st Century

Discussion in 'Article Comments' started by BeerAdvocate, Oct 15, 2018.

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  1. BeerAdvocate

    BeerAdvocate Admin (17,075) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Society

  2. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,802) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Good article that rather captures the essence of the thing.
    Premo88 likes this.
  3. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Champion (881) Jan 29, 2012 England

    These micropubs are popping up all over the place. Not the cosiest of joints but they manage to drum up a loyal patronage very quickly and the atmosphere is always warm and friendly. Equally as important, the beer is superb in these places. Not the same tired old lineup.
  4. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (13,534) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Great article. Great story. I'm glad to see freedom from the pubcos that have shut down so many beautiful pubs with their nonsense - once that building or unit is sold and turned into a shoe store or what not and the beautifully detailed bar and other items are torn out and destroyed they cannot be replaced! It costs too much!!! And, being a huge fan of cask ale, I can't help but cheer for it.
    LuskusDelph, Premo88 and TongoRad like this.
  5. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Nice piece, Jessica & Ray! Very enjoyable read.
    FBarber, Lucular and Premo88 like this.
  6. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,911) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Wow, I really want to go to one of these micro pubs.

    I would love to see something like that in the US.
    FBarber, the_bavarian and Premo88 like this.
  7. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (2,140) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    If it helps keep cask ale flowing, sounds like a good thing.
  8. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Champion (881) Jan 29, 2012 England

    It's a weird one. Pubs are closing at an alarming rate yet cask ale is more ubiquitous than I've ever known it. It seems to be just the Guinness and Stella dive bars that are closing down. Still heart wrenching to see an old pub turned into an estate agents or Tesco.
  9. WhiteHart

    WhiteHart Initiate (48) Apr 16, 2018 North Carolina

    Won't happen, at least on the scale of a movement. The unspoken premise in the states is that the establishment should conform to what the customer desires instead of the opposite--that the space will bring in the type of trade appropriate for the pub. This leads to demands for beer styles and brands of lesser sophistication and, eventually, the death knell that are televisions. And just try to tell an American that he or she should put their phone away and see what happens!
    No, for this type of idea to ever happen in America, you would have to first change Americans.
    tone77, FBarber, BruChef and 3 others like this.
  10. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,911) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    On the scale of a movement, maybe not.

    But I could see it happening as a niche. Heck, it didn't take very long for the tap room and beer garden culture to get going in the US. And neither involves having TVs for the most part.

    Maybe they'd still let you use your phone...I also personally have no issue with people using their phones either...there's way too much tied to the phones these days to take them away from people. For example, calling an Uber to go home so I don't drink and drive...
    Ranbot, surfcaster, FBarber and 2 others like this.
  11. TheInsomniac

    TheInsomniac Initiate (63) Jan 11, 2015 New Mexico

    I still don't completely grasp what makes these pubs different from other pubs. I definitely understand and recognize the larger pub company types. I've mostly avoided them in the U.K. because the beer they had on tap was not beer I wanted to drink. These places are easily spotted by having a sign out front of a historical brewery that's now owned by big beer (like Boddington's), while inside half the people are drinking Stella.

    However, other pubs have more craft options, but are also more likely to have high turnover in good, fresh, cask British ales that I love. Some of those are new pubs (micropubs), others are older ones that fought the standardization and have modernized. I don't know what makes those pubs different from the micropubs mentioned here.
    Premo88 likes this.
  12. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (328) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    I love the pubs of the British Isles and Ireland. They are it's most precious resource. I fear that a combination of political correctness, the nanny state and big business will drive them out of business.
    CervezaNY and scream like this.
  13. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (2,140) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    My experience with the English pub this spring was fantastic from start to finish. In London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Huddersfield (the two pubs on either end of the train station), the service, quality and condition of the cask ale and the people in general all were world class. I can't wait to go back just for the pubs. I neither saw nor heard anything about pubs having a hard time, but the article said the trouble isn't in London as much as in the smaller rural towns -- something I didn't experience considering Stratford's a thriving tourist destination and the pubs at the Huddersfield train station do steady business.
  14. Dave_S

    Dave_S Initiate (89) May 18, 2017 England

    It can be a blurry line. The Butcher's Arms really is micro - there's basically two tables plus a couple of high seats facing into the room, and even that feels crammed in - but other places are no smaller than a traditional one-room pub. The defining factor often seems to be that they've been opened in a former retail space more than anything else.

    That said, there is also a sense that where some trad pubs are lumbered with a large space and hence need to be jack-of-all-trades in order to attract enough people to pay the rent, micropubs can afford to pick one target audience - normally, it has to be said, "middle-aged middle-class men who like their ales" - and focus on doing what they want as well as possible. So it's no surprise that the idea has taken off.
  15. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Champion (881) Jan 29, 2012 England

    That's great to hear. All the pub closures round my way mostly happened several years ago. Two of my hometown's most cherished pubs have been threatened with closure (not due to dwindling numbers, I might add) but people petitioned and they've been saved. With regards to the sort of pubs I go to it feels like there are more than there's ever been.
    Premo88 likes this.
  16. Hoppsbabo

    Hoppsbabo Champion (881) Jan 29, 2012 England

    Boddington's, eugh!

    One way of defining them is that they're usually set up in buildings which weren't meant to be pubs. In town we have a micro-pub which looks more tuck shop. Minimal interior design, brightly lit, looks and feels nothing like the 17th century Sammy Smiths pub opposite (which I think closed recently!).
  17. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    No douches on cell phones, convivial conversation, and cask beer? Sounds like a plan to me.
    rtrasr and AlcahueteJ like this.
  18. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I don't see tellies as a problem. When there's no footie, you can always shut them off. :wink:

    Not that you shouldn't have them, you just shouldn't be on them the whole time. Leave the stupid thing in your pocket, for fuck's sake, ya silly wanker.
    FBarber likes this.
  19. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,911) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I don't prefer TV's (unless it's a sports bar), but I also don't mind them.

    I DESPISE music at a bar.

    Phones also don't bother me too much. People being on them ALL the time, sure I can see that. But if I'm at a bar by myself, sometimes I just want to relax, read an article or the BA forums on my phone, and enjoy my beer.

    I see this as no different than someone reading a newspaper and hanging out.
  20. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I find background music to be just fine, even inviting, at times. Club level music can fuck off.
  21. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,911) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Quiet background music is ok. But most places, even most tap rooms, feel the need to BLARE music. Unnecessary.
    LuskusDelph and Dandrewjohn like this.
  22. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,989) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah, I'll tend to use my crossword or cryptoquote apps as relaxing entertainment and it's the same sort of thing, just a neater way than doing the ones in the paper.

    If people around me would like to chat, all the better, but for whatever reason it's something that I rarely encounter as a solo patron.
  23. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (6,253) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    If I am losing my voice trying to have a conversation with a friend in a bar/pub/taproom/etc. then its too fucking loud. Sadly, this is way too common especially in the evenings.
    LuskusDelph, TongoRad and AlcahueteJ like this.
  24. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,802) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Time and place. When younger my friends and I liked loud, energy filled watering holes. Now we like a place where old hard of hearing men can talk.
  25. JimKal

    JimKal Zealot (539) Jul 31, 2011 North Carolina

    Just returned from a monthlong trip to England and Scotland. I had cask ales almost every day. The pubs I was in tended to be proud of them. Most with an ABV of under 5% delivered a smooth mouthfeel and exceptional taste. During the month I only had to send one back as it had turned. I had had it the day before and loved it but overnight it developed some sour notes. I would love to see some of our local breweries develop some cask ales.
  26. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,554) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    If you ever come up to visit Philly area you should seek out Yards beers on cask. I have had the following of their beers on cask: ESA (a Bitter Ale), Brawler (Dark Mild), and George Washington Porter and I have enjoyed these beers on cask.

    Another beer that is available on cask (at the brewpub) is Sly Fox Chester County IPA (British style IPA).

    Oh, and the Forest & Main brewpub (Ambler, PA) always has some beers on cask. Right now:

    On Cask:

    Drome Time – 3.1% A baby oatmeal stout served on hand pump. Notes of baker’s chocolate, liquor, toffee, Heath bars, and liquorice. Finishes ethereally dry and herbally hoppy.

    10oz 3.5 16oz 5.5 20oz 6

    Swim Serve - 5.5% A site-specific IPA brewed with Citra and Chinook and served via the hand pump.

    10oz 4 16oz 6.5 20oz 7

    Friend Uncle – 4% A British style bitter served on the hand pump, and brewed with Maris Otter, Crystal, and a pinch of Chocolate. Hopped with Saphir, Opal, and Aurora. Notes of toasted raisin bread, marmalade, herbal citrus oils, oak, and chocolate bitters.

    10oz 3.5 16oz 5.5 20oz 6

  27. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (328) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    I would love to go to a country pub where one could have civilized conversation while partaking of pipe and pint.
  28. Dandrewjohn

    Dandrewjohn Initiate (140) Apr 13, 2013 Texas

    An epic pub crawl in the making. When I went to the UK several years ago, unfortunately we only hit one local place (and had to find it ourselves). The tour company carefully steered us to the touristy Guinness (and effing Coors Light!) places. The Irishmen in the dive all thought Americans were crazy. It was fun.
    Hoppsbabo, rozzom and Squire like this.
  29. rozzom

    rozzom Meyvn (1,058) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    You were in the UK? Or Ireland?
    LuskusDelph, steveh and jesskidden like this.
  30. thielges

    thielges Initiate (0) Jul 26, 2008 California

    Yes that's the reality of American culture today. I was just at a local taproom that could easily fit the mold of this new wave of UK micropub: small, friendly, no TVs, former retail space, excellent selection of ales. Yet two visits in a row somebody at the next table felt it was a great place to watch their favorite TV show on their phone, volume at full blast.

    Worse are those who feel the need to fill the aural void of no TV or jukebox by streaming an online radio station, complete with advertisements, blaring over tinny phone speakers.

    There's nothing wrong at all with simple conversation, something public houses are ideal for. There are plenty of other places, public and private, that are better suited to watch TV.
    LuskusDelph, AlcahueteJ and WhiteHart like this.
  31. jonb5

    jonb5 Meyvn (1,236) May 11, 2010 England

    I lived in Horfield for 3 years in the late 90’s-early 00’s. Some of the pubs in the area were real dives you wouldn’t have wanted to visit.

    I probably wouldn’t have visited the Drapers Arms (had it existed) at that point in my life, but these days I would love to have a place like that on my doorstep.
  32. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (9,656) Sep 25, 2011 England
    Moderator Society Trader

    From Manchester, a city that boomed with the industrial revolution, so slightly lacking in ye olde coach inns etc I have seen cask outlets go beyond just a bar or pub.

    Effectively an independent bottle shop with 4 casks lines & 4 keg lines, these places provide a perfect beertopia, a great little beer session whilst picking your carry out.

    The craft scene has added to the real ale/CAMRA haunts & I doubt that I am rare in enjoying both scenes. It's made it absolutely unnecessary to go into the kind of places that cater solely for the Bud/Stella/Guinness/Carling

    The best beer & the worst beer I've had in my life is cask, it is a live fresh product. Like bread, freshly baked is best but goes off quicker. The number of terrible... no let me be frank, downright fucking disgustingly undrinkable pints I've had by establishments run by those not interested in beer as anything other than a money maker. Stale old beer served through filthy lines with trays to catch drips under the pumps emptied back into the barrel.

    Also a lot of English styles lose their subtle nuances, dark mild is one but also golden, blondes and twists on continental beers allow Saaz, Noble and other less aggressive hops shine.
  33. Jacobier10

    Jacobier10 Poo-Bah (2,551) Feb 23, 2004 New Jersey

    Great read! I recently went to a British style pub in NJ. The cask ale wasn't the best I've ever had but the bartender was extremely friendly and went out of his way to introduce the other patrons at the bar. Needless to say, the ensuing conversation between everyone was very enjoyable. No one was staring at their cell phones or zoned in on a TV (since the bar didn't have one). Granted, the bar was bigger than the micropubs described in the article but I would love to see more places with a similar concept.
    LuskusDelph and AlcahueteJ like this.
  34. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Had one of these experiences this summer. Excited to see cask ale on the menu. Not so excited to receive an uncarbonated glass of vinegar.
  35. Dandrewjohn

    Dandrewjohn Initiate (140) Apr 13, 2013 Texas

    Both, actually. I can’t recall for certain which Ireland it was.
  36. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,911) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Wow, I can't say I've encountered that. I don't mind people being on their phones, but that's just fucking rude.

    This sounds exactly like the tap rooms in the US.

    Probably minus the dogs and children running around. :wink:

    Bars seriously do this?
    EmperorBevis likes this.
  37. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (9,656) Sep 25, 2011 England
    Moderator Society Trader

    No craft beer bar or real ale pub would pour back.
    It is mostly held on to places that mostly sells keg but where there is a smaller clientele of bitter drinkers or one cask line is a lease stipulation that doesn't sit well with their customers.

    I had hoped it had been a victim of Health & Safety, with new guidelines, however, no.

    I was taught to draw beer with a handpump by my dad. My first bar job interview I was asked to pour half a cask bitter. I presented a text book glass with no wastage
    "That looks good but will have no head left in half an hour" the landlord said then wrenched the pump putting half a pint in a glass and filling a third of the driptray with beer foam.
    "The bitter and lager goes back into the bitter, the mild, Guinness, lemonade and cola go back into the (dark) mild. God knows what strength & flavour the mild drinkers were given.

    I would have thought it had been consigned to the dodgy bar practices history book, til I heard about autovac, which uses hidden technology to return the beer to the barrel.
    Hoppsbabo, AlcahueteJ and LuskusDelph like this.
  38. Keene

    Keene Initiate (0) Sep 11, 2009 Washington

    An attentive, sociable bartender can truly change the atmosphere of a pub and improve the experience for everyone.
    Jacobier10 likes this.
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