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CASK ALE EXTINCTION?
In view of the pandemic and thereby the self-isolation of consumers, I can quite understand pubs limiting the number of cask ales on offer in order to save on wastage in the likelihood of reduced sales. However, the added limitation of consumer choice brought about by the tied house system and other purchasing restrictions imposed by pub owning businesses (POBs) is surely further compounding reduced sales and turning drinkers away from cask ales. And this at a time when surely pubs should be trying to tempt customers back to the pub (and away from cheap home consumption of beer) by marketing the pubs’ unique product, cask ale, which cannot be purchased in supermarkets?
Add to this trading conundrum the serving of cask ale in pubs at the incorrect temperature (as so sadly frequently happens to this writer!) then the propensity for the entire disappearance of cask ale from the pub as a result of poor sales becomes a grave concern.
POBs should wake up to the above conundrum (if they wish their pubs to continue trading in the current environment?) and cease their continued purchasing restrictions by permitting publicans to purchase cask ales (on the already limited number of cask ale lines) according to the choice and taste of their local customers, and not be dictated by corporate homogenisation banning purchases from reliable and popular smaller breweries and microbreweries.
Furthermore purchasing and delivery direct from the breweries instead of via beer agencies reduces (i) the cost, (ii) the danger of inconvenient delivery times to the pub and (iii) the risk of delivery of cask ale not rotated by ‘best by’ date order.
Is cask ale on the verge of extinction in view of the lack of foresight of POBs?
KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
A dozen years ago the world’s economy blew up. 2008 was a standard issue banking crisis requiring the standard issue response of borrowing against the future to get us through the present. Then the whole human species was struck by a global health threat. Borrowing against the future became even more urgent or we wouldn’t have one. And the present was one where economically productive work encouraged the spread of the virus, so had to be shut down, at least to the extent that still meant we didn’t all die of starvation. London’s lockdown priorities revealed that our city’s economy no longer had any manufacturing to worry about. Gone are the tiny factories in residential streets, such as made printing machinery in Walthamstow or Z beds in Bethnal Green. Gone are landmarks like Crittall’s, Gestetner and Roneo Corners. Your car no longer has gaskets made by Klingers in Sidcup or floor mats made by Cannon Rubber in Tottenham. Our city is now entirely given over to service industries such as food, drink, musicals, football and ‘Global Finance’. And what lesson has this historic catastrophe for the whole human race taught me? That table service in pubs makes it more difficult to challenge short measure. The masked waitress is gone before you can complain, but is back urging another on you before you’ve finished. I do hope you think I’m keeping things in proportion.
PUB HOSPITALITY IN DESPERATE TIMES
During the tough times of early lockdown, there were a few saviours. Not Joe Wicks, or the lack of commuting on a South Western Railways train, but rather the pub and beer industry making do, and offering what service they could. I had a selection box from Black Sheep delivered (disclosure, I’m a shareholder, and from ‘The North’ originally) which went down a treat, but a special shout out to the pubs that offered a takeaway service. I can still remember the first pint of real ale I had during lockdown from the Three Crowns in Stoke Newington, served in a four pint plastic milk carton! When going on walks in various London parks, I sought out pubs close by that were offering drinks to go, sometimes taking a rather unhealthy detour and incurring the wrath of my non-beer loving girlfriend. However, there is a rather large flaw, as I found out after a ramble round Victoria Park. I bought four pints of a locally brewed pale ale, drove home, and poured myself a glass on my terrace to enjoy in some evening sunshine. The problem? The beer was off! £18 I shall never get back!