Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - July/August 2005

* Really Good Pubs *

It’s hard to imagine anything worth calling a good pub without real ale

IN A RECENT EDITION of “Opening Times”, Cityman described a city-centre boozer as “a cracking pub, and obviously well-run,” even though it sold no real ale. I can see what he meant, but it made me think just how few pubs there are that can in any sense be considered “good”, but still don’t offer the real stuff.

There are various publications on the market such as “The Good Pub Guide” and its imitators. While these major on the dreaded “country dining pubs”, they do include many genuine, characterful establishments. But it is remarkable how virtually every pub featured serves real ale of some kind – as, of course, goes without saying for the “Good Beer Guide”.

It is famously difficult to describe what makes a good pub, but probably the key factor is that it offers something to make it worth visiting for people who don’t live on its doorstep, whether good food, good beer, good conversation, good music, good architecture or more likely a combination of these. Keg pubs, on the other hand, tend to be those either that appeal mainly to a youth market, or simply serve an undiscriminating, captive local population.

From time to time, you’ll come across a pub and think “if it sold real ale, this could be halfway decent”. But, in the absence of real ale, there is rarely more than unrealised potential. All too often the lack of decent beer is a sign of a “can’t be bothered” attitude that permeates through into every other aspect of what is offered to customers.

* Belt, Braces and the Rest *

Dishonest official propaganda encourages ludicrous over-caution over alcohol and driving

AT A SOCIAL FUNCTION I offered to buy a female friend a drink. She said she would just have a Coke, as she was driving. A reasonable point, you might think, but on this occasion she would not have been driving for at least five hours, by which time any alcohol in a drink would have been fully metabolised long before, and left her with a blood-alcohol level of zero.

If, on that occasion, she really had preferred a soft drink, fair enough. But, in those circumstances, to use drink-driving as a reason to avoid a single alcoholic drink is nonsense, and has no legal or safety justification. This kind of attitude is a direct result of the misleading government propaganda of recent years that has encouraged responsible people to take a ludicrously exaggerated view of risk while – via the replacement of traffic police officers with speed cameras – giving a green light to the irresponsible minority.

Within the law, everyone is entitled to make a judgment as to what for them constitutes responsible behaviour. But if supposedly intelligent people are taking such an inflated view of the level of prudence they need to exercise, it is hardly surprising that pubs are so empty and hundreds are closing every year.

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