This is a matter close to my heart. The slow death of the local pub and the real ale drinking that goes hand-in-hand with this. In the UK around half of our 60,000 pubs are owned by just 10 operators. This is not a healthy situation to be in. 39 pubs are closing every week! The names of Green King and Fullers are becoming household names and yet micro-breweries are reliant on government subsidies to survive. Meanwhile medium sized breweries such as Harvey’s in Lewes have neither the government support nor the operational capacity to compete with the giants at Green King.
We can see from the Lewes Arms controversy how Green King is willing to put profit above consumer demand. It is only after petitions and a strong campaign did the pub revert to stocking the local beer (Harveys). This example however, also highlights what real grass-roots pressure can do. If you are sick and tired of being offered the same old generic beers then do something about it!
The British beer culture (different to the drinking culture in general) is something that we should all be very proud of. We produce some of the best quality beers in the world. I currently have the pleasure of living in Belgian and people often ask me what I think of the beers here. The simple answer is that they often rely on crass flavours and offer none of the depth and subtlety that some English ale holds. It is only when you don’t have something do you really miss it!
If you are like me and enjoy spending a considerable period of time (and money) in your local then choose wisely. Follow my golden rules:
1) Choose a free house. Green King especially is in danger of creating a monopoly over the pub industry. This has negative repercussions for the diversity of real ale that is being produced (and consumed). If a pub has a big green sign hanging outside of it stay well away!
2) Choose a pub that stocks its beer from a local micro-brewery. You might think this is hard to find, but increasingly micro-breweries are popping up left right and centre. If your local free house is not stocking the local breweries then ask why!
For those of you based in Gloucestershire (my beloved shire) here are a few ideas for you to check out if you haven’t already!
- The Woolpack in Slad (Stocks Stroud Brewery and Uley)
- The Blackhorse in Amberley (Stroud Brewery and changing guest ales)
- The Prince Albert in Stroud (Stroud Brewery)
For more information check out the good beer guide or the CAMRA web-site (http://www.camra.org.uk/home.aspx)