So I’m sat minding my own business in the Fisherman’s Arms, without my mate Rab for a change, just pondering life and doing the people watching thing again over a pint. Unsurprisingly, sitting in a pub, I got to thinking about my life in the context of beer and boozing…
As a slight aside; the actual beer of choice on this occasion was a pint of Nick Stafford’s Hambleton Stallion (4.2% abv). It could have been Yorkshire Gold from the local Wall’s County Town Brewery however, this excellent brew is such a new tipple the company are so far having difficulty matching consumer demand. Failing the availability of a decent pint of real ale, I normally resort to my old faithful which is Guinness a beer you can nearly always rely on being good, no matter where you go. But back to my ponderings…
I don’t drink to excess you understand however; beer has been an important part of my life since birth. I suppose you could say it’s in my veins; if it isn’t it should be, I’ve spent plenty of time topping-up that ‘lifeblood’ if you know what I mean? 😉
Despite my upbringing, the fact I have an affinity with beer, brewing and the whole concept of Public Houses is one that is hardly strange. At one time that pasion was shared by many people, unsurprising when you consider the status of beer in our social history. Beer is the world’s most widely consumed and probably the oldest of all alcoholic beverages. It is believed that beer dates back to the early Neolithic times or 9500 BC, when cereal was first farmed and is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
So, given my background I’m probably even more concerned than many that; out of the 53,000+ public houses in the UK, that number is in weekly decline. To my mind the pub has always been a major focal point of a community, in some areas it’s actually the only one. My level of concern about these closures is shared by many…
The Rise & Fall of the British Pub: With up to five pubs closing every day in England and one in six people claiming they no longer drink alcohol, it seems unlikely the slide will soon come to an end… (Telegraph.co.uk)
The public house is not just about drinking, however many of the weekend binge drinking booze monsters would have little or no coignisance of that fact; many Public Houses hold an important place in our national social history and heritage. Take the humble pub sign as an example. Many of them were actually a work of art, worthy of display in some museum or gallery…
Save our pub signs: They used to be among our most familiar and best-loved landmarks but now they are a dying art – and the stories behind how such pubs got their names are vanishing with them… (Express.co.uk)
It appears that the actual booze itself is the driver of many people’s drinking today, a kind of escapism from the realities of the world. Amongst many young people it is the simple route to getting off your head as quick as possible, the quality of the product and/or the surroundings are in many ways, superfluous and ancillary to the task at hand… Simply getting shit faced. A factor I’ve always found hard to understand as many of them have little or nothing they really need to ‘escape’ from, unlike the abusers of many other drugs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not sat pontificating about the evils of drink, I’ve been known to have one over the eight myself from time to time. That said, I never left home intending to get drunk or indeed, set off from home already partly wrecked before I got to the pub, unlike many of the new-age drinkers. Getting tipsy was simply an unplanned consequence of having a great night out!
Unfortunately due to a list of many varied reasons, not many of the ‘social hub’ type public houses actually exist today, it seems that many see the pub simply as a venue for consumption. There are many reasons for this and the cause is variously attributed to many differing factors. Supermarket sale of cheap alcohol, high alcohol taxation, loosening of licensing laws and control or simply, the changed drinking habits and moral framework of the nation have all been cited as the route cause for the decline in our public houses. To my mind it’s a combination of one or more of the above, coupled with an apparent decline in professional publicans. People who actually lived and breathed the concept of hospitality provision, along with an element of social education and cohesion.
The public house may have changed and so may the people who run them however; look around and you can still find some good ones. The search may be more difficult than it once was, but the journey is worth taking. In these days of plastic drapped theme bars and large pub company chaines who are simply in it to make money, it can be a journey of marathon proportions however; as the TV property developer shows continually tell us, the answer is often… “Location, Location, Location!”
Pubs Serving Local Game: The best pubs are inextricable linked to their location – and there can be no surer sign of that than a range of locally caught game available on a pubs menu board. The Good Pub Guide has selected 10 of the best at utilising the bounty from the countryside and offering the best of local game in season… (Read more)
The food element refered to above is also a criticle factor to the success (or demise) of today’s public house. A little known fact about today’s licensed trade is; since November 2010 the UK public house industry now actually sell more meals to their customers than pints of beer per anum…
The importance of food service to the public house trade is hardly astounding. When you consider the changes in our work life balance, a prominent inability of many to actually cook a meal and the fact we have become a ‘foodie’ nation (due to TV Celebrity Chefs), you start to understand why the food aspect has become so important again. In some ways the modern public house is actually returning to it’s roots.
The provision of food at the Coaching Inns and Taverns of yesteryear was one of the main reasons why they actually existed in the first place. They were buildings where travellers could get a place to sleep (inns) along with food and drink (taverns) and typically located in the country or along a highway. Strange that much of our life usually revolves around very basic concepts and commodities, irrespective of how humans attempt to complicate things?
Ah, my eureka moment once again… More evidence to support my theory; much of life is cyclic. Time for another pint me thinks!
- A local pub for local people: ‘Micropubs’ are catching on (independent.co.uk)
- The rise and fall of the British pub (telegraph.co.uk)
- Small beer? Britain’s pubs now sell more meals than pints (dailymail.co.uk)
- Children and pubs: A ghastly cocktail? (bbc.co.uk)
- Future of Punch pubs in balance (independent.co.uk)
- Pub of the year in capital for first time (independent.co.uk)