A lot of people reckon you shouldn't tell it how it is, on blogs, even as a snapshot, when commenting on beer or pubs. The arguments for this approach go along a lot of rather tortuous routes, including " It isn't fair to mention a one off experience", "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything", "It was fine when I had it in the Strangler's Arms eight years ago" and "I just had a bottle of it and they are great brewers." There are many more, but you get my drift I reckon. Gazza Prescott, the ticker and now brewer, calls it "Cheery Beery" with more than a little contempt.
What prompted this subject was a note by Tyson on his blog and on Twitter about the beer in the Marble Arch not being on top form and a criticism of Thornbridge Black IPA as a mess of good ingredients. (I can't say on this one, but if I get the chance to try it I will and call it as I see it.)
The brewing industry and the pub trade can be sensitive to even the mildest of criticism, no matter how constructively put or well intended. I can recall falling out with a Head Brewer over bad batches of beer, which I knew for a fact had been pulled from pub cellars by a special dray team. He was offended that I said so and stated that there was nothing wrong with the beer. My reply was that he was treating his customers with contempt, in that he expected them to drink the same beer in the pub night after night and year after year and then, not notice when there was something wrong with it.
Pubs have similar issues when a customer feels a beer isn't right. Too often he or she is told that there is "nothing wrong with it" or the classic "Everyone else is drinking it" and the equally poor response "Well that's how it's meant to taste". Another anecdote illustrates how it can be done much better, though I do admit it was an unusual bit of customer care. Once in the Prince of Wales in Foxfield, we complained about a beer. The landlady said she'd been in a hurry and hadn't tried it. She had some, turned the pumpclip round, picked up the GBG, phoned the brewer and told him the beer was undrinkable. "Action this day" indeed, but while not calling for that, is it too much to expect beer that isn't right never to reach the public?
I have digressed more than a little here, but my point is that bloggers of all people should call it as it is. Didn't we all start blogs to say our piece and offer opinion? Pubs and brewers should be as comfortable with constructive criticism as they are with praise and the beer industry should take a leaf out of the supermarkets book, where a dodgy product is met with horror rather than denial.
The hidden costs of customer dissatisfaction are even more and any bad experience in the pub or with beer costs the customer just as much as a good one, which is a fairly good reason to speak out.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, CAMRA Chairman and (local) activist, beer author, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
This blog mentions specifics; pubs and beer, good and bad. The opinions will be forthright, but you can always disagree, just don't be offended. Comments from those mentioned are particularly welcome and a right of reply is hereby offered.
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