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    Tuesday, 22 January 2008

    I Challenge Wetherspoons To Improve Their Beer Range

    JDWetherspoons have announced that they sold 25% more cask beer during the fortnight they had their real ale festival than in the previous fortnight.

    Now what does this actually say? On face value you might think that it stands to reason because there was more real ale on offer, but of course it's not as simple as that. If a usual JDW customer wants six pints of real ale, they will order their six pints of Greene King IPA, Marstons Pedigree of whatever dross is available on a normal night, and when it comes to festival time they may choose something different, but they'll still drink their six pints.

    The truth is that there are two groups of different people drinking real ale at festival time. Group one is the regular JDW customer who normally drinks something else, but seeing all those interesting ales 'gives it a go'. Group two is the real ale fan (maybe even the ticker) who has gone to their JDW pub purely for the festival and thus appreciates the chance to try different ales. These people usually drink elsewhere.

    So, safe in the knowledge that selling an interesting range of ales is a good selling point and increases cash over the bar, why is the beer list at so many JDWs so boring?

    My local JDW and most of those I see in the East Midlands appear fairly disinterested in real ale when a festival is not on. They have a dull range, and the ridiculous sight of "Sorry Not Available" on a pump is all too common.

    There are of course exceptions; The Babington Arms in Derby is like a permanent beer festival, but it really is an oasis in a sea of mediocrity.

    I challenge Tim Martin to give real ale drinkers a better choice 52 weeks a year, not just when there's a festival on. After all it appears more money passes over his understaffed bar counters.


    Anonymous said...

    I went to the Last spoons festival in Edinburgh, they had 18 taps on. 2 beer were from the Beer festival list, 2 or 3 were there usual suspects. the rest were all common Scottish beers. I was furious. I wrote to Them and got an appology but no explination of why during the beer festival they wernt selling festival beers. Craig

    Paul Garrard said...

    Here in Greene King land (BSE) we don't have a Wetherspoons so I always find them a novelty. I think the novelty would wear off though if I had no other choice. Whilst it gives me great joy to try a new beer it's not the be all and end all. REvisiting old friends is often very pleasant.

    Stonch said...

    I'd generally never set foot in a Wetherspoons apart from when a real ale festival was on.

    I know others who feel the same way.

    The Beer Nut said...

    Gotta get them ticks, eh Stonch?

    maeib said...

    Got to laugh at The Beer Nuts comment.

    I often walk into JDWs outwith festival time. Whether I stop for a pint is another matter though.

    If Tim Martin took up my challenge then I (and maybe Stonch too) would be more regular customers.

    Tandleman said...

    The real problem with JDW is is just does not do what it says on the tin. If only Timbo would live up to his stated aims.

    Stonch said...

    No, it would take a lot more than that to make a regular customer. As I've said before - the pub comes first, not the beer.

    I go in during festivals simply because of the novelty of being able to have some really quite excellent ales for a very low price. I can stomach a few visits during one or two periods of the year, no more.

    However, if they were like that all year round, I wouldn't regularly brave the utterly soul destroying atmosphere caused by the absolute despondency and wasted lives of the regular inhabitants of those detestable drinking barns.

    That was a long sentence.

    Knut Albert said...

    I find it hard to resist the ticks. There is a spoons in Hamemrsmith that has five rotating guest beers, and they are well kept. But it is a depressing place, so I tend to pop in, have two half pints and then be on my way. I would not spend an evening there!

    haddonsman said...

    Here in Derby, we have a spoons with great beer (the Bab, as Mark points out) and one with what seems to be the indifferent approach that other Spoons seems to take, the Standing Order.

    If I could take the beer range out the Bab (ex-carpet shop with almost zero natural light) and put it in the Order (ex-bank with huge ornate ceilings) I'd be happier than a pig roasting in Westvleteren.

    I don't go out my way to drink in Spoons, but the ones I do frequent are OK; the Bab (fewer old drinken lags since the smoking ban), the Roebuck in Nottingham (Belgian draught beer at Xmas!) and the Spoons in Paradise Circus in Brum (though that used to be a branch of Hooters... ah well, can't have it all)

    It's a hard knock life; some Spoons have good beer, a few have great beer, all seem to have ruby-nosed alkies drinking nitro-beater at nine in the morning and fat tattoo-clad parents disputing the 'no-more-than-two-drinks-when you-dine-with-your-kids' rule.

    When I visit somewhere new, at least I know that the Spoons will (usually) have some decent bottled beer if no decent cask. Which is a damn site more than most pubs.