Recently some of the bloggerati have suggested that the loyalty and commitment shown by Wetherspoons to the sale and promotion of cask beer has declined somewhat.
This week I had to make a trip to my parents in Cornwall and took the opportunity to look at Bridgnorth on the way, a town about which I had heard a lot (in pub terms at least) but had never visited.
It was enlightening to see that even Shropshire has its share of bearded hipsters.
Time spent in the towns’ respective Spoons brought the cask debate to life for me.
The first visit was this high street pub in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.
The “Jewel” sits amongst a high density of pubs, many of which were very busy for a Tuesday evening in February. At 6.30 PM the Spoons was no different, with the usual range of customers getting stuck into Grill Night.
But what of the cask offer, I hear you cry impatiently.
Just four beers, a very limited choice in my Spoons experience. Two of the brands were the ubiquitous GK brands, Ruddles and Abbot. No Doom Bar; the other two brands were Kelham Island Pale Rider from Sheffield and Sadlers Hop Bomb, a beer I’d heard of but not seen before, and relatively local, brewed at Lye near Stourbridge.
A mere £2.30 a pint and I gave it a go, but sadly, despite its appearance it was tired and, moreover, warm. I couldn’t finish it.
So we had limited cask choice and the one local beer was past its best, yet the pub was busy, in a lively town. There was plenty of lager and cider being drunk, plus I spotted the return of Bud Light on draught, perhaps more in line with mainstream Spoons drinkers’ tastes.
There certainly wasn’t much “craft” being supped, and the displays looked a bit low-key given Spoons’ usual merchandising standards.
On to Penzance, and to the Spoons in the interests of checking my E mails; my parents haven’t yet worked out how to open texts on their pay as you go phone bought for emergencies, so technology is limited chez Larrigan.
A busy pub at most times of the day, with more than it’s fair share of middle aged blokes.
Usually there are half a dozen cask beers available, often including at least two from local Cornish brewers like Tintagel.
However on this occasion the choice was limited to three Spoons staples; Doom Bar, Ruddles & Abbot.
There were a few middle aged beardies (beards not being a sign of hipsterdom in West Cornwall) on the Sixpoint and Treason IPA cans, unsurprising given the £1.99 price point.
The question before the house is whether a significant minority is adopting “craft” in Spoons, given the ABV bang for your buck(pound) and the level of internal promotion, or whether the diminishing cask range has forced the keg rejectors to go for the most interesting (IMHO) alternatives.
It’ll be interesting to watch this one unfold, and to hear from my reader(s) as to whether they have noticed a similar trend in other Spoons, particularly more metropolitan sites.
Until next time….yeghes da!