Monday 30 June 2014

Regression to the Mean

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If that's not true, then certainly the signs point to mediocrity.

Imagine. You get the lease for a dismal, failing pub. All it's clientele are either scum, or on the verge of death. But wait! What's this you read? Craft beer is a big thing now. Surely, there's a whole untapped market in town for all those Crafties who will pay a premium for decent beer?

So, you refurbish the place. You get rid of all the old nonsense like macro lager, and a cask option of Wells Bombardier and Sharps Doom Bar. You ring up James Clay and fill the fridge with UK micro bottles and Continental stuff. You put craft keg and unusual lager on your fonts, and obscure but excellent non-local ales on the handpumps.

And what happens?

The casuals are confused. They walk into your pub and can't see a single brand they recognise. No Guinness? You can't be a proper pub without Guinness, they say. And what's Krombacher or Freedom Four? Haven't you got Kronenbourg or Carling? What sort of pub is this?

You patiently explain that this is a Craft Pub, committed to beer excellence, and this is what we have. Grudgingly, they order what you suggest, drink up and leave. Possibly for a place they feel more comfortable in. After a few weeks, you find this happens often.

Maybe, you think, it wouldn't be such a bad thing to put one macro lager on. We'll still keep the other seven taps for good stuff, but at least the casuals won't be scared off.

Then you find the Casketeers are bemused by your real ale selection. What's this cloudy, hoppy stuff from a place I've never heard of? Is it made in a shed or something. I mean, I'm all for supporting diversity in Real Ale, but haven't you got anything more traditional? So, again grudgingly, you stick on a couple of Boring Brown Bitters.

And so it goes. Eventually, you're left with a similar token Craft option all the other pubs do. The race for the centre ground has left you exactly in the middle, indistinct from the crowd.

Such are the perils of trying to be "Craft" in a non-metropolitan area.


  1. However, in many towns, the full-on multi-beer alehouse, which indeed may not have Guinness, smooth bitter or macro lager, has managed to prosper and multiply.

  2. It's a fact that most beer drinkers aren't interested in experimenting and want beers they know, whether it's a familiar real ale, lager or Guinness. I suppose the essential thing would be get the location right, or it would probably go the way you've described.

  3. Sometimes you don't even need location. Look at the Grove in Huddersfield. One of the very best pubs in Britain and yet not an ideal location, really.