Saturday 9 May 2015

I'm Free

Just don't expect variety

Recently, one of my local pubs has been undergoing a "refurbishment". Now, I can see the Mudgie Signal being illuminated across Preston upon me saying that. But, having been in the place both before and after, I'm struggling to see what they spent £500k on.

The Black Bull is a Mitchell's & Butler's house, under their " Ember Inns" concept, as it happens. M&B own thousands of pubs, what with being the main inheritor of the Bass Estate. The unwary would not know this, however. The Black Bull has a big brick pillar just outside, on which is prominently painted the words "Free House".

If there is a more debased term in the pub industry in recent times as " Free House" , I have yet to hear or see it.  Originally, I assume, it was a declaration of independence from the notorious Big Six brewers. But since their demise, what does it really mean? There are certain places that depict themselves as a "JD Wetherspoon Free House".

It may be true that the alleged Free House is not tied to a single supplier, but is it a guarantor of choice? The Black Bull (to take the easiest example) usually has 6 handpumps on. But these have the Big Brewery Bitters you can see anywhere - Thwaites Original, Marston's Pedigree, Brakspear Bitter, Moorhouses Pendle Witches, etc.

" Free House" may have meant something in the past, but in 2015 it's a particularly despicable form of Beard Bait.


  1. The Mudgie Signal is surely a stylised pub ashtray?

  2. At Brunning & Price the managers are OK to choose their cask from virtually anywhere, as long as they hit their GP budget. I don't know how a Spoons works, obviously there are the "must stocks" but I suspect the managers are given a list from which to choose.
    Branding the likes of Ember or Vintage Inns as "free house" is appalling. Maybe CAMRA should run a test case past a trading standards department.