The pub has long been a fulcrum of British culture, a place where local people could meet to socialise, create a harmonious community spirit and indulge themselves with a pint of the usual.
This, however, is close to becoming a thing of the past. Besieged on several fronts, the great British pub inches closer and closer to becoming an extinct species. .
The Government, as a reaction to a major problem with binge drinkers, introduced continental style 24 hour drinking licences to British shores in 2005. The move was designed to encourage drinkers to better pace their consumption by making it easier for clubs, bars and restaurants to sell drinks late at night.
Although it provided more choice for those looking to top up their tipple throughout the night, it has been to the detriment of the pub, which has suffered with the increased competition.
The recession, too, has hit the pub industry hard. As the spare cash in people’s pockets has dried up, less and less have chosen to spend what they have left in pubs. This has led to pubs closing in record numbers throughout the UK. At the high point of this trend in 2009 the BBC reported that up to 52 pubs a week called last orders permanently.
With the market shrinking, pubs have looked to evolve in order to survive. This has led to many of the pubs which remain moulding themselves into trendy town centre style bars or diversifying into food, so that they are more resilient to the pressures imposed by a difficult market.
The pub industry has battened down the hatches, minimising difference and creating a homogenised drinking environment where identikit pubs litter our high streets, reducing risk by ensuring customers are comfortable and familiar with the product being offered.
The result: last orders have been called for the great British pub… or have they?
A Craft Led Revival?
As always when something that was once revered is in danger of being lost or forgotten, there will be those who fight for a return to the good ol’ days. For the great British pub, the green shoots of revival could be provided by a resurgence in popularity for craft beer.
Craft beer is produced by small, independent brewers who fuse together untraditional ingredients to create beers with wonderful flavours that infuse the pallet.
Demand for craft beers has exploded, their appeal set against the stark contrast to the myriad similar tasting and omnipresent beers found in the identikit pubs mentioned above, resulting in the highest number of brewers residing in the UK since the 1940s.
The rise of craft beers can help save the great British pub by not only reintroducing a difference and variety that is in danger of being lost from the drinking experience in this country, but by also helping bring back a sense of community to the British boozer.
Because craft beer is produced by small brewers, they will only be able to supply pubs that are local to them as they lack the infrastructure for transportation enjoyed by the bigger companies in the drinks trade. Therefore pubs stocking craft beers will be supporting local, smaller brewers and in turn recreating the community based feel that was once the cornerstone of the great British pubs; drinkers sitting on picnic tables in quaint countryside beer gardens up and down the country can raise a glass knowing they are doing their bit for the local economy.
If you have been inspired by the renaissance in craft beer or pine for the days of the great British pub, share your thoughts below…
Blogger and non-official real ale taste tester, Stevie Carpenter, investigates the plight of the great British pub and how a rise in the popularity of craft beer could be the catalyst for returning it to former glories. He writes for Raw Garden, suppliers of pub garden furniture.