Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Don't you know who I am?

Time to relearn the lyrics, I think
Liam Gallagher, former lead singer with Oasis, has slagged off The Elizabethen, a Lees pub in Stockport, because it refused service to his brother (Paul, probably) because he was wearing tracksuit bottoms. He launched what the Manchester Evening News described as a '"Twitter tirade" against the place, laced with his usual coarse invective, telling his many followers to "swerve" (avoid) the place. An individual member of staff was singled out for crude abuse.

The spectacle of a foul-mouthed multimillionaire publicly abusing someone who is probably on little more than the minimum wage, and who has no effective way of responding, is unedifying in the extreme; I'd call it bullying. I suspect Gallagher sees himself as something of a working class hero, but I see him as just another rich man who expects locked doors to be opened and rules to be waived just because of who he is.

If a pub operates a dress code or any other rules that you don't like, just go somewhere else; a refusal of service on such grounds does not merit this gross overreaction. Sounding off to your mates is one thing, but to your 1.43 million Twitter followers is quite another; there will have been better ways to complain, but as they would probably not have involved abuse and swearing in public, they'd have been uncharted territory for him. 

Word has certainly got around: Oasis fans have sprung to his defence, one even describing him as "Manchester royalty", although others have taken the mick, and several newspapers have reported the spat. With any luck, it will be a storm in a teacup, but if because of his Twitter outbursts business declines in this pub and people lose their jobs, do we seriously think Gallagher would accept he's in any way to blame? 

A spokesperson for the pub said, concluding rather neatly I thought: "Overall this [dress code] is something our regulars and locals want, however, occasionally it has proved unpopular with one or two people but we don’t look back in anger.” Take note, Liam!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Old Roan memories

The Old Roan (picture borrowed
from the petition set up to save it)
Unusually, I was driving towards Liverpool last Thursday (I almost always go by rail nowadays) via Aintree. I used to drive this route every day for 13 years when I worked in Norris Green, Liverpool 11, until I transferred to Southport in 1993. I was expecting changes, and there were certainly plenty. However, what I wasn't expecting to see that the Old Roan pub was boarded up. Checking on-line later, I saw that it has been closed for 3 or 4 years and is up for sale for conversion to retail premises. There was an unsuccessful petition (now closed) to Sefton Council Licensing Unit to allow the pub to reopen.

This pub was something of a highly visible landmark, giving its name to the surrounding area and to the nearby railway station;  I don't recall it ever selling real ale. However, when I worked in Norris Green, I'd sometimes offer Wally Warren, the deputy manager, a lift if we were leaving work at the same time - we both tended to work late; he lived near the pub and it saved him a slow bus trip. Sometimes he'd offer to buy me a pint, and in we'd go. I was the union rep in the office, but no cosy deals were stitched up there.

For a while, we had a manager who seemed to have a skill in getting on everyone's nerves. After he'd been moved on, Wally told me that he'd learnt about our occasional drinks and asked, "Is it fruitful?" Wally replied that I didn't let slip anything that I shouldn't, and neither did he as a member of management; he added that the boss never trusted him again.

In negotiations, Wally and I crossed swords on several occasions, but it wasn't personal. He was an old-school manager with integrity, even if he could be a bit grumpy on occasions; overall the staff liked him and tended to tolerate his little foibles with a knowing smile. I learnt a few years ago that he'd died; if I'd known I'd have gone to his funeral.

As I drove past the Old Roan, all these thoughts came back to me and, although the beer wasn't up to much, I look back on those pints in that pub with fondness and, I'd go as far to say, friendship.

One of these occasions was the last time I drank a pint of keg lager. Wally bought it for me in error and offered to replace it when he realised his mistake, but I just accepted it. After all, it wasn't as though the Old Roan's bitter was much better.

Cheers, Wally!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A penny for the pub, mister?

With the Chancellor's Budget less than a month away, CAMRA is campaigning to keep the price of the British pint down by calling on the Treasury to reduce beer duty by 1p ahead of the Budget on the 8 March. With higher inflation expected in the next year (it rose to 1.8% last month), the cut will help to cap the price of beer and benefit the pubs and brewing sector.

Although in recent years there have been three 1p cuts and one freeze in beer duty, British drinkers still pay among the highest rate in Europe at 52.2p per pint, compared to other big brewing nations such as Germany and Spain, where duty is less than 5p a pint.

The three cuts have been good news for drinkers, pubs and the Treasury, helping to limit price rises and protect the beer, brewing and pubs sector which supports nearly 900,000 jobs and contributes £23.6bn to the economy every year.

As Southport MP John Pugh has pointed out, pubs are economically important locally. He cites statistics published by Oxford Economics last year demonstrating that Southport’s 54 pubs directly or indirectly support 1,184 jobs across the pub and brewing industry, and contribute £25 million to the local economy.

In a further effort to help pubs, CAMRA is calling for a reduction of up to £5000 in business rates for pubs in England which would allow pub owners to reinvest the additional funds back into the business.

Colin Valentine, CAMRA's National Chair says: "Previous cuts to beer duty have benefited beer drinkers and supported significant growth in the brewing industry. However, we as a nation are still paying a notable amount - especially in comparison to our European neighbours. At the same time, pubs are confronted with higher taxation and cost … We are simply calling for fairer measures for beer drinkers and publicans." 

This is an article I recently wrote for the CAMRA column in our local paper, the Southport Visiter.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Pageant, Kew

The Pageant in Kew
In the heart of Kew, hidden from the rest of Southport, you will find the Pageant. On the outside it is an attractive modern pub, about 30 years old, with an outdoor seating area and a large car park. Inside it is open plan, pleasantly decorated, with a bar area to the right as you enter and a lounge and dining area to the left.

I visited the pub with Mike Perkins who used to write this column [in the local paper]. The pub has Sharp's Doom Bar as standard with a changing guest beer, which was Robinsons Dizzy Blonde when we called in; we tried both and were happy with them. As well as the usual choice of pub drinks, they do have a few specialities, such as Hendrick's Gin. Prices seemed reasonable too.

The pub serves food every day from noon to 9.00pm (7.00pm Sunday) and there is a range of special offers on during the week, such as children eat for £1 on Wednesdays, two meals for £12 Monday to Saturday, and a Sunday roast dinner for £6.95. You can book the pub for your function or group event.

Wednesday is quiz night, Friday karaoke, and Saturdays are themed music nights, either by musical style or by era; the last Saturday of the month features a live music act. In the bar area, there is a pool table, darts, and TV sports. 

Anthony, the new licensee, took over in November and said that his intention was to make the pub a part of the local community with a range of food and drinks his customers wanted, a variety of functions, and welcoming children - dogs too in the bar area. He wishes to encourage groups in the community to make use of the pub.

The Pageant is at 70 Folkestone Road, Southport, PR8 5PH. Tel: 01704 544244. Their website is here [under construction], and they are on Facebook. The 300 and 44 buses pass nearby on Town Lane, less than 10 minutes' walk away. They open at noon every day and close 11.00pm Monday to Thursday, 2.00am Friday and Saturday and 10.00pm Sunday.

This is part of a series of articles that I am writing for the CAMRA column in our local paper, the Southport Visiter. Previous reviews are here.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Keep Calm and Ukulele On

EDDA Community Arts and Library will be presenting a ukulele concert performed by the two ukulele groups that are based there: The Tuesday Troupe and The Friday Gang.
  • Tuesday 21 February.
  • 7:30 pm.
  • Edda Community Arts and Library, Liverpool Avenue, Ainsdale, PR8 3NE.
  • 01704 578003.
Admission is free, and there may be a bottle bar. All welcome.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

We've all been taken in

I was rather irritated to read in the local paper about a young lout who went on a destructive rampage in Southport: he caused damage costing £5,482.50, fought a security guard, threatened people with a knife and ended up nearly naked in public. In his defence, he claimed his drink was spiked. As an explanation of his disgraceful conduct, this is complete nonsense, but from what I discerned from the newspaper report, it went unchallenged in court.

As I wrote in 2011, alcohol does not in itself cause promiscuity, violence or anti-social behaviour. Such behaviours are learnt, as demonstrated by experiments where people have been given drinks, but not told that they are alcohol-free; when the test subjects think they are drinking alcohol, they act according to how they believe it affects them. Quite simply, they start getting drunk.

Almost all of the 100,000s of people who go drinking every evening in this country do not subsequently go on a rampage, as a tour of the pubs, bars and clubs in any town would confirm. Beer festivals are attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people specifically for the purpose of drinking, and are peaceable events. Where there is trouble, it is is caused by idiots who have learnt bad habits when they began to drink, habits that are so ingrained that they think the drink causes, and therefore excuses, their misbehaviour. By going along with this view, society is letting them off the hook.

Even if our thug's drink was spiked, it does not explain why he acted as he did. He is in denial, saying, "It wasn't me; it was the drink", but he is wrong: it was him. No one, drunk or sober, would behave like he did, unless he or she had a predisposition to violence anyway. Supposedly drunken violence is not caused by drink, spiked or otherwise. It comes from within the drinker: it is who he or she is. To put it another way: if you're violent after a skinful, it doesn't mean the violence is a 'moment of madness' brought on by drink; it means you are a violent person who has been drinking. People should take full responsibility for their own actions and not try to find someone, or something, else to blame.

I accept that the distinctions I've made would bring little consolation to police and beleaguered NHS staff in casualty departments - violence is frightening, no matter what the cause. However, where it becomes relevant is how we educate people about alcohol. Dire warnings that drink can get you to behave in uncharacteristic ways, including getting into unexpected sexual situations, are more likely to give drinking an allure that in reality it does not have. It's the 'forbidden fruit' factor: the more you tell people they shouldn't have something, the more many of them will want it.

This means that it's not just the louts who have been taken in by the misconceptions that we as a nation have about alcohol; the anti-alcohol campaigners have too. Kate Fox, the social anthropologist, wrote in 2011:
"There are some societies (such as the UK, the US, Australia and parts of Scandinavia) that anthropologists call 'ambivalent' drinking-cultures, where drinking is associated with disinhibition, aggression, promiscuity, violence and anti-social behaviour. There are other societies (such as Latin and Mediterranean cultures in particular, but in fact the vast majority of cultures), where drinking is not associated with these undesirable behaviours - cultures where alcohol is just a morally neutral, normal, integral part of ordinary, everyday life - about on a par with, say, coffee or tea. These are known as 'integrated' drinking cultures."
It's not the alcohol that's the problem; it's our attitude to alcohol. That could, in time, be rectified, but it won't because, in our 'ambivalent drinking culture', all sides have been taken in by the myth.

For info: our lout was given an eight week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Tasting the Swords

The Southport Swords
dancing outside the Atkinson
Fancy trying your hand at sword dancing? Here's your chance. The Southport Swords are offering a taster session for anyone who would like to try out some of our unique English traditional dances. The Swords perform English Longsword, Cotswold Morris and Rapper, three very distinctive and varied styles.

The Swords emphasise that no experience is necessary, and there's no obligation if you later decide it's not for you. If you're interested, or even just curious:
  • Saturday 18 February.
  • 1.00 to 4.00 pm.
  • The Studio in the Atkinson (arts centre), Lord Street, Southport.
Alternatively, turn up at their usual practice nights at the Mount Pleasant, Manchester Road, Southport any Tuesday night. More details from Dave on 01704 212422.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Tell people what you're up to

Problem solving at its best
Retired Martin has written on his blog about the frustration he had in trying to find out when a pub he wished to visit was open. This rings a number of bells with me. It has often struck me that some licensees haven't got their heads around the need for accurate and timely publicity.

Opening hours: why don't all licensees have a notice visible outside their pubs giving their opening hours? It doesn't have to be a special plaque. In fact, it would only take a couple of minutes to type a notice, print it and display it in the window nearest the door. In addition, why do some not put their hours on free social media, such as Facebook?

Variable hours, such as closing when there aren't enough people in. If a shop has only one or two customers in, it will, as a rule, stay open as advertised. I can cite two examples - the Falstaff, Southport and the Berkeley, Wigan - where the licensees had decided to close early. In the Falstaff I could have had a drink, but the bar was to be closed at 10.00 pm and this was around 9.45, which annoyed me so I opted to go across the road for a pint instead. In the days when pubs applied for extensions on bank holidays, the licensee of my then local would say he'd use it as long as there were enough people in. With that uncertainty, our group would decamp and go to a pub which we knew would definitely remain open, which meant he actually lost custom by imposing that condition. I'm sure the extra beers we would have bought would have covered any additional costs. If the pub hours are variable, there might as well be a notice saying: "Go and drink somewhere else!"

Pub music: pubs sometimes pay good money to book live music, an open mike night or even a karaoke, but then fail to publicise it. It may well be that some bands could help by providing posters, but I know from my own experience that you might provide - say - half a dozen posters, but they've put up only one or two, if any at all. How come? Don't they want any return from their outlay?

Pub beer festivals: a lot of work and financial investment goes into putting on a pub beer festival, so how come some pubs let CAMRA (and by that route, me) know late in the day? In one instance, having heard that a pub was putting on a festival, I called in for more details. There were no posters and the barmaid knew nothing about it. She referred me to another pub who'd tell me (the same people run both), but no luck there either. I recently commented on another local example of a last-minute notification. Oddly enough, most drinkers, including CAMRA members, have lives outside of pubs, such as families, jobs, other commitments, social activities and hobbies, and can't always drop everything at short notice.

Out of date signs: if a sign or notice has become out of date, it should be removed or brought up to date. Posters from events weeks ago just create the impression of neglect. A year ago, I wrote about the Windmill and, based on a sign outside, mentioned their live Irish music night. The licensee wrote a comment underneath, thanked me for the review but added: "Can I just point out we are waiting to have the chalk boards re-done; we no longer have Irish night, it is now live music from the 60s to the present". Fair enough, except that when I went past the pub a week or two ago, I noticed the sign still hadn't been corrected a year on.

I know running a pub is a busy job but, with the internet, publicity has never been so cheap (free, mostly) and, with a bit of effort at first to get the hang of it, really quite easy. Newspaper adverts do cost money and tend not to have the reach they used to, although some local papers may insert a small piece in their 'What's On' pages for nothing if there is a special event coming up, especially if it's a charity fundraiser.

Some pubs are good at publicity but others, often excellent in every other way, surprisingly are not. The days when pubs could just open the doors to let the crowds of eager punters pour in are largely gone. I'm not sure that everyone has absorbed the implications of that fact.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Another new pub for Southport

Marston's Guelder Rose opened in 2013
I've recently heard that Sefton MBC, our local council, has granted Marston's planning permission to build a new pub in Kew, right next to the 'Welcome to Southport' sign on the main road from the Ormskirk direction. Overall it's good news, especially at a time when British pubs are closing every week. While it will be a fully licensed pub, Marston's say it will be food-led and aimed mainly at "business people, the more mature diner, and families" with a play area for children outside. Its prominent position at the entrance to the town is likely to attract a lot of passing trade.

I doubt that it will develop as a local, and it will probably be rather like Marston's other newly-built pub in Southport, the Guelder Rose on the Southport sea front, which I wrote about when it opened in 2013. The new pub, like the Guelder Rose, is likely to stock a few real ales from the Martson's stable.

Is it an adequate replacement for all the old Victorian pubs that the town has lost in recent years? I don't think so, but then that's not the intention behind it.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Government ignores MPs' vote on PCA job

Adjudication without credibility
is worthless
I have written several times about the pub code adjudicator, Paul Newby, including:
The issue hasn't gone away, and the House of Commons has voted to "reopen the appointment process for the PCA (pubs code adjudicator)". While the minister from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy admitted that pubcos were "flouting the code", the solution she suggested was for the licensees affected to use the PCA. A Tory MP added that the appointment complied fully with the code of practice for ministerial appointments to public bodies.

This is missing a significant point: that such an appointment should not only be compliant with the code, it must also appear credible to the people for whom the post has been created: in this case, pub licensees. In the debate, Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland described Newby's position as untenable, explaining that there is a real possibility that he will undermine the intentions behind the pub code. He concluded: "All the people that the British Pub Confederation is representing in cases oppose Mr Newby, have no confidence in him and he will have to go. It will happen; it depends on if we see leadership from the Government or whether this has to drag on for another six months or a year, but this will not go away."

The longer this controversy continues, the more Newby's credibility in the job will plummet. The government's position should not be determined by a refusal to admit a mistake. I can only conclude that they don't want to lose face, but the risk of that will be greater as time passes. It would more sense to cut their losses now, accede to the MPs' vote, and reopen the appointment process.

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Lakeside Inn - the smallest pub

The Lakeside Inn on Southport Promenade
A five minute walk from Lord Street, Southport, will bring you to the Lakeside Inn on the Promenade. This former boathouse right on the Marine Lake held the record for being Britain's smallest pub, and has a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records to prove it. It is a single-roomed bar with windows overlooking the Marine Lake, comfortable seating around the walls, a brass-fronted bar, and mirrors on two of the walls that give a more spacious impression. There are outside drinking areas to the front and the side of the pub, and a balcony to the rear giving good views across the lake. In summer, they have an attractive floral display in hanging baskets.

The real ales: Wainwright is usually on, with changing guest beers, which when I called in was Jennings Cumberland; on a previous visit, there were two beers from Wigan's Wily Fox brewery. In the summer months, they may go up to three or four real ales. A real cider, Weston's Old Rosie, is always available on handpump. They have a wine list, and tea and coffee are available. Hand raised pork pies and bar snacks constitute the food offering. There is a Happy Hour with reductions on certain drinks from Mondays to Thursdays from 5.00 to 8.00 pm.

The pub is a few minutes' walk from the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre, and artists performing there have been known to drop in for a drink. There is a TV for sport and sometimes music from a radio. They have held beer festivals in the autumn, with the real ales served on the rear balcony.

Parking near the pub is restricted, although if you scout around you can find free street parking a fairly short walk away. It is about half a mile to the railway station. Opening hours are 12.00 to 11.00 pm, except Sunday 12.00 to 10.30 pm. Children are permitted only in the front and side outdoor areas. The Lakeside Inn has its own Facebook page. Phone: 01704 544121.

This is part of a series of articles that I am writing for the CAMRA column in our local paper, the Southport Visiter. Previous reviews are here.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Real pub - real music

The plaque that is now displayed
over the Dublin Castle door.
I've just read on the PRS for Music website that the ska band Madness have presented the organisation's Heritage Award to the Dublin Castle, a Camden pub where they played their first gig in 1979. Not long afterwards, they released their first LP, One Step Beyond, and the rest [insert cliché here].

PRS for Music is the body that collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and artists. They have been giving out these awards since 2009 to independent venues that are associated with a famous bands in their early days. Previous recipients of this award have helped the likes of Dire Straits, Queen, Spandau Ballet, Squeeze, Status Quo, Snow Patrol, Elton John, Pulp, Blur and many others as they started out.

The place of pubs in the musical life of towns and cities cannot be underestimated, and for every pub that receives such an award, there are hundreds of others that also regularly present live music. In pubs and clubs I have seen many kinds of music, including rock, rock & roll, country, folk, jazz, singer-songwriters, funk and so on. The standards obviously vary but if you do go to watch local performers, you know they are not miming - sorry, lip syncing - and they will not be using a computer program to stay in tune, as many big names do (I wrote about these frauds a year ago here).

I have seen many big names over the years, on occasion travelling to the other end of the country for single gigs, but I can also say that I've also seen many excellent local bands and performers. In contrast, I have known people who like music but who rarely experience it live: for many, music comes prerecorded via radio, television, CDs or downloads. I particularly feel sorry for people whose only experience of music is through earphones as they walk for the bus.

On the beer front: I've checked the Dublin Castle on CAMRA's What Pub website, and it serves real ale. Pity it's so far away.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Freshfield Winter Ales Expo

The Freshfield
I recently received this e-mail from Southport & West Lancs CAMRA:

"Paddy and the staff at the Freshfield on Massams Lane Formby are holding a Winter Ales Expo over this coming weekend running 27th to 29th January. These additional beers will be available to sample while stocks last for this weekend only."

I don't understand why some licensees seem to inform CAMRA about beer-related events that they are arranging only at the last minute. I've sometimes heard about pub beer festivals only days before they're due to begin, even though they must take months to organise. In this case, I now have other plans; in addition, if I'd known about this event only a week ago, I could have mentioned it, not only here, but in the CAMRA column in our local newspaper.

I know publicity isn't always easy, but it doesn't help if you don't take advantage of those opportunities that do exist.

Anyway, enough of that: it begins tomorrow, if you fancy giving it a go. The Freshfield is well-known for always having a good range of beers on, despite being a Greene King house.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

EU-nough to make you weep into your beer

The Guardian reports that "Heineken and Carlsberg follow makers of Carling and Budweiser in hiking cost of their beers in face of weak pound". Apparently our tumbling pound is putting pressure on prices on items as disparate as food, toys, and beer.

The British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) has said that the depreciation of sterling will lead to inflation, pointing out that "higher inflation will also lead to higher levels of indexation for taxes like beer duty, creating a vicious circle when it comes to cost pressures, which is why we are urging the chancellor to cut beer duty on a pint by one penny in the budget." Well, no harm in asking.

As drivers will already know to their cost, the price of fuel has noticeably increased recently. This is mainly because it is priced in dollars, against which the pound has fallen 18% since the EU vote. Smaller brewers tend to move beer in much smaller quantities than the mass brewers, so rising fuel prices will have a disproportionate effect upon their transport costs. Either the prices of their products will have to increase, or they'll go under. In reality, I think we can expect more small brewery closures.

Oh well: at least it's a relief to have taken back control, isn't it?

Monday, 23 January 2017

A star is imported

I see that Kingfisher Beer Europe intends to import Bintang into the UK. Bintang is an Indonesian beer, a Pilsner with a strength of 4.7%. Normally I'd say: "So what?"

My father was an expatriate worker in the cigarette industry, and his work took him to many countries, a few of which I visited when I was a child and a student. One of these countries was Indonesia. We lived in a provincial city called Semarang in central Java. The most popular beer available everywhere was Bintang, brewed by a local subsidiary of the Heineken group, and the bottles prominently feature the Heineken star, after which the beer is named: bintang is the Indonesian word for star.

I'm thinking back to the mid-1970s now, but as I recall it was quite a reasonable bottled beer which, ice cold straight out of the fridge, was just right to slake your thirst in the hot tropics (Java is just below the equator).

I shall keep an eye out for it. According to the report I read, it will be imported. If so, I'll give a try, if only for old times' sake. If, on the other hand, it is brewed somewhere under licence, I'm not sure that I'd bother.

This is my 1,382nd post. It is the only one written solely about lager.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Go on: I dare you!

A 66-year old man died after he was dared for £5 to try eating four pickled eggs in a minute in a pub in Devon. According to an article in the Exeter Express & Echo, the licensee and pub regulars desperately tried to clear his airways but he suffocated and died after the egg became "like cement". There is apparently a pickled egg challenge on Facebook, and at least two other people have died doing it.

I have never liked dares, and have usually refused to do them. This has included drinking races, even though I can probably get a pint down more quickly than most people I know (which has occasionally been useful at chucking out time). Unfortunately, it seems that alcohol does lead some people to accept dares to do silly things, or be called 'chicken', or whatever the current terms is.

I have heard of dares to neck bottles of spirits. While the quantity - around a pint and a third - is manageable, the consumption of so much alcohol in a short time can lead to alcohol poisoning and even death - the human body is simply not equipped to deal with a chemical that in such concentrations becomes toxic. The fact that we can drink that amount, or even more, over several hours doesn't mean we can drink it in five minutes. Just type 'died during drinking competition' into a search engine to find some examples.

Though not necessarily alcohol-related, I have also read of people plunging to their deaths trying to take selfies in extreme places.

Perhaps some of us see ourselves as indestructible. It's not as though these activities are enjoyable in themselves: eating four eggs at once must be revolting (and I like eggs); gulping down a bottle of spirits rapidly cannot be pleasurable either. The question remains: why accept such utterly pointless and potentially harmful challenges? Call me chicken if you like but I'd rather lose face.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Opinion becomes propaganda

I was quite surprised to see in the pub trade magazine, the Morning Advertiser, two articles about the statement by Pete Brown that he has mostly stopped drinking cask ale. One article was by Brown himself, and the other referred to the response by CAMRA national chair, Colin Valentine. Why the big fuss? Partly because Pete Brown is a regular beer columnist in the Advertiser, and partly because he has won awards from the beer writers' club, the British Guild of Beer Writers, including in 2016 Beer Writer of the Year for the third time.

Apparently Brown is fed up of getting poor real ale, which according to his article happens all the time. My thought is quite simple: he must be choosing the wrong pubs because what he's written doesn't reflect my own experience. Real ale is the one expanding part of the beer market; if he were right about the state of the product, I'd expect sales to be contracting.

I'm wondering whether this is another sideswipe at CAMRA, an organisation that Brown has consistently criticised, along with its members, even though he did actually join in 2012, as he wrote in this mea culpa piece at the time. Even as he signed up, he wrote about the "social [CAMRA] stereotype of the socially inadequate, visibly outlandish beer nerd, with his big belly, beard, opaque glasses, black socks and sandals, and leather tankard on his belt." That's a bit rich coming from someone with uncombed hair, a scrappy beard and untidy clothes. Whatever your views on Roger Protz, another prominent beer writer, you certainly can't describe his appearance in such terms.

I once took a beer blogger to task because I felt a description he gave of an unreasonable pub customer was implausible; I explained why I thought the described behaviour could not have occurred. He admitted the incident described had not actually happened, but was an amalgam of two or three separate incidents. So, in other words, it was made up, including the quoted dialogue. I think this matters. If he'd said that it was a hypothetical example of the kind of behaviour he'd come across, then there could have been no complaint - although in that particular case it would still have seemed improbable to me. Even hypothetical examples should seem credible.

I wonder whether Brown has done something similar. In my view, his antipathy to CAMRA has spilled over into his articles. In one, he described how he was drinking in a pub when a customer went to the bar, said he was a CAMRA member and suggested that he should get free beer because without CAMRA, the pub wouldn't be serving real ale. Even worse, he went and joined a friend and they began swapping videos about trains. Two stereotypes in one anecdote: a boorish real ale drinker with a sense of entitlement - and a train spotter to boot!

Another alleged incident was at a dinner put on by, I think, a brewery where the beer on the table Brown was sitting at ran out, causing a CAMRA member to complain loudly. The host went and brought some bottles from his own supply and placed them on the table, for which the CAMRA member gave no thanks, proceeding to claim them all for himself and not letting anyone else near them. Loud-mouthed, rude and greedy all in one!

I have no way of disproving such stories, but I find it difficult to understand why I, as someone who joined CAMRA when Brown was doing his 'O' levels, have never come across such bad behaviour by CAMRA members. In my experience, they tend to be just as well- or, if you prefer, just as bad-mannered as the general public. The difference is that I don't have a well-documented antipathy to CAMRA, which I'd be the first to agree isn't a perfect organisation, but then neither is any other on the planet.

In his Morning Advertiser article, Brown refers to "campaigners who insist cask ale is the highest quality beer available, while simultaneously demanding that it is cheaper than any other beer on the bar". Which particular campaigners might these be? Certainly CAMRA has campaigned for cuts in beer duty, but I can't recall any campaigns demanding that licensees cut their prices. Most CAMRA members would understand that pub profit margins on real ale are very slim. If price were their only consideration, then surely they'd all be drinking only in Wetherpoons and similar lower price establishments; this is quite clearly not the case, Wetherspoons vouchers notwithstanding.

Writing about beer - as in writing about music, come to think of it - should be a combination of facts and opinions. While accepting that genuine errors can occur, what you understand to be factual can shape your opinions, but opinions - or prejudices - shouldn't modify your perception of the facts, or else you'll be producing propaganda, not information.