|An autovac beer pump, with the pipe |
from the drip tray to the line clearly visible
Another practice I have never been able to understand is when drinkers insist on keeping the same dirty glass, even though an identical clean glass is available. I can't see how traces of old beer and head in the glass will enhance your next pint, and the accumulation of fingerprints on the outside over an evening won't improve its appearance either, although I can see why pubs might have liked having fewer glasses to wash. It's an utterly pointless ritual that could pass on infections when the nozzle is inserted into the beer in a dirty glass and then into the next customer's beer. Unlikely, you might say, but what if the previous customer had a dripping cold or a cold sore? What if they had a more serious illness that can be transmitted by bodily fluids? "Unlikely" isn't good enough when the simple expedient of a fresh glass removes the risk altogether.
I also recall that pubs would pour beer from drip trays into pint glasses and keep them under the bar by the relevant handpump. If you'd ask for a pint, they'd lift out the partly filled glass, top it up and sell it to you as a fresh pint. They might say that they'd just poured this in error for another customer, and was that okay? Until I learnt better, I used to say yes. Once I realised the trick, having witnessed it a few times, I developed the habit of leaning right over the bar to be certain an clean, empty glass was being used.
With the modern emphasis on health and safety, you'd think such practices would have died out, and they mostly have. One exception still exists: the autovac. I was reminded of this device's existence by a recent post on Tandleman's beer blog. The autovac automatically drains the beer in the drip tray back to the lines for recycling into the next customer's pint. I regard this as a disgusting practice as the beer will have run over the pourer's hands and the outside of the glass before reaching the drip tray. If just one dirty glass is reused, the beer is contaminated. But it goes further than that: the beer will be contaminated anyway if the bar staff's hands aren't spotlessly clean, which is impossible unless they wash their hands every single time they use the till, handle money, wipe tables and collect dirty glasses. If a barman dipped his finger into your pint as he gave it to you, you'd probably refuse to accept it, but that is precisely what happens with the autovac.
I'm surprised the autovac isn't illegal. I understand that pubs where it is still used, which are mostly in Yorkshire, are obliged to use a clean glass every time, but that only addresses one of the problems, and not even that if busy bar staff succumb to a drinker's demand to reuse the same glass. I've been even more surprised when some Yorkshire real ale drinkers, even CAMRA members, have defended the autovac, seeing it as essential to the alleged unique qualities of the Yorkshire pint. This is nonsense: health objections aside, I am utterly unable to see how returning beer that has already been poured, and thus lost some of its condition, into fresh beer will improve the quality of the next pint, and I've never seen any explanation how it would. In fact, you'd get a pint that, despite a thick, foamy head, has less condition, i.e. it's more flat. But then, there's none so blind as those who will not see.