Where price of beer leaves a bitter aftertaste

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Regular pub-goers who despair at the price of beer in south-east England should head for Lancashire, where a hangover can be acquired for considerably less than a tenner.

Regular pub-goers who despair at the price of beer in south-east England should head for Lancashire, where a hangover can be acquired for considerably less than a tenner.

The average price for a pint of beer there is just £1.59, while Londoners must shell out 52p more. Residents of Surrey and Berkshire have to spend 51p and 46p extra respectively.

The new edition of The Good Pub Guide 2001 even unearthed one pub where the price of a pint is a mere £1.16. The Black Dog in Belmont, Lancashire, has been included in the book for the 16th year running and was recommended by a string of grateful customers.

Researchers for the guide, who had the enviable task of sampling 1,335 pubs throughout Britain, did not only review the prices. The four-strong team also discovered that 18 per cent of readers surveyed for the new edition were fed up with being offered a narrow choice of beer, and with beer that had been badly kept.

Many felt they were being short-changed by poor service, and 30 per cent found the food in pubs they visited unappetising or even unacceptable.

When one family complained about the food they had ordered, the landlord of the pub, which was not named in the book, replied: "There are good days and there are bad days - this is your bad day."

In a separate incident, a landlady produced "reconstituted fish not properly cooked. She returned it to the kitchen and after a bit more microwaving it was inedible."

Rob Unsworth, the associate editor of the guide, commented: "The drinker is losing out. Even with economic differences accounted for by the North-South divide there is no real explanation for such a discrepancy in beer prices.

"Brewers of some of the pub chains are charging more for beer than they need to... The variation in the price seems to be dictated by what is available locally and if there is any competition."

James Pilkington, the landlord of the Black Dog, said the success of a pub depended mainly on atmosphere, rather than prices, although he admitted he was frequently aghast at the cost of a drink in London.

Mr Pilkington, who is likely to be a whole lot busier in the near future, said: "I suppose I run this place to suit myself but others seem to like it as well and they keep coming back week after week after week.

"I'm in here 18 hours a day and I train my staff properly. In so many pubs you go to, the landlord is never there and the place is run by kids who don't know what they're doing."

Mr Pilkington described himself as an old-fashioned landlord. His customers are not allowed to drink out of bottles. The music is classical. "It's a more restful and calming influence and I don't like all that background beat. The young [customers] like the classical music too."

Many readers of the guide would sympathise with that remark. Twelve per cent of them said that visits to their local were blighted by the relentless noise from the television and games machines.

Comments