THE BREE LOUISE: ANOTHER PUB IN A STICKY SITUATION
In today’s Guardian Word of Mouth blog, I contributed a post about the rapid decline in the numbers of pubs in the UK, at the rate of over 50 a week.
Unsurprisingly it has drawn quite a response, many agreeing with my own argument that, although there are lots of factors that make running a pub very hard and indeed close to impossible, the main reason that so many pubs are closing is that, even if their product is OK, some are simply really horrible places in which to spend time.
As if to prove the point, on Saturday, HP and I went for one of our regular pub sessions and decided to search for somewhere as an alternative to our usual locals, The Artillery Arms and The Wenlock Arms.
HP had been reading about The Bree Louise, a small pub close to Euston Station. It had just won CAMRA North London Pub of The Year and was notable not only for its award but also for the fact that, as well as hand pulled beers, it is one of the few in the city that also dispenses beer using gravity. Beers are jacketed in covers that maintain cellar temperature and allow the pub to store them behind the bar keeping a wider range.
All very promising and, indeed, as we walked into the pub, the sight of the bar with its casks on display, a blackboard with a long list of real ales and cask ciders and the price list, increasing with ABV made us think that The Bree Louise would be a great place to spend the evening.
That is until we began to walk across the room, our feet sticking to the sticky carpet. It was not the only thing that was sticky, in fact everything in the Bree Louise appears to stick to everything else. There was only one young man behind the bar dealing with both the hand pulled beers and the gravity dispensed. He was rushed off his feet and had not had time to collect the empty pots, which littered the tables. I tried to help by clearing the empties from our own high table and placed them on the bar where they remained for the rest of our stay.
If you believe that pubs are just delivery systems for beer, then the range at The Bree Louise might persuade you to stay. However, even though the two pints we sampled were well kept and delivered in a full measure, the general state of the pub was so grim that we felt no desire to linger. And, after one visit to the toilets, which would made the Black Hole of Calcutta look like Pontins, we decided to head back to The Artillery Arms where, the beer may not win awards, but a perfectly decent pint is served in a welcoming environment.
There seems to be a fallacy that, just because you are
b) A real ale drinker
you don’t care about the environment in which you drink. While HP and I certainly visit pubs primarily for their beer rather than for their jukebox, certain basic standards have to be maintained and, the truth is too many pubs just fail to meet them to a level that will persuade even those in search of a great pint to linger.
If you want to know why pubs are closing at such a rapid rate, go for a drink at The Bree Louise. It will be a great pint, but I bet you wont stay for two.