My first post about JDW was a glowing account of their last national real ale festival. My second post about the chain was a scathing attack on one pub’s out-of-control security thugs. For a brand that is supposedly consistent (whether you like it or not) across its 600-odd outlets, Wethersopoons really does offer both extremes of the pub-going experience.
Yesterday we see-sawed back to the good end. I went in my local branch, The Rochester Castle, for a quick pint, saw a beer from the Orkney Brewery (whose Dark Island Reserve is the past beer I’ve tasted in years) and tried a pint. It tasted like it had been diluted with tonic water and lemon, and had a very odd texture. Knowing how experimental Scottish brewers are just now, I had another sip. An assertive summer beer? No. If it was meant to taste like this it was a foul beer, and I didn’t think Orkney capable of that.
I hate taking pints back to the bar. Eight times out of ten some newly-arrived adolsecnet antipodean barman will take a swig, say, “tastes alright to me,” and you’re in a battle of wills then. It’s worse for me now, because a little demon pops up and suggests I point out that I’m a beer expert – which I am – but I still sound like an utter wanker if I say so.
But this one had to go back. I explained to the barmaid that it simply didn’t taste right. She didn’t ask for any explanation. She didn’t taste the beer herself. She didn’t say “well no-one else has complained”, or any other of those passive-aggressive, anyone-who-says-the-customer-is-always-right-must-be-an-arse phrases. She took my pint off me, set it carefully aside, and immediately took off the pump clip of the beer in question, taking it off sale. She asked me what I’d prefer instead, served me a fresh pint, then took my dodgy one to the bar manager.
This is only what you’d expect from any decent pub. But I confess it’s not what I expected from Wetherspoons. Deeply impressive. To redress the schizophrenic karmic balance they seem to maintain in the market, this probably means I’ll be murdered next time I go in.