Tag: Pete’s Pub Etiquette

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Pete’s Pub Etiquette: “This beer’s off”

Here’s one that I think will divide along the lines of drinkers versus people who work behind the bar: what’s the right thing to do when a customer complains about a beer being off? Or rather, not the right thing, but the most realistically acceptable thing?
I’m pretty sure it’s not what happened to me in the Queens pub in Primrose Hill, NW1 the other week.
I ordered a pint of Young’s Special that was full of diacetyl.  This is a concentrated butterscotch flavour that can also have a greasy mouthfeel.  Hints of it can be positively wonderful in the right beer, but when it’s all you can smell or taste in the beer, it’s pretty horrible.  It occurs during fermentation and then normally falls away to very low levels.  So apparently, these excessive levels are due either to a prematurely ending the brewing process, or to bacterial infection.  I’m not an expert, but I could immediately identify the fault.  At the end of the day, if the beer tastes so horrible you don’t want to drink it, and you can identify the off-flavour, you have to take it back.
“This beer is off,” I said.
The first thing the barman did was to pour some more beer from the barrel.  He sniffed and tasted it.  “Do you think it’s getting near the end of the barrel?”
“No, it’s full of diacetyl,” I replied.
He made it clear with his facial expression that he wasn’t convinced, that he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, but he replaced my pint with an alterative without saying anything else.
But then, he didn’t take the beer off sale.  He continued to serve it to other punters, who didn’t complain.
And here’s the dilemma: the reason I’m writing this is that this really pissed me off.  I’d told him the beer was unfit for sale, and specified why.  He had decided not to disagree with me, but by not taking the beer off sale, he was effectively telling me either that I was wrong, or that my opinion didn’t matter.
I hate taking pints back because I’m always worried that the conversation might reach a point where I have to make a ‘do you know who I am’ type comment to establish the fact that I know what I’m talking about, that I’m not one of those belligerent old punters who mumble about ‘the pipes’.  But when I’m standing in a pub watching a barman continue to serve a beer I’ve told him is unfit for sale, my only options are to accept that he is basically humiliating me – “I’m tolerating your complaint but it makes no difference to me” – or to make a complete arse of myself and start banging on about how much I know about off-flavours.
But look at it from his point of view.  He obviously didn’t know what diacetyl is.  He saw a punter complaining, replaced the pint, job done.  How was he instructed to handle this kind of incident by the management, by the PubCo? (This was a Young’s beer in a Young’s pub – it would be interesting to know what their policy is.)  If you threw away the barrel every time a punter complained that he didn’t like his pint, wouldn’t you bankrupt the business?  And no other punters were complaining, were they?
But I still think he was wrong.  Most people don’t complain – they just don’t go to that pub again, or don’t drink that beer again.  Sometimes, they can be turned off real ale for life.  They don’t know enough about beer faults, don’t have the confidence to take on a skeptical barman.  How many punters did that faulty barrel discourage from drinking that beer in that pub again?  And if you think I’m wrong, tell me.  Let’s loose the passive aggression.
What do you think?

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Pete’s Pub Etiquette: no.4 in a depressingly rare series

Changing the format of this series from a rip-off of Viz Top Tips to a rip-off of You Are the Ref, with apologies to Boak and Bailey who had that particular idea first.

This time, you are the beer drinker.

You’re in a pub – one of your local haunts.  You know the landlord pretty well and he knows you write about beer so he’s always keen to get your thoughts on his offering and he buys you the occasional pint.  But he’s away – he’s got to go and sort out another pub in the small group to which this one belongs.

You buy a pint of cask ale and it isn’t right.  It’s clear, but the flavour is all wrong.  You suspect the reason for this is that the beer has been put on sale before it has had time to condition fully.  You take the pint back, and the staff change it, asking you what you think is wrong.  You tell them you think it’s been put on sale before being fully conditioned, and the duty bar manager says, “You’re probably right.  We had such a busy weekend the beer’s being flying out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re putting the cask beers on too early.”

With this information, you decide to order a pint of Pilsner Urquell instead.

Back at your table, you find the Pilsner is also undrinkable.  It’s full of acetaldehyde, the green apple flavour indicative of oxidisation.

So here’s the first question: you’ve already taken one beer back.  You’ve got another that’s undrinkable.  Do you:
a) Take the second beer back, tell the the lager’s shit as well as the ale, and make yourself a complete pain in the arse, inevitably looking like a bit of a twat even though you’re in the right?
b) Just leave it untouched on the table and go somewhere else as soon as the Beer Widow has finished her Leffe?
c) Something else I haven’t thought of?

Because I dunno.  I do know that if I didn’t know the circumstances, with the landlord being away and everything, I’d never set foot in the place again.

But there’s a part two as well.

As you’re leaving, you walk past the bar and you see the bar manager serving a customer with the same cask ale you took back, the cask ale he has admitted should not be on sale.  Now, what do you do?  He’s either calling you a pain in the arse behind your back, or he’s assuming other customers who aren’t the same sticklers as you will simply not notice.  But what if other customers do notice, and without your level of knowledge, they just assume that the beer is shit, or the pub is shit, or both, and go somewhere else next time?

You like this pub.  Again, what do you do?

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Pete’s Pub Etiquette: no.3 in an increasingly rare series

Bar staff: if for some reason you think it’s more important to collect glasses than to serve a customer waiting at the bar, in a pub that’s not particularly busy, why not try acknowledging the customer by saying something like. “I’ll be with you in just a minute,” rather than totally ignoring them?

That way, your customer will feel like they are more important in life’s grand scheme than an empty crisp packet.

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Pete’s Pub Etiquette – number two in a (very) occasional series

Bar staff – if, when serving me a pint, you get so much beer running down the side of the glass that you have to go and wash your hands immediately after presenting to me, how about rinsing or wiping the fucking glass so I don’t get my hands all wet and sticky too?

It’s called showing respect for your customer and respect for your product, and if you start doing that people might actually continue to use your pub!

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Pete’s Pub Etiquette – the first of an occasional series

Hello, pub-goers!We all know that one of the most difficult aspects of going to the pub is toilet etiquette. It can be stressful for straight men, because as we know, gay men sometimes go to the toilet too, and any straight man knows that if he is in the toilet with a gay man, the gay man is sure to find him irresistably attractive and make inappropriate advances towards him. This means that not only do straight guys need to be on the lookout for gay men lurking in pub toilets, they also need to do absolutely everything possible to ensure they don’t send out any signals whatsoever that they thenselves might be a bit gay.This has given us the elaborate urinal ritual – so delicately coded that often, when you try to explain it to women they refuse to believe it. But hey, it makes going to the toilet more interesting! But where do you draw a line in your attempts to prove your assertive, hetero masculinity?Here’s a couple of thoughts.Say I don’t know you, but we’re in the same pub and we go to the toilet at the same time. You’re just in front of me, and you’ve clocked me and are aware that I’m a few paces behind you.

If you were to hold the toilet door open for me as you walk through, instead of allowing it to swing shut in my face, I promise this won’t make me worry that you’re inviting me inside for some hot bum sex. Instead, it’ll just make me think you have manners and aren’t some sort of twat.

Why not try it next time?

And on a similar vein – washing your hands after you’ve been to the toilet wouldn’t make you look less manly. This message goes out with particular urgency if the reason you were in the pub toilet in the first place is that you’re currently on duty behind the fucking bar. Until next time!