The G-word has been banned from the foodies’ bible The Good Food Guide. What a disgrace.
How very high-handed of The Good Food Guide, the foodies’ bible, to systematically remove the word “gastropub” from its pages. The G-word has been banned altogether from the 2012 edition of the guide, thrown into the outer darkness like a bruised plum or iffy oyster.
Why this Stalinist act of censorship, depriving readers of a useful term to which they have become accustomed? Because, according to the guide’s consultant editor Elizabeth Carter, gastropubs were a 1990s fad that has passed its sell-by date. “I think customers are getting bored with it.”
Really? Some customers may indeed have got bored with the gastropub craze, and not entirely without cause. Far too many pubs have awarded themselves the gastro prefix, hiked their prices, tarted up their menus, but not actually raised their game in the kitchen. If I had a fiver for every rocket salad I have been served in establishments that should have stuck to honest-to-God baked beans and chips…
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Billy Abbott, author of Billy’s Booze Blog, shares his love of the local…
I like my flat. As I write I’m sitting on the balcony, 6 floors up, surveying the leafier end of West London with the Wembley arch looking surprisingly big, as it does. It’s a short walk from work, has a bus that goes to town from right outside the door and is mainly inhabited by lovely people. But there’s something missing – a local.
We used to have one, a community centre and bar in the next building over from me, but despite its excellent restaurant, alright pint of Guinness and patronage by the people of the estate it is now closed. This is the first time I’ve lived somewhere without a local pub of some kind, and it feels a bit weird.
As a kid my Dad and Grandfather were linchpins of the local’s darts team, until “The Incident” when they were barred and took half the team with them. We went for a swift half in the beer garden, rain or shine, every Sunday while lunch was cooking and I still have a fondness for drinking Coke through too-thin straws thanks to those afternoons. When I came to London I lived next to my University student union and it sat at the centre of my social life. When I moved one of the key factors in choosing a place to live was what the local would be like – I still look on the Prince Alfred in Bayswater fondly, despite their love of a certain rubbish AC/DC covers band that occasionally drove us elsewhere.
When my friends and I spread to the four corners of the world we still had our local – a pub nominated so that no matter when we were visiting you could be fairly certain that someone would be propping up the bar on a Thursday night waiting for a chat. When the landlord and landlady moved on we went with them and still make pilgrimages to see TJ and Christine in their new home. When I last moved the biggest wrench was no longer having Ealing’s excellent Red Lion, untouched in the recent riots, a mere 2 minutes walk from my door…
However, it strikes me that my current lack is my own fault. I need to make the effort, go for a walk and find my new local. There are candidates but I’ve been too lazy to go and try them out, other than a cursory pint and a glance at their bar menu. It’s a sunny afternoon with a promise of rain later – what better a time to go and do some investigation. Especially as I’ve just been chased inside by a wasp.
Despite pub closures and a dwindling lager market, record number of microbreweries are opening.
With the eager step of a man who’s just turned 40 and found his purpose in life, Paul Walker strides in his wellies across the flagstones of the 14th-century Union Inn in Denbury, south Devon, and orders two pints of Denbury Dreamer.
We sip carefully, appreciatively. It’s a fine beer: smooth malt flavours, a lovely light floral hop finish, not a hint of bitterness. A treat. Paul closes his eyes, nods, allows himself a brief smile of intense satisfaction. “I made that,” he says.
He probably deserves his moment of contentment. He’s been up since before six, won’t finish till seven, and will almost certainly have to nip back at least once during the evening. It’s hard work, being a microbrewer, and there was a time two summers ago, a few months after he’d started, when he really thought the whole thing was about to go under.
But this summer Hunter’s Brewery, just up the road from Denbury in Ipplepen, is selling between 60 and 100 nine-gallon barrels of real ale every week to 200-plus pubs across the south-west. Capacity is set to increase sixfold within months. Paul and his wife Eline haven’t yet drawn a salary from it. But the day’s not far off.
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