Pubs’ ale fight to promote the joys of the local

Pub Feature .Valley Pub Landlords John and Linda Soden.Picture Richard Ponter 131316b
Pub Feature .Valley Pub Landlords John and Linda Soden.Picture Richard Ponter 131316b

Once a staple of nearly every street in the country, the great British Pub is being ripped from the heart of the community at a rapid rate.

Recently released figures show that 18 pubs are closing in this country every single week, a figure that once would have been simply unthinkable.

Pub Feature .Indigo Alley enjoying a pint.Picture Richard Ponter 131316a

Pub Feature .Indigo Alley enjoying a pint.Picture Richard Ponter 131316a

The reason? Real ale enthusiasts will point their finger towards the rise of chain and theme pubs in town centres.

Others argue that the price of a pint has seen the “golden nectar”, once an essential in any man’s budget, transform into a luxury.

However, perhaps the most devastating factor in the decline of the local boozer has been cheap supermarket alcohol, with revellers choosing to “preload” on it before hitting the tiles.

But measures are being taken to try and stop the rot.

Cropton Brewery Feature.Testing the produce.Picture Richard ponter 131241c

Cropton Brewery Feature.Testing the produce.Picture Richard ponter 131241c

Last week, the Chancellor chopped a penny off the price of a pint in his budget, and in perhaps a more meaningful move, the Government are currently considering measures to put a base cap on the cost of a unit of alcohol.

The proposals would effectively put to an end to the practice of supermarkets flogging cut-price drink, although the measures have been met with a mixed response.

Linda Soden has her name above the door at The Valley, along with her husband John.

The pub has previously picked up National Pub of the Year award, and has an exhaustive beer menu, stocking around 100 continental ales.

She said that despite the industry-wide slump, pubs are getting very little help from Downing Street.

“One of the biggest problems is that we pay quite a lot of taxes,” she said.

“There are more taxes if you drink in the pub than if you drink in the home.”

She admits the “stack it high” approach of supermarkets is also hurting pubs, adding: “We have to sell alcohol responsibly, but supermarkets are selling cheap, low quality vodka – the sort of stuff you will find in Peasholm Park on a Sunday morning.”

However, the decline in pubs fortunes has resulted in members of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) setting up Community Pubs Month.

The aim of the drive, which runs all the way through April, is to encourage pubs to organise and market a number of events which the organisation hopes will result in more trade for independent boozers.

Neil Walker is helping to promote the event for CAMRA, and he said: “With pub-going on the decrease and 18 pubs closing every week, Community Pubs Month encourages pubs to organise events throughout the week to encourage more locals to visit the pub.

“Over 6,000 pubs are expected to take part and CAMRA hope that the event will help to solidify local pubs as a vital part of any community.”

And publicans are backing the groups fight to get people through the arches.

Indigo Alley manager Mike Stock is organising a beer festival between Friday and Sunday this weekend, in which the pub will pull around 20 real ales through its pumps to lure in punters.

There has been a large growth in the number of beer festivals in recent years, an increase that Mr Stock largely attributes to the explosion in popularity of both real ale and cider.

Once associated with old men and bad beards, ales and perries have enjoyed a makeover in recent years, and can be found in the hands of many young adults on a Saturday night.

However, traditional pubs are still among the biggest casualties in the ever-shrinking industry.

But what can be done to fix it? Mr Stock is unsure.

“I don’t really think there is one easy, quick-fix solution.

“Each pub has its own unique selling points, and really it’s survival of the fittest.

“But there is still money to be made from the pub trade, it’s just about landlord’s finding what’s best for their pub.”

The campaign is focussing on bringing community spirit back to the forefront of the pub.

Mr Stock feels that holding regular activities inside a venue, such as darts leagues, can be beneficial to creating this.

And Mrs Soden added: “A lot of people think that we are a friendly pub, but that’s not an accident.

“It’s created by a mixture of doing all the right things, and having the right atmosphere for people to enjoy.

“The customers look after the staff and the staff look after the customers.

“People do need pubs.”

All pubs that appear in the Good Beer Guide will automatically receive a free promotional pack that will include posters, table toppers, beer mats and leaflets.

These pubs will still need to create an account online to benefit from promotion on this website.

Other pubs can sign-up to receive a free promotional pack and an account will be created to add events to this website. Branches and CAMRA members do not have to order packs for pubs

What’s your pub doing? Call (01723) 383809.