Chugging through a glass darkly

The Railway at Euxton
The Railway at Euxton
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Take care when offering cask, the consumer has lots of competition for their quid

The return of real ales to the national diet over the last few years has offered a rare ray of hope to the booze game on many levels.

Most obviously, SME brewers have proliferated and more or less prospered, their wares now into markets that, during the long decades of lager, lager, lager, lager they might only have dreamed.

Supermarket shelves groan on aisles of bottled trad. beers, and a generation of middle-aged types like myself (alongside a growing number of similarly bored whipper snappers, it seems) are front and centre with a wire basket.

Pubs and Pubco alike have also wet their beaks, hand pumps consistently outperforming the market and, as recently as 2011, managing year-on-year increase pints sold.

All-in-all, a virtuous circle with in excess of a billion quid sloshing round the middle.

A uniquely fragile circle this mind – these is a discerning group of consumers

Or, as a remarkably intense business corporate briefing on the real ale market (available to read online) grimly put it: ‘Real ale as a product concept has high integrity. Integrity of course is not easy to measure, but right-minded people recognise it when they see it.’

Or, put in ape lingo, if you choose to push your cask offer as a selling point, you’d best make sure it cuts the muster mister.

The people who last year and every year for years gulping down 500m pints annually have lots of choice now.

You could have 10 pints, all well-kept crackers, in 10 good pubs round Lancashire tonight and never taste the same brew twice (although the first thing you’d taste next day is all of them at once). And the night after that, and the night after that, and so on, and so forth, until your health and finances were in tatters.

Which brings us to this week’s pub, The Railway at Euxton.

Newly refurbished, spick and span, four pumps prominent on the website; Jennings’ Cocker Hoop and Cumberland Ale, Marston’s Pedigree and Wychwood Hobgoblin.

The Hobgoblin was off, the Cocker Hoop was off for keeps – three pumps only as of now, the Pedigree was off as in off, rotten, taken straight back after a lick, and the Cumberland was... okay.

Put on the beer and they will come. Just remember, they no longer need to stay.