ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Half-measure for measure

So, I've just completed the latest Spoons Bingo, which is great timing as Le Gothique's always excellent Halloween beer festival starts tomorrow, and then on Thursday morning we're flying off to the Far East for a week.

(Yeah I know. We've only just come back from Krakow. And Cumbria the weekend before. And Tallinn/Helsinki the week before that. Amazing that I had enough time in the Green and Pleasant land to get all 50 beers really, isn't it?)

Now, for more years than I can remember,  one of the Wetherfest's selling points is that beers are available in smaller measures and you can sample three third-pint measures of different beers for the price of a pint.

Obviously this doesn't apply to me because I drink pints, but most tickers do not, and it's become an all-too familiar sight at the bar - the bedraggled scooper, hunched over his beerly triptych, squintingly scribbling notes into his crumpled festival programme.

Last week I started to find this phenomenon just a little bit irritating, after waiting ages at the bar while countless trios of thirds were served, so I ordered three of the beers I needed all at once, sidled up to Mr. Threethirds and lined up my pints, just as he had his thirds.

He looked at me. I beamed back disconcertingly until he started shuffling on his feet.

I looked down at my pints, glanced over at his thirds and then looked him in the eye again, still smiling.

To be honest, I'm not even entirely sure what point I was trying to make, but I felt better for it, and that's the important thing. I guess I could've gone on to glance at our respective crotches, but that would've just been weird.

Have we nothing better to argue about?

Anyway, one of the many longstanding online debates in which I have virtually fuck-all interest is around whether Spoons should accept the 50p vouchers that CAMRA members receive on the 'three thirds' deal. (The very existence of the vouchers is another such long-running debate with which I cannot be bothered!)

For my money, Spoons are pretty cheap to start with, and they're already giving you three thirds for the price of a pint - compared to the pint, the serving of thirds has additional overheads attached, so you're getting a good deal. If they don't accept your vouchers, shut your whingepipe and save them for another day.

I did have this in Krakow the other day - maybe I'm the fucking hypocrite here?

This is related to another regular complaint that, as an avowed pint drinker, I'm completely unaffected by - pubs that charge more for two halves than for a pint.

There are those who get incredibly angry about this, but the simple truth is that serving two halves (or, more markedly, three thirds) takes longer than serving a single pint. The cost of the glassware is more expensive so the bar has a greater material risk exposure, then there's the cost of washing and drying them.

Yes, these margins are small, but when a pub sells halves for exactly half the cost of a pint, they are taking a modest hit every time. It would not be unreasonable for them to charge slightly more, and when this is the case, you do not have strong grounds for complaint.

Firstly, you've been getting a relatively better deal than the pint-drinkers most of the time anyway, and secondly, as a consumer you have the right to fuck off without spending any money if you're really not happy with the arrangement on offer.

To illustrate the point, imagine that a pub sold beer in 1/20th of a pint measures. Should 20 of these - and all the faffing-about that serving them would involve - carry the same price tag as a single, swiftly pulled and swifterly quaffed pint?

What about if I wanted to buy 568 1ml measures, each one in it's own microscopic glass? It's an extreme and insanely impractical example, obviously, but on any scale the point still stands. In this case, I think they'd be well justified in charging several times the cost of a pint.

The obverse holds equally true: If a pub sold beer by the quart, one should expect it to be fractionally cheaper than two individual pints. It's just common sense.

Several years ago I lived above a pub in Ipswich that sold 1½ pint measures for quite a bit less than the cost of a pint plus a separate half. Unfortunately it was Greene King IPA, and therefore not really worth buying at any cost, but you catch my drift, I'm sure.

On balance, small measure beer drinkers get a pretty good deal. Compare it to bottled water where a 500ml bottle only costs a bit less than a 2 litre bottle, which itself isn't that much cheaper than one of those big fuck-off 5 litre bastards.

So, I know I'm probably in the minority here, but, c'mon guys. You're just coming across as unnecessarily tight and pernickety.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm off for a full, Imperial, King's pint.

The 'International' Wetherfest runs officially until November 1, though you can expect the beers to be available for at least another couple of weeks.

The Wandsworth Common Halloween beer festival runs from October 28 to November 1.

1 comment:

  1. Are you suggesting that anyone drinking less than a pint is a pussy?


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.