A Quick Pint by Chris Williamson
Pubs are not just places to buy a beer, but are the lifeline of the community for many. It’s not totally healthy to drink a pint of beer a day, but for some people (especially lonely and old people), a daily pint at the local, makes life worth living. But alas these days, the good old traditional pub is fast disappearing. The low murmur of voices and enjoying a pint near a pub fire, has been replaced by what writer Paul Kingsnorth calls ‘vertical drinking’ in his book Real England. This is when the seats are taken away, so that people drink faster (more profits) and the murmur is often replaced by loud music.
How to Save Your Local Pub
Chris Williamson for Green Pebble
Just like supporting local shops, visit them! If you don’t use them, you lose them. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can still go for a soft drink. If you are a regular pub goer, CAMRA has a guide to help. You can join as a member and get a discount in local pubs, this is a no-brainer as the membership pays for itself in a short while.
Use your pub for other uses. Pub is the Hub has lots of ideas on how to turn your pub into a hub for the local community, rather than just a place to ‘serve beer’. It can be used for:
- Farmers’ markets
- Local indie cinemas (often has license)
- Drop-off point for post office parcels
- A lending library
- A pop-up village shop
- A hub for your local credit union
- Tourist info office with maps
- Community cafe for charities
- Internet cafe
- Click and collect for shops
- Suma food group collection point (where lots of people buy organic food in bulk, then it’s delivered to one large outlet, and paid for separately).
Buy Your Own Pub!
If your pub is in real danger (or you would like to buy the local pub to get owned by the community), find help at Plunkett Foundation. Also experts at starting and saving community shops, they can give you all their help and expertise, and signing up gives discounts on items like insurance. There are now over 150 community-owned pubs, which are run by local people, who often volunteer a few hours each month each. The average cost is around £300K (and another £150K in set-up costs). But if 1000 local people invest, that’s only £300 each to save the hub of your community, provide a few jobs and stop the big chains moving in. Over half the money for most of their pubs comes from community shares. And to date – not one has folded!
Obviously, many struggled during lockdown. Abingdon Arms (Oxfordshire) simply transformed their community pub into a shop and takeaway (and sold beers-to-go). Most community pubs are in the south, although a few are starting up in the north. Tyneside’s Ye Olde Cross was saved by 300 local investors, and runs street food pop-ups, weekly quizes, pop-up mic nights, a weekly vegan food market, a book club and dominoes!
The Beer Tax Issue
One problem is that UK beer tax is way higher than elsewhere in Europe. This is believed to be due to discouraging alcohol, but the maths does not add up. We have a much higher incidence of drinking problems than in countries that have lower beer tax.
Many pubs suffer due to the ‘triple tax whammy’ of VAT, business rates and high beer duty. CAMRA want the law changed to encourage smaller pubs and indie breweries to not be clobbered with the high taxes. Tax at present makes up a whopping third of the total cost of a pint. Then if you add on the landlord’s costs and staff and other taxes, it’s difficult to stay afloat. The other issue is that the tax is proportionally more in the north, because the tax is the same, even though the cost of a pint in London can be up to 60% more. So much for ‘levelling up’.
Become a Zero Waste Pub
Obviously you likely already recycle glass and cardboard etc. But go a few steps further. Boycott beers in plastic rings (these kill and strangle wildlife, plenty of brands are now packed in cardboard).
UK pubs serve almost 900 million meals a year and this generates hundreds of thousands of tons of waste. So get composting your food waste to make your pub garden nice. See make your garden safe for pets to know plants, flowers, trees and mulches to avoid near visiting dog friends.
Offer Artisan Beers, Ciders & Wines
Search ‘beer’ and ‘wine’ and ‘cider’ in the box on this site, to find posts linking you to the best artisan brands. For people who don’t drink alcohol, Lucky Saint is a Bavarian-brewed Pilsner-styled lager that uses quality ingredients including Hallertau hops, and follows German purity laws. Brewed the same way as full-strength beer then fermented for 6 weeks, it has a biscuity malt taste and smooth citrus hop finish. Left unfiltered. This one is available on draught, if you run a pub.
Toast Ale is a non-profit company that donates money made to a food waste charity. It replaces some of the malted barley with leftover bread (including a ‘crumpet beer’ made from Warburton’s leftover food). It can also supply you with branded beer mats etc.
Make Your Pub Vegan-Friendly
Up your profits by offering vegan-friendly drinks (free from fish bladder and animal insides filtering). Many people simply won’t buy an alcoholic drink, if they have to go through asking lots of questions. Just look up the tipples you sell at Barnivore to see which brands qualify, and which ones don’t.
You don’t have to be vegan, to offer good food to millions who are (many pubs and restaurants wrongly serve ‘vegetarian meals’ with Parmesan cheese, which by law contains calf rennet). If you are stilling offering ‘vegetable curry’ and ‘fruit salad’ for veggie diners, you’re missing out on extra profits (most pubs make lots of profits these days from food, rather than beer). This Vegan Ploughmans Lunch Platter (The Veg Space) includes traditional fresh bread, cheese, pickles and chutney.
The Spread Eagle is London’s first vegan pub, and is also zero waste. The seasonal menu includes free foraged foods and the meals replicate pub classics and British desserts. Popular on the menu is the East End classic pie & mash, plus there is a Ploughman’s Board and sticky toffee pudding for afters. Served with 14 draught vegan beers, small batch wines and a tequila sour (using aquafaba ‘vegan meringue’ made from the leftover brine water from canned chickpeas!)
Another popular vegan pub is Brighton’s The Roundhill Pub. Choose from the tender minted ‘seitan lamb loin’ with dauphinoise potatoes, chantenay carrots, spinach puree and mint salsa. Or a Glazed ‘Gammon’ with treacle and mustard glaze, garlic buttered kale, celeriac puree, fondant potato, shredded baby leeks and vegan crackling.
This pub has designed the space in open plan, so women can feel safe on a night out, and anyone behaving inappropriately is noticed. They actively encourage anyone to report anytime they don’t feel safe, which has understandably led to them being one of Brighton’s favourite pubs for women.
Plant-Based Porkless Scratchings!
Pork scratchings are a very popular snack in pubs, but they are horrible things, made by frying pork skin taken from the top of a pig’s hind leg. If you enjoy them, then did you know you can find plant-based versions?
These taste and smell like meat, so keep away from pets as many contain toxic ingredients like onion, garlic, mushrooms and faux meats. Avoid for children and swallowing difficulties as they could be a choking hazard.
- Vegan Pig is an up-and-coming brand. Successfully crowdfunded, COVID has delayed the launch, but they should be good to go now. Made from flash-fried soy and a unique ‘absolutely pigless’ spice mix, they are sold in sea salt or spiced flavour. Set up a Terracycle crisp packet recycling program – raise money for the community at the same time.
- Sunshine Deli Pork Scratchings are made in Sheffield. This deli has been producing plant-based deli delights for years in Yorkshire. The best of British – but vegan! Enjoy the sea salt original or spicy American flavours.
- Just for interest, the USA’s Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds are a popular snack, created by a chef. Apparently the favourite snack of Snoop Dog. Chef Dave says they are almost identical, the only difference that they’re baked (not fried), don’t contain collagen (less ‘sticky mouthfeel) and you won’t get hairs stuck in your teeth!