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         The politics of drinking
January 22, 2010



Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde and the price of ale

It’s time to own up. All these years I’ve been leading a double life. By day I’ve consistently argued, in the pages of the pub trade press and in the company of brewers and pubcos, that cask beer is too cheap. The Dr Jekyll in me profoundly believes it is a crafted product we should be proud of. Served with passion and care it can deliver one of the most beautiful experiences known to humanity. And it should be valued and priced accordingly. A good pint is worthy of a substantial premium over plain old cooking lager.

Then, in the evenings and at weekends, in the pub with my mates, out comes Mr Hyde. Three pounds twenty pence for a pint! They’re taking us for a ride! Won’t come in here again.

Alone, I assiduously seek out the cheaper pints, harnessing 35 years of (legal) pub-going experience and a photographic memory for change out of a fiver. A pint of Harvey’s Best at the Druids is £2.50 before 10pm, a pint of Hadlow at the Nelson £2.70. On my way back from Aldi a pint of mild at the Mitre is £2.30. Heck, I can push the boat out with a packet of posh crisps and it still comes in under £3.

In the cold light of reason, sitting here at my desk, I know this is wrong. Dr Jekyll advises that under-pricing is damaging for pubs and for cask beer. But Mr Hyde is always going to be with me, glowering over me at the bar. Getting inside my head and tormenting me with his blood-curdling cry.

“Hoooow muuuuch!!”

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