I must confess I very rarely notice how much I am paying for my pint when I go to a pub. Even after a night out with my CAMRA friends, if someone asked me how much I paid for a pint of such-and-such I'd shrug my shoulders and say £3 something. If I am asked to pay £4 something I'd probably make a mental note that the pub is a little expensive for the area and if I am asked to pay anything less than £3 then I must be in a Wetherspoons (or up north).
This brings me on to my visit to the Kings Arms near Fernhurst last week with my CAMRA colleagues. The Kings Arms is a lovely country pub that was owned by Gales many years ago and has struggled over the past few years with a couple of closures and with one notable failure being a Marco Pierre White venture. It reopened last year as a gastropub with rooms and there is an adjacent Indian restaurant in the barn. As a CAMRA group we failed to visit the pub soon after the reopening which was disappointing but last week we finally got round to paying it a visit.
The pub is located near the Surrey border just outside the village of Fernhurst on the main A286 out from Midhurst. It is therefore quite a hike from where all of our active members live and of course a couple of poor souls had to drive. The driver asked for a half so I asked for a pint of Harveys Sussex and a half of Harveys R. The former is a standard 4.0% ABV beer and the latter is the Harveys attempt at a low ABV beer coming in at just 2.8% ABV. The barmaid requested the princely sum of £6 which I raised my eyebrows at a little. That made me look at the price list (something I very rarely do). Both pints were £3.80 which is on the high side for Harveys in this area. This did not concern me a great deal but I was very surprised to see the R being priced the same as the Sussex. That brings me to my second grumble and the mathematicians among you have probably already worked out that the price of a half was £2.20. This price converts to £4.40 a pint which gives a 60p premium on the price of the full pint.
I now hand this over to you. Am I moaning unnecessarily? Should I expect a 2.8% ABV to be priced the same as a 4.0% ABV best bitter as beer duty for this beer is obviously less? Is a premium of 60p a pint high for buying two halves over a single pint? From a few tweets and blog posts I have read recently I think it is becoming a common cause for complaint but how widespread is it? Is it justifiable? From a personal point of view if I was running a country pub and trying to attract drinkers then I would be offering a reduced abv beer so top marks to the Kings Arms with this one, as I also understand from the guys that tried it that it is a very good beer. However, I would not be trying to rip off the poor drivers by charging them a premium if they choose a low abv product and/or a half over a pint. Last week the pub attracted a group of drinkers who are less inclined to pay it a second visit. That's the bottom line really which is a shame because it is a pleasant pub and the beer was in good condition.