Yes it is that time of year again. In the past I have spent two weeks going to my local Spoons drinking mediocre beer and writing about it. Well sod that. I've decided that life really is too short to waste time on the crappy things in life. In the past six months I have really enjoyed going to some fabulous pubs along the south coast and drinking some top class beers. For that reason alone I will not be trying to pack in as many of the 50 beers Spoons are offering this time around. This lunchtime I did go to the Dolphin & Anchor in Chichester and picked up the beer list. For a start they only had three festival beers for sale. One was by Greene King and one was by Wadworths so I opted for a pint of the Exmoor Gold Export (5.5% ABV). After buying the pint (which took a ridiculous amount of time) I tried to find a table as my wife was due to join me. The tables that were not taken were full of debris from departed diners. It really was a squalid environment in which to sit down for a pint. I moved some plates onto another table that was equally plate-laden and sat down. The pint was pretty dreadful. By the time my wife had arrived I had sunk half of it and I told her I was ready to leave. Exmoor Gold is a decent pint but this was malty, sweet and sickly. Looking through the festival list you get the usual international brewers visiting some of the worst breweries in the UK where they try in vain to recreate their beers. You also get the usual UK brewers creating one-offs exclusively for Spoons. This presumably means a beer they can produce cheaply enough for Spoons to flog at their low price. There are one or two beers I wouldn't mind trying as is often the case but the chance of finding them on without popping in every day is slim.
In the past I have been pretty neutral about Spoons. They can be useful in towns that have a poor selection of pubs. However, when I got to thinking about it, the only Spoons I regularly go in is the Hatters in Bognor Regis. Is it any better or worse than any other Spoons? Probably not. But it is the only pub in Bognor where you can get a decent pint. Go along the coast to Worthing, Brighton or Portsmouth and they serve no purpose at all because these places are awash with excellent pubs where you can sit and enjoy a pint in pleasant surroundings. In fact I have never been in any of the Spoons in these places and that's my point really. It is interesting that Tim Martin constantly rants about the tax advantages that supermarkets have because sitting in a Spoons is about as pleasant as a trip to Lidl so perhaps they should be treated the same. The difference though is that you go to a supermarket for the sole purpose of buying what you want to enjoy at home and so buying things at the cheapest possible price makes sense. If Spoons want to compete with that they really should make their pubs more inviting but I would rather drink at home than sit in one of their pubs.
This has become a bit of a rant against Spoons and that wasn't really the intention. They are what they are and some people like them and that's fine. I don't and I can't change that. We're all different and we all like different things. What I really wanted to say was how my outlook on life has changed in the past year. There are some things I no longer want to put up with and Spoons is one of these things. Believe it or not there are still plenty of excellent pubs around. Warm inviting places where the landlord will serve you a pint that has been looked after rather than having to wait in line to be served by someone who knows nothing about what they are selling. Where you don't have to clear away dirty dishes to sit down at a table that is still filthy once you have removed the unwanted items yourself. Where they don't advertise the world's biggest real ale festival which in reality consists of three different beers on launch day.
That's it then for my review of this particular beer festival. Go and enjoy these fifty beers if you wish but I will go to other pubs and find better beer, It won't be difficult.