I hope lockdown ends and the pubs reopen before this blog trickles towards the present day, but in the meantime here is a glimpse of 1985.
That year’s Good Beer Guide contained a useful review of the year. Some things had changed: Scottish and Newcastle produced a cask version of Exhibition Ale, the first real ale to come out of the Tyne since 1971; and John Smith’s produced cask beer for the first time since 1976; both suggesting a tipping point for CAMRA’s campaigning. Some things, though, had not changed:
Public enemy number one was the Host Group, a subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan, who announced it was creating 1,500 ‘theme establishments’ including “cut-price fast food services, ethnic theme pubs, all day entertainment centres titled ‘Slots of Fun’; and pseudo-New York cocktail joints.
Though theme pubs were nothing new – as https://boakandbailey.com/ explain in their excellent 21st Century Pub, which dates them back to at least the 1950’s – I do wonder what happened to the planned ethnic theme pubs unless they mean fake Irish and Walkabout bars.
I went to the Cardinal’s Hat in Worcester that year, which was a relatively southern outpost for Davenport’s bitter. A fine C14th building, in more recent times it spent an undistinguished period as an Austrian-themed pub, an idea that surprisingly didn’t catch on.
The Guide rails against unchanged opening hours in England and offers the following advice:
Guides of that period had a liberal sprinkling of cartoons, some of which contained more than a germ of truth:
There was also 15 pages devoted to the burgeoning beer scene around the world, and a useful map of established independent breweries, more than a few long gone:
The review also marked the death of Doris ‘Ma’ Pardoe at the magnificent Old Swan in Netherton, one of only four brew pubs left in the country after 1974.
My modest enough aspiration in those days was to get a tick on every page of the pubs section. The plan to visit every pub must have seemed over-ambitious back then and I only went to 270 new pubs. I remember being childishly pleased (and still am) about visiting three consecutive Ploughs in April, an uncontrived hat-trick.
I couldn’t have done that today as the Plough in Shadforth is now called the Farmer’s Arms.
The Captain Cook in Staithes, North Yorkshire stands out in the memory. It was run by a lovely, seemingly ancient couple from London’s East End. An old railway hotel, it stood high above the village. In my memory it provided a gorgeous view of the coast.
For the avoidance of doubt it’s named after the seafaring chap, not Alistair, the former England cricket captain. Captain James Cook moved to Staithes when he was sixteen years ago, in 1745, though the pub looks Victorian.
The Coalhole in West Sherburn, County Durham, was another gem. It was later renamed the Bay Horse, and run by Jean Newman, a former female jockey who, in those unenlightened times, never actually rode against another woman. It inevitably reminded me of the pleasingly named Bay Horse at er, Bay Horse.
A final recollection. The Barrack Tavern on Leeds Road, Bradford was a lively Cameron’s pub, also a southern outlier for that brewery. The Guide said it had a ‘good cross-section of topers’ which was a neat way of putting it.
The Closed Pubs website recalls the pub had an Educational Group for many years after the war. Not to be confused with the Barracks Tavern on Lumb Lane, it’s long closed now.