Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Do Pubs Help Themselves?

As someone who likes going to the pub, I am always happy when a pub decides to follow my Twitter feed, and I always take the opportunity of checking out a pub's website, if one is listed on the Twitter profile. Often though I find that the key information I am looking for on a pub website is missing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was followed by a pub back in the UK - where pubs are struggling and shutting at an alarming rate.  Naturally I went to have a look at their website, which is of interest both from a personal and professional point of view - for those newish to Fuggled, I work for a web design company. Part of me wonders at times if the growth of breweries without tied estates is negatively impacting the trade of pubs which are tied - and it is interesting that BrewDog are effectively building their own tied estate with their bars.

Said pub had quite a nicely designed and laid out website, easy to navigate, not laden with jarring graphics and thankfully no Flash animations. Judging from the pictures on the site, it looks like a very nice place to go and drink, have a meal and maybe even stay as they have rooms to let. Their menu was very nicely presented, and from the descriptions of the food, I would be surprised if they needed to call in Gordon Ramsey any time soon.

For the wine lovers among us there is an extensive wine list, one that even has descriptions of the wines, whiskies and spirits they have available. Key information for visiting this pub was also easy to find, opening hours seem very reasonable (minor aside, I have so little time for pubs and brewpubs that are not open at lunchtime), the place seems not to have a late license, but that's OK.

Next time I am over in the UK visiting one of my brothers, I would love to visit this pub. I just have one problem. I don't know what beer they have. Time and time again I come across this problem with pubs, I want to know what beer you serve, because I generally go to the pub to drink beer. Having a nice meal is a sideshow option as far as I am concerned, but beer is a given. Yet it is criminally overlooked. From a technical perspective it really isn't all that difficult to keep a beer list up to date on a website, especially if you are using a CMS like WordPress, and yet many pubs just don't say what beers they have.

I wonder at times if pubs are actually their own worst enemies when it comes to advertising what wine they have as opposed to beer, it's almost as though the landlords of Blighty have a Basil Fawlty style desire to entice a better quality of clientele. It's almost as though sections of the pub trade are ashamed of Britain's national drink.

13 comments:

  1. A lot of pubs are guilty of this. Many now use a website called 'your round' which shows what is on the bar. Mr foleys in leeds then link this to their twitter account, so all twitter followers get an update when a new beer arrives on the bar. Its a simple effective service that has made me make a special trip more than once because i fancied the beer mentioned.

    http://www.yourround.co.uk/Pub/Leeds/Mr-Foley's-Cask-Ale-House/LS1-5RG.aspx

    I wish all pubs did the same!

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  2. I hate it when I am going to a new city, look up what I think is a beer bar ("Best Taps in XXX"), and they have no list. I try to see from their pictures, but they are not much help. When you get there it is all BMC. Drives me bonkers.

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  3. ^ What Jay Zeis said.

    If I'm searching for a new bar and they don't have a (current) beer list on their site, I won't go.

    Another peeve of mine is when you find a list and 1/2 of them are Christmas ales. In June.

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  4. I've found yourround to be an excellent tool to fill this gap in the website. Everything else that doesn't change often (keg/bottles) is listed, and the yourround widget automatically updates when new cask ale goes on:

    http://kilverts.co.uk/Drinks.php

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  5. "From a technical perspective it really isn't all that difficult to keep a beer list up to date on a website"

    It's not a technical problem here, what with it just being an HTML text file. But, working that seven day week with the hundreds of little jobs that I have to do, it's more a problem of remembering or finding the time.

    (I did update it today.)

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  6. BUL 180

    At least there is no doubting with your website that you brew and sell beer. Some pub sites you see though you would think were wannabe restaurants with fancy wine lists.

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  7. Good points, well made. A pub that doesn't tell you what beer it sells won't get me coming. If I want to take part in a lottery, I'll buy a ticket.

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  8. I think for some pubs it can be quite a difficult one, especially if you have rotating beers and different beers from many various breweries. keeping up with the updates every time you change a barrel and put something else on can be a trying thing. However, there still is room for said pubs to at least make an effort to display something about the beer served (cask, keg how many, styles etc...). I know there's many pubs out there who don't change their beers who are just plain failing if they don't tell you what they are.

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  9. The Bull and castle (www.bullandcastle.ie) in Dublin have a useless website but that is because is is part of the owners (FXB) site. However the manager recently started a beer blog listing their beers, specials, weekly (sometimes daily) cask offerings as well as meal deals. http://buyirishbeer.blogspot.com/
    It would be great of there was at least a link to that blog on the main bull and castle website. For now only us beoir.org members and those who take note of the chalkboard behind the bar will know about it.

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  10. I forgot to say something I find even more peculiar than this is pubs that don't have a website at all. Even just 1 page with their opening times would be more useful than nothing at all!

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  11. Yeah, I've always forgiven pubs because of the overhead involved in keeping a list up to date. On the flip side though, places that do maintain and accesible online list will often get my visit when I would've otherwise just popped to somewhere locally.

    We're no doubt in a transition phase where some pubs are early adopters of the web and others just aren't. In 10 years time what will it be like?

    BeerBirraBier.

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  12. There is a very simple way for a pub to keep its beer list up to date. My local has an ale cam pointing at the bar so that you can see what's on.

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  13. I like pubs having a beer list online when I am visiting a new city. It is an extra reason for entering a pub if the beers on the list tempt me.

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