Blog Post: The Age of Rail Ale, 1975 - 1980

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by sprinterguy, 22 Aug 2015.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    Established beer bloggers Boak and Bailey have recently posted an article that describes the expansion of Travellers Fare bars in the late seventies. With the renaissance in station bars that we seem to be enjoying at the present time, a generation later, this seems quite pertinent and, although it was before my time, might bring back some nostalgic memories for some more "established" members of this forum! :p

    There's a reproduction of a late '70s list of Travellers Fare licensed outlets as well, and it is interesting to see that a few outlets have lived on, or at least been revived more recently in a different form: The "Victoria Dome" in Manchester is an interesting one to see, now that it has recently been refurbished and reopened as a licensed premises as part of the renovation of that station. The Sheffield Tap is apparently not an original idea at that station, either, although undoubtedly much improved in its offering and appearance in the present day compared to the 1970s alternative under Travellers Fare (would that have been on the same site? Or elsewhere in the station?)!

    It is no doubt common knowledge to other forum members, but I hadn't realised that Travellers Fare had evolved, by one means or another, into SSP, who seem to have recently expanded their "...Hero" suffixed range of station bars around the country (although the Newcastle outlet has recently become an M&S, which is probably a better deal all round as you can now get better beer that you can take on the train).

    It is good to see that the heritage of the "Shires Bar" at St Pancras has been carried on by the Betjeman Arms on the same site, which is probably my favourite pub along that stretch of the Euston Road.
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  2. Registered users do not see these banners - join or log in today!

    Rail Forums

     
  3. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    The problem is in my view none of those at the larger stations give value for money. I love the Parcel Yard at Kings Cross but even by Fullers standards its not cheap. There are more realistically priced pubs to be found in and around the Euston Road that will serve a decent pint of real ale.
     
  4. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    The Parcel Yard is well known for charging exceptional prices even for its London location, but I've always thought that the prices at the Betjeman Arms compare favourably with other pubs in the area. Plus it was this forums' very own Peter Mugridge who originally turned me on to the relaxing effects of watching the Eurostars buzz in and out from the "outdoor" area (can it really be so when entirely beneath the Barlow trainshed?) while imbibing a few pints.

    Similarly, the prices at specialist real ale outlets, as opposed to typical pubs that serve real ale alongside a wide range of other products that probably sell in greater quantities, in major cities have been creeping up for a while now, and I don't think that the prices at the likes of the Sheffield or York Taps are out of touch with these. I don't think that they are charging a premium based solely upon their location, despite their partially captive market of rail passengers (depends how long they have to change between trains as to whether they are captive or not!).

    There's a certain atmosphere that comes with a good station bar or nearby pub, that is defined by the transient nature of the clientele, that is not replicated elsewhere: This is less the case with those outlets that have become so popular as to be incorporated into the regular round of bars in the vicinity - and I would include the Betjeman Arms and the Sheffield Tap in that appraisal - but it still remains evident.
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  5. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    In all fairness with regard to the likes of Sheffield and York you only have to walk a few minutes to find a perfectly acceptable pint of real ale and pay a lot less. And indeed find a pub that is just as homely. In my opinion pubs and bars at major stations are assuming that most of their customers are just passing though, are not commuters who are likely to be more picky and are unlikely to walk out when they see the prices listed as the can't be bothered to walk outside of the station.

    For what its worth very few pubs if any can afford to sell real ale and very little else. Indeed unless you are prepared to sell a lager and a fizzy cider along side your real ale offerings you will struggle to make a living.
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  6. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    The York Tap's been a godsend for me when I only have a half hour between trains, as previously it used to mean a rapid dash to the Maltings or to the 'Spoons by the Micklegate Bar for a decent pint. Now, I can get a pint in with a ten minute connection! :D

    Granted, when I'm in Sheffield then I tend to head to the Queen's Head between trains: It's close enough that the walking time makes little difference, and it's a Thwaites; so I can get a decent pint of Lancaster Bomber, which is the important bit. :) The Sheffield Tap does too much in the way of overpriced, unidentifiable "craft" beers/ales for my possibly staid tastes.
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  7. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    Ten minutes!! Thank God you're joking! I should say here that the real offerings at Stalybridge and Huddersfield are very good and also reasonably priced. In terms of the bar at Manchester Victoria I'm not yet at the stage where I will pay over £4.00 for a pint of bitter outside of London!
     
  8. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    I may have artificially limited the playing field when referring specifically to real ale, but I also had the new breed of "craft beer", supplied via both cask and keg, bars in mind when making that statement. It seems that every city and most major provincial towns have at least one pub or bar that is specifically ale focused, and it seems to me, though I have no quantifiable evidence to hand, that it is these sorts of establishments that are going from strength to strength at the moment in preference to the stereotypical multi-drink city centre bars. They'll usually have at least one lager on (cider range is generally more varied and given a bit of thought), but it is typically something that is from a fairly local brewer, rather than one of the globally recognised brand names.

    Obviously this sort of approach would never work in every market, but it seems to be doing well for itself in the city centres.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Was I? :? That's news to me. ;) It's eminently practical and I've achieved it a couple of times: There can be some terribly short connections from late running East Coast trains into southbound Crosscountry services when there's been nowt available to drink on train but Deuchars, all the way from Aberdeen (so I'd rather stay dry until a better alternative presents itself).
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  9. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    Ok, I'll give you an example. Although I've lived in London for over 25 years I have strong links with Derby and visit the Brunswick at least once a month. That pub can be firmly placed within the Real Ale bracket and makes a lot of money from it but even they sell a popular brand of Lager eg Fosters because they would lose money if they didn't. And I say this as a member of CAMRA who promotes Real Ale where ever I can but we have to be realistic. You're average drinker will often simply go for what they know.

    I forgot to add that pubs have to be price sensitive, even if they are offering fancy craft beers or else people will vote with their feet.
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  10. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    Oh aye, I agree. There does seem, however, to be enough support for a couple of ale focused premises in a city centre, where demand is sufficiently focused. Obviously they're never going to "take over the world" compared to the myriad of pubs serving a range of easily recognised brands, which, of course, is what the majority are drinking, but there is a place for more specialised outlets.

    In many cases the current generation of station bars seem to fall into this latter category and appear, at present, to be doing well for themselves, and again I don't think that this is solely down to their access to a potentially captive market: A number of these are destination pubs in their own right, where the range of cask beer alone seems to attract custom.
     
    Last edited: 22 Aug 2015
  11. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    In some instances I would agree with you and its quite easy to see how the pub at Stalybridge would fall into that category as its prices are reasonable given its locality. However I'm not so sure that the same could be said for the likes of York where in my experience the only difference with the competition is that the prices are a lot higher.

    The prospects for Real Ale are looking good but unless you are in a Real Ale desert or the station has an exceptional Free House or the girl / bloke behind the bar is fit I not sure that too many people would make a special journey to the station for a pint.
     
  12. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

    Messages:
    23,342
    Joined:
    12 Oct 2010
    Location:
    Work - Fenny Stratford(MK) Home - Darlington
    you do miss one point on the XXXX Tap station pubs - the lack of chavs!

    The prices tend to attract a better class of patron, the lack of mainstream fizzy chemically refined alchodrinks ( aka "lager" or "cider") keeps the riff raff away and the ambiance is quite relaxed and the ale is varied and usually of good quality.

    I will happily pay a bit more for that, specifically if i have only, say, 30 minutes between trains and am in a town I dont know well.
     
  13. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    21,820
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    I wonder, did the original article mention the buffet on the down side at Haywards Heath, which I was delighted to discover did pints of Harvey's on cask in the mid-90's ? Sadly I fear this may no longer be the case.

    I agree with Sprinterguy on this. York and Sheffield Tap are on the pricey side, but not outlandish compared to a city centre bar.
     
  14. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

    Messages:
    23,342
    Joined:
    12 Oct 2010
    Location:
    Work - Fenny Stratford(MK) Home - Darlington
    and certainly not for the southern prices I am now accustomed to paying! ;)
     
  15. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    Precisely - The town centre ale-centric bars can charge a bit extra compared to your typical 'Spoons or chain pub for exactly these reasons, so it is not outlandish to expect that the "Tap" outlets at stations can do the same.

    Much better to have a slightly more pricey, but good quality, pub on the station than to have to walk into an unknown town and find nothing but a lacklustre, or, worse, no pub when time is against you!
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    The Haywards Heath buffet is not mentioned in the list of Travellers-Fare outlets included in the article, although it may have been an independent operation or even come about at a later date than the height of the Travellers-Fare empire (when BR were so wedded to that particular shade of orange)?
     
    Last edited: 24 Aug 2015
  16. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    21,820
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    Ah cheers.

    In truth, I was too young for the ale in those days, but I don't recall seeing much in the way of hand pumps on Southern Region buffets. I get the impression this was more of a Northern thing ?

    The Shires bar sounds quite decent. I rather wish I'd visited it on one of my trips to the old St Pancreas, although I enjoy its modern day successor.

    I think the York Tap is probably my favourite - especially since they've started doing scotch eggs.
     
  17. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    The problem is you are driving away real ale drinkers who cannot afford to pay £4.00 for a decent pint of bitter at Manchester Victoria. Despite being an active member of CAMRA I would argue that not everyone who drinks say for instance Stella or Fosters is riff raff and not everyone who drinks those types of lager are looking to be anything other than well behaved, nor are they all CHAV's!
     
  18. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    21,820
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    I sometimes stop off at The Wellington near Victoria which tends to charge more than £3 but less than £4 a pint and there seem to be plenty of people drinking well known nitro-keg larger and cider brands there. I don't think the Tap's at York and Sheffield are any more expensive than this for a pint, although they don't do the well known brands.
     
  19. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    I would argue that if they actually do that they will price themselves out of the market for many Real Ale drinkers and indeed will put people off from trying Real Ale in the first place. It's worth mentioning here that in my experience many of the Real Ale pubs (at least the non trendy ones) are actually cheaper than other city centre bars but I accept that isn't always the case. If the campaign for Real Ale is to continue to be a success people have to accept that it needs to move away from being a niche product.

    I think its also worth adding here that Wetherspoons have done a lot of good work to promote Real Ale although I accept that some of their pubs are better than others. The Crosse Keys in Gracechurch Street sells good Real Ale right in the middle of the City at very reasonable prices so I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Wetherspoons.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Yes but there is quite difference between paying say £3.50 at say The Wellington and paying £4.00 or more at the station buffet at Victoria. On my one and only visit to the Sheffield Tap I paid more than £4.00 for a pint but perhaps in the last year they have reduced their prices.... My argument is that here in London I can pay less than £4.00 for a pint of Real Ale and have more variety than what was offered at the Tap.
     
  20. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    I don't expect the ale-centric city centre bars to attract many first time real ale drinkers: I don't see why the "Tap" style bars need do any different. These are large towns and cities that can support a variety of different drinking establishments, rather than "one horse (small) towns" and villages where making one pub appeal to the many applies to a greater extent.

    Wetherspoons have done a great deal to further the cause for real ale, and my comment was not to denigrate their efforts but to draw a conclusion that suggests that not every pub need provide an all-options-covered drinks offer in order to survive.
     
    Last edited: 24 Aug 2015
  21. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    Whether those Real Ale bars attract first time drinkers or not is irrelevant in my opinion, if Real Ale drinkers can't afford to drink there then they are pricing themselves out of the market and that can never be a decent business model. You are also making the assumption here that people are not visiting those Real Ale bars at lunch time and encouraging their friends / family to try something new. I'm not sure on what basis you are making that assumption, or that people won't try something new on a night out, perhaps after visiting a beer festival where prices tend to be a little cheaper.
     
  22. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    You made the point that a pub charging higher prices would put people off trying real ale for the first time. My assertion was that, where real ale is their primary selling point, that this is off little relevance to the success of their trade, which is based largely on an established market.

    Plenty of ale drinkers, and other casual visitors besides, clearly can afford to drink in these places or they wouldn't be experiencing their current buoyant level of sales.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    A stop off in York has been more or less de rigeur since not long after I started doing long distance journeys, it being a handy two hours (or about) from my usual starting point in Birmingham, but since the York Tap opened it has become essential, not least because of those Scotch eggs (and pork pies, when they've got them)! :D
     
    Last edited: 25 Aug 2015
  23. fowler9

    fowler9 Established Member

    Messages:
    8,365
    Joined:
    29 Oct 2013
    Location:
    Liverpool
    Has anyone else been to the Steamhouse at Urmston station. Only been the once but thought it was pretty good. Kept my head down and drank up quietly being a scouser. :D

    The new Spoons at Lime Street is pleasant enough. It gets quite busy of a weekend with all the stag parties arriving and departing. Has the usual Spoons problem of having about 2 staff behind a huge bar serving people meals, teas and coffees as well as beer though. It has taken custom away from the Crown around the corner which makes it easier to get served there and it is a decent place. The White Star on Lime Street Station is the last place I would think of going, still seems to stay in business though.
     
  24. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

    Messages:
    6,767
    Joined:
    23 Feb 2010
    Location:
    Richmond, London
    On what basis do you suggest that its an established market as opposed to anything else. Assuming that a pub doesn't just sell Real Ale / cider / perries you are always going to get drinkers who have never tried anything but fizzy lager / cider but how are we going to convert them if they are not prepared to pay through the nose or that people should drink alone from their friends? Are you suggesting that novice Real Ale drinkers are not welcome in places such as the Sheffield Tap? Ultimately, I can't see the justification for charging people over £4.00 for a pint at the Sheffield Tap or other such places, unless such prices are down to the high unit rental being paid to Network Rail.

    So are you suggesting that its perfectly acceptable to see Real Ale as being a niche market and that there is no harm in pricing Real Ale drinkers out of certain city centre bars? I'm really not sure how this can be seen to be furthering the cause of encouraging people to drink Real Ale, which is surely what this is all about?
     
  25. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    21,820
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    My memory may be clouded, but I'm sure the Sheffield Tap (like the York one) has always had beers that were less than 4
    pounds. Perhaps you just chose a more pricey one?
     
  26. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

    Messages:
    23,342
    Joined:
    12 Oct 2010
    Location:
    Work - Fenny Stratford(MK) Home - Darlington
    have you been buying the fancy/poncy/hipster "craft ales" again? ;)

    Surely the point of these places is that they attract those who are willing to pay for the ambiance and drink quality or are a semi captive market with enough time for a pint between trains. They cant complete with the local spoons on price or volume so must beat them on quality. I also bet the station rents aren't cheap!

    PS - whilst i agree that not everyone buying Fosters or Stella is riff raff all riff raff drink Fosters or Stella ;)

    Wetherspoons is the answer to introducing new people to ales. They have a large market share, popular brand awareness, a countrywide standard for service/pub layout, offer a wide selection of ales from around the country, for a reasonable price, with a variety of tastes, coupled with strong marketing in an atmosphere many people are comfortable with. (even if you discount the sometimes variable quality offered - which i am convinced is down to the management of the particular branch)

    I don't see it as a niche although many of the real ale beardy blokes do see it as such - there is a strong spotter element to the movement
     
    Last edited: 25 Aug 2015
  27. sprinterguy

    sprinterguy Established Member

    Messages:
    10,482
    Joined:
    4 Mar 2010
    Location:
    Macclesfield
    I'm sure they're as welcome as anybody else, just that ale-centric bars at stations and elsewhere probably aren't basing their business model on attracting real ale novices.
    I don't see why a pub has to feel that it is furthering any sort of "cause". It's just beer, after all.

    Part of the premium of drinking in pubs can be levelled at the concept that you are paying not only for the beer in the glass but also for the heat, the light, a comfortable place to sit, as well as more intangible aspects such as the ambiance and the opportunity for social interaction. Some folks, myself and DarloRich included it seems, are willing (if not always entirely happy ;)) to pay a bit more for an improved environment. I don't see that this is excluding anybody from some sort of special party as you seem to view it. Cheaper grog outlets are available if cheapness is what is desired.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Indeed. I was in there a couple of months back and the prices for a pint were still generally in the region of around £3.60. Again, not unusual for many pubs that I frequent that have a focus on serving ale.
     
  28. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    21,820
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    Yes, now you mention it, that's about what I usually end up paying there.
     
  29. Buttsy

    Buttsy Established Member

    Messages:
    1,364
    Joined:
    20 May 2011
    Location:
    Oxford
    A friend of mine, on our trips away to watch Oxford, who only drinks lager is perfectly happy to drink in pubs with a lot of real ale which satisfy myself and another of our friends. He particulalry finds such pubs to be pleasant and have a convivial atmosphere.
     
  30. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

    Messages:
    23,342
    Joined:
    12 Oct 2010
    Location:
    Work - Fenny Stratford(MK) Home - Darlington
    a great deal of "real ale" pubs will happily offer lager - just often not the main stream chemical refiners product. York Tap offers all manner of lagers and they are of a really good quality.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page