Got laughing gear round an excellent pint of one of my favourite beers over the weekend.
Greene King’s Abbot Ale, if you’re interested. The best pint of same to cross my teeth since a stint in a guest house not 200 yards from the front gates of the brewer’s Bury St Edmunds plant (and attendant quaffing in a quaint medieaval pub some 20 or 30 steps closer).
Neither low beam nor horse brass in sight as this most recent fresh, fruity jar was drained though. Instead, a nearby table of sauce and condiment sachets and the roar of around 500 fellow good citizens either anticipating, masticating or digesting their reasonably priced Sunday lunch.
Boozy behemoth looming over the Pub Co landscape, more than 800 premises the length and breadth of Britain, the first few hundred of which most likely inspired the phrase ‘booze barn’...
And quite right too.
Preston’s Wetherspoon’s, for all its undoubted virtues – which are common to all branches (a lengthy row of dirt cheap, well-kept, top-notch casks, with plenty of guest micro-outfits getting a look-see, plus periodic double Hendricks and tonic with a slice of cucumber for £3.50) – is nowt if not a booze barn.
Ugly outside, bare inside, the average punter will have had lots of good ale and spirits in The Greyfriars but I’d be surprised to hear many could remember spending a great night there.
Solely somewhere to score a few cheap rounds before darting on elsewhere.
All change now though. Over this century Wetherspoons has gradually emerged as a brand of quality. No surprise.
Largely through acquiring then sensitively restoring many noteworthy buildings, often premises which had stood empty or neglected for long periods (an obvious recent example being their salvage of Leyland’s post office, now not only that town’s most impressive pub, among its most appealing buildings) the chain is reborn.
In the 1990s to have a booze barn – particularly one sprouting straight out the back of the dole – was not considered a coup for any town.
Happily, the city is now on the brink of joining the snazzy Wetherspoons set, with the old TSB bank in Church Street now up for the treatment. Here’s to some news on that very soon.