When I bought my first pint in London, it was 2009. Nu-rave was actually considered a genre of music, having a Tumblr account was still considered fairly underground and you could still get phone contracts with unlimited data.
“£2.50 is actually pretty cheap for a pint, even if it’s Strongbow. I thought London was insanely expensive for drinks?” I said to my new university friends. I was in the Student Union of the University of Westminster, Harrow campus. They chuckled as they informed me that:
Harrow is technically Brent, we weren’t even in London.
This is a SU, of course it’s cheap you crazy person.
My new found friends fizzled fast, but my shocked outraged expression grew stronger every time I went to bars in London, asked what cider they had, was informed it was only Strongbow or Rekorderlig and both were £4 a pint.
As a Bristolian who grew up with lots of different cider choices, ordering Strongbow at a bar is a gigantic bummer. To be honest, ordering Rekorderlig, Bulmers, Magners or any incredibly generic cider is a bit of a bummer because they’re all terrible. It’s just adding insult to injury when you hand a £5 over to a bartender and you get back a few pennies in change.
So imagine my joy when I moved back in Bristol in late 2014, after five years in London I was excited to get back to my adopted hometown. I wanted drinking in parks I didn’t have to travel an hour on a tube to get to, I wanted to hang out by the waterfront when it got sunny, I wanted indifferent bus drivers – but most of all I wanted good cider.
However, in the weekends and summer trips back to visit my friends and family in Bristol, I noticed things had changed. Not particularly drastically, but things were changing. It never worried me too much. I understood that Bristol is an undeniably cool city and people investing in it by opening up new shops, restaurants, pubs and bars is a great sign for a thriving economy.
“Hey what cider do you have?”
“Uh, this is a craft beer pub, we don’t have any”
It was distressing to receive this response in a few new pubs and bars that had opened in Bristol, it was even more annoying when you were met with mocking laughter for even asking. There are a few cider pubs in Bristol, The Apple to name one. If you don’t like cider then they have a few beers and wines for the non-cider drinkers amongst us. Why not have the same policies?
I also stopped myself from firing back to a mocking bartender: “I’M ALSO IN BRISTOL MATE, IT’S NOT CRAZY TO ASSUME YOU HAVE CIDER.”
Some craft beer pubs had one cider on tap, which was great. But typically it was a ‘craft cider’. Whilst I’m not opposed to independent cider manufacturers, I am opposed to being smashed after one pint because the only cider you serve is seven per cent.
Craft beer pubs in Bristol seem to only cater to hipsters who probably secretly really love Foster. They’re undeniably overpriced and thus have driven up the prices of all the pubs surrounding them, because it makes sense that if the pub next to you is charging £4.20 for an IPA then you’re going to charge £3.90 for a Carlsberg.
Who is this craft revival for? Who’s celebrating the different palettes on offer to the discerning pub goer? Unlike people who say they’re ‘into wine’ people who say they’re ‘into beer’ usually just means they’re a functioning alcoholic – not that they’re a connoisseur of the craft.
Getting a pint for under £3.50 is now considered a personal achievement; I punch the air when I discover a pub that gives me pounds for change when I hand over a £5.
Have we turned into London? Where we’re paying for the aesthetics of a pub, the ‘vibe’ of a place and typically a pub that has a ‘vibe’ usually means that they’re only selling chilli and ginger cider – I mean seriously, who WANTS that.
It’s cutting out certain types of people out of the city center of Bristol, even though the rise of these pubs have pushed up the prices there is a still a large discrepancy between standard pub prices and craft beer pubs. The décor of a typical pub is going along with it, hardwood floors and unvarnished stools with fairy lights warming your £4.30 pint is replacing carpets, chips in baskets and promotional beer mats.
There has been a documented backlash against the rise of hipster restaurants. Buzzfeed constantly makes reference to restaurants that present food in new and pretentious ways. The Cereal Killer café sparked a row about gentrification and hipster culture in London.
What’s ridiculous is that it’s not like the people visiting these places in London even live near there. They’ve travelled to go these hipster havens because no one can afford to live in that certain postcode anymore, ironically because of the types of places they’ve just visited.
It’s a vicious circle and one that Bristol that needs to be wary of being dragged into. If you’re trying to buy a house for the first time in the place you grew up in and you can’t afford it. But you walked 10 minutes to a craft beer pub, paid £5 for an imported American beer then you’ve answered why you cannot afford to live where you grew up anymore.
To tie this into a neat little bow, not all craft beers pubs are ruining Bristol but some are only set up to serve a middle class clientele that are unaware they are running themselves out of the town they live in. You know what would help? If they served a cheap cider and beer option from a mainstream manufacturer, so they weren’t only serving a certain demographic of the drinking public.
FYI, that cider should be Thatchers Gold, cheers.