What does the price of a pint say about a pub?

Two people drinking pints Expensive beer can make pub goers a bit unhappy

The price of beer varies considerably across the UK, a survey indicates. What does the cost of a pint tell us about where we drink?

It is the familiar cry of the northerner cast adrift in unfamiliar London licensed premises: "How much did you just say a pint costs?"

The weather, the state of public transport and the conduct of politicians might be familiar subjects of saloon-bar gripes, but the price of beer will always be a favourite riff among drinkers who want to conclude their evening with a good moan.

To those of us who can recall - just - the days of the sub-£1 pint, shelling out three times that amount for a single beverage will always cause a small part of ourselves to die a little inside.

The steady march of inflation and indirect taxation means this is unlikely to change any time soon.

But a survey by the Good Pub Guide suggests that some of us can count ourselves luckier than others.

The publication asked all 1,165 pubs featured in its 2011 edition how much they charged for their cheapest pint of real ale bitter.

The Great Britain-wide average was £2.80, a 4% rise on 2009. But this covers broad regional disparities, with the cheapest part of the country, the West Midlands, falling well short at £2.45 below the most expensive, Surrey, at £3.08.

According to the Guide's co-editor Fiona Stapley, the wide variation in prices reflects not just the socio-economic make-up of each area but also the levels of competition, the nature of their bars and the type of beer on offer.

"In areas where you have heavy concentrations of the big chains, the prices tend to be higher," she says. "In pubs which brew their own beer, prices are on average a third lower.

"Beer is more expensive in London because they have a large concentration of people who will come out from work and go drinking. But at the same time, food in London pubs is incredibly good value."

Start Quote

You're paying £4 or £5 in a London style bar where the beer might not be any good”

End Quote Iain Loe Camra

The fact that pubs serving real ale tend to be cheaper than those which do not is likely to give connoisseurs cause for comfort.

Some central London bars charge upwards of £5 a pint, but what distinguishes these from their cheaper rivals is not so much the quality of the beer on offer as the supposedly prime location.

A pint can be obtained in the middle of the capital for less than £2, if one is prepared to visit a chain like JD Wetherspoon, in which volume and low prices are seen as more important than atmosphere.

Iain Loe, research and information manager for the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), believes the age-old British system is at play.

"In days gone by, pubs would have the lounge bar and the public bar," he says. "The public bar would be for the working class, there would be linoleum on the floor and the beer would be 2p or 3p a pint cheaper.

"Nowadays, it's the same class divide - but in different pubs, so you're paying £4 or £5 in a London-style bar where the beer might not be any good."

It might not be enough to stop the regulars complaining. But a glance at the price list could tell you all you need to know about your local.

Below is a selection of your comments

You should try drinking in Belfast or Dublin, in The North of Ireland a pint ranges from £3 to £3. 80. In Dublin it can be as much as 5 - 8 Euro or more depending where you go to have a pint.

Sean MacDhonnchaidh, Belfast, Ireland

It may be snobby but I prefer to frequent certain bars in Manchester where the prices are more expensive. You get less hassle, less queuing at the bar and you can hold a conversation with your friends without music blasting out too loud! Must be a grumpy old man!

Richard Bowen, Manchester

There is a Spanish Bar in central London, near Tottenham Court Road, where you pay in the region of £3.60 for a pint of beer and yet the bar is in severe need of TLC. The toilets are a disgrace. The ladies toilet door actually came off at one point and it took over a month to get sorted. Unfortunately some pub owners want to rake in the money without investing in the facilities.

Rod Zamora, London

When I began at University in 1971 the student bar sold cider at 4p a pint.

Tony, Birmingham

I can still get a pint of bitter for sub-£1.50 at the Royal Oak in Ulley, near Sheffield. A great pub situatated on the edge of the countryside.

Matthew White, Sheffield

My father just came back from a trip to the capital with the grandkids, and took them to Harrods. While Grandma and the granddaughters went window shopping in there, he thought I'll have a swift pint in the pub there, asked for a pint gave the barman a fiver and was told "I'm sorry sir, it's £6 a pint."

Rob Lake, Leeds, West Yorks

Those searching for a sub-£3 pint in London are well advised to find a Samuel Smith's establishment - where a stout cost me about £2.40 last time I was there - with a pint of bitter clocking in at £1.99. I imagine that they are able to keep their prices so keen because they only serve their own brews, not mainstream brands.

TC, London

Its not only country wide but also within cities themselves. Pubs in London will vary vastly, and not I'm not talking bars vs. pubs. The last pub I went to in Smithfields charged me £7.83 for two pints... in a pub! (Perhaps I'm getting old!)

GDW, London

I find that most pubs outside Zone One in London that charge a premium for beer generally serve a decent cold pint and clean their pipes regularly. Central london is a real gamble, you can pay over £4 and it may still be terrible pint - this is what upsets me the most.

Franco, London

As a London worker I don't think i've seen anyone drinking "cheapest pint of real ale bitter". Surely this survey should have taken a brand name lager to compare, as it is, the results are totally pointless. A complete myth that northerners drink bitter - lager is the mainstream drink all over GB. The sooner these idiots at the Good Pub Guide realise this, the sooner they have a publication that will actually mean something to the majority!

David Rivett, Bristol

Never mind the price of a pint, the price of soft drinks is extortionate! A lime and soda water, which is essentially a dash of cordial costing about 1p, can vary from being free, to about 25p up to £2.50! And an orange juice and lemonade can cost almost £4 in some greedy establishments, who charge you the full price of an orange juice and a lemonade, despite the fact you're only getting a dash of lemonade.

Malc, Cardiff

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