Friday, January 9, 2009

It's 1988 again

There has been a predictable outcry from anti-drink pressure groups about Wetherspoon’s decision to offer Greene King IPA at 99p a pint. But this is a beer of moderate strength that generally appeals to an older male customer base who typically may only have a couple of pints anyway. The idea that their pubs are suddenly going to be inundated with binge-drinkers swilling gallons of the stuff is not really credible – if nothing else, it would be fairly hard work getting drunk on IPA anyway.

In reality, this is just a headline-grabbing initiative by Wetherspoon’s that will heighten the public perception of their pubs as places offering good value – which in a recession is no bad thing. It’s unlikely to make much difference to overall consumption patterns, or even prompt many drinkers to switch pubs. People will continue to pay a lot more to drink better beer in more characterful pubs. But, as I’ve said before, if you’re running a bog-standard pub company outlet within shouting distance of a Wetherspoon’s, charging £2.50 a pint for ordinary bitter looks increasingly like a wilful denial of reality.