I went out for drinks last night in Manchester with a few friends – some of whom I already knew in ‘real life’, some of whom I only knew from twitter.
We had a brilliant evening in the Northern Quarter and visited three bars.
The first bar, 57 Thomas Street, run by Marble Breweries, served alcohol-free Erdinger. I knew this because I’d been in a few days before and enjoyed it there then. They keep it in the main fridge with the other beers so it’s nice and cold, they serve it with real Erdinger glasses, and they don’t blink when you ask for one.
The second bar we went to was Odd, further up the same street. I asked the dreaded question “Do you have any alcohol-free beer?” to be told “No, sorry”. When I said that was a shame and maybe they should, the bar man genuinely seemed to agree as if to say “Yes, enough people ask for it but …”.
I had to have a Fentimans Dandelion and Burdock. Not a bad drink but not something I really wanted on a night out after a great beer like Erdinger.
The third, and final, venue of the night was Common on Edge Street. A really nice bar with a great atmosphere and good music. Considering the age of our table (most of us in our 40s) we didn’t feel out of place even though many people there were younger. Mind you, we weren’t the oldest in there – Mark E Smith, of The Fall, was there and he has a few years on all of us!
At the bar I again asked the question… ‘Do you have any alcohol-free beer?”
The reply was a very stern “NO”.
“Oh”, I replied as cheekily and politely as I could, “perhaps you should?”
“NO”, came the equally stern reply.
“Oh, why not?”
“BECAUSE”, and I’m using capitals as she was basically shouting at me, “THEY TASTE SHIT”.
“Oh, well I’m the customer and I’d like one but … ” I trailed off, rather stunned, as I looked at the choice of ‘soft drinks’.
Apart from the absolutely dreadful customer service, and the fact she shouted and swore at me, I was shocked by the general attitude. I didn’t particularly like her nose-ring, but I didn’t feel the need to shout that at her.
How one person, who has probably never tasted an alcohol-free beer, never mind the near two dozen we sell, can say this I have no idea. It’s like saying all wine is ‘shit’ because you once tried Blue Nun in the 1970s and didn’t like it.
We ended up staying in Common for the rest of the evening. The company I was in made it a wonderful evening, but I drank far more bottles of Coke than I enjoyed.
All three bars are ‘trendy’ and modern. But the range of attitudes to alcohol-free beer went from (nearly) one extreme to the other. The Marble pub could have stocked more choice but at least they had an alcohol-free beer and a good one too.
Everyone else I was with, except for one friend who joined later on and who was driving, was drinking alcohol – beer, wine, cocktails etc.
Next time we’re out I’ll be doing my best keep us at the venues that provide all of us with the drinks we want. At around £35 a round of drinks, that’s a far bit of cash the other venues will miss out on for the sake of stocking an alcohol-free beer and treating all their customers with respect.
I liked Common and would like to return with my friends. Maybe the landlord would like to contact The Alcohol-Free Shop, if only for some tips on customer service.