Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Church House update, and other stories

Hello again,

         firstly, can I make clear that his isn't actual an update concerning the observations and experiences gleaned from another visit, its more a round up of other info that pertains to the pub. Interestingly, if some of the below information could have been found prior to its opening I would have been none the wiser - on the other hand if some of that info was in my hands I may never have ventured in!

The first thing to note relates to the building's listed status. As I mentioned before, its listed Grade 2, and has been since 1973. This would have made me take note straight away since I am interested in listed buildings, especially those in the City centre - its amazing how many gems are hidden away down back streets, but slightly less encouraging when you consider how many were unlisted when flattened to make way for embarrassing 70's pre fabs. In this case, the excellent exterior of number 4 St James Street does not seem to be adversely affected by the venue's change of name, which is good news.
Furthermore, in being a listed City centre building, The Church House is in the following company; Maggie Mays, The Bankers Draft, The Brown Bear, Cutlers, Crystal Bar, The Viper Rooms, Graduate, The Howard, Old Monk, Old Queens Head, Lloyds No.1, Three Tuns, Walkabout, and at a push, the bar in the Lyceum Theatre and Cutlers Hall, and perhaps the Sheffield Tap being in Sheffield Midland Station, since those buildings are listed.

Its interesting that perhaps only 5 of the above could really be considered traditional, and that many don't sell real ale. Prior to owning a copy of the GBG, whenever I found myself looking for real ale in a far off place I'd always go for older and/or Regional Brewery pubs, preferring a combo of both. I can't say that this criteria would yield many decent ales or venues if I used it in Sheffield. Perhaps the notion that old buildings are best (or only) suited to the provision of traditional environs to an older clientele is finally dispelled? Well.....

I found a rather alarming document online here relating to the proposed refurbishment of the Church House (although it describes the images as an illustration of potential refurbishment). Hosted by, the new name for S&N pub company, this is essentially a puff piece cum business plan highlighting sinister Daddy-Heineken's brands, strategies, business framework and customer segmentation. Now, I realise that to earthlings like you and I, this seems like, erm, bullshit. Yet, in an ironic twist, it turns out to be exactly that! (note, this is intentionally and ironically non-ironic).
Parts of the document contain depressing/dubious claims like (The Best Brands) "Britain's most popular draught beers and ciders, John Smiths, Fosters and Strongbow, as well as packaged beers" (that's bottled Newky Brown based on their annotation), which is drawn from data collated in October and November 2009.

More pertinent however, and more bizarre, are their definitions of customer "segments". Confusing punters with crustacea is weird enough, but what in the name of Satan does "Young and Edgy Pubs are similar to A Bit Of Style Pubs but with a younger clientele and an offer to the lower end of the market" mean?
Further in, the customer expectations and behaviour (oooh, the gaunt spectre of expectation, one of my fascinations) section is possibly my favourite: a general guide to refurbishing a pub to meet the needs of certain customer, erm, segments. Seemingly "Me & My Pint - older customers enjoying a quiet drink alone in traditional surroundings " can be catered for with a range of real ales and "refurbished fixed seating in the bar area". Lets hope those same drinkers don't expect any "Pub Play" though, as this requires different wiring, and is intended for younger males....

The document is almost as hilarious as it is depressing - after all, you can't, despite their claims, meet the expectations of customers no matter what they may be (per type pf pub) by pigeon holing them. It would be worth a re-read in 6 months time as well, irrespective of the pub's success - and once again, I genuinely hope they do well despite their potential exposure to this report.
Moving on, and DAda nearby has Fullers Bengal Lancer and the yummy 7.4% Thornbridge Yule on cask at the mo, along with what I believe is a barrel aged General Sherman on Keykeg. As I am not 100% sure of the details surrounding this particular beer, I suggest you pop into find out for yourself.
Finally, news from the beer pricing battlefront.I was in vile retail behemoth Tesco tonight, lured in by memories of their interesting beer and wine range. Tesco to their credit seem to have dedicated a section to lower alcohol beers (all but the Fullers offering at a pound), whereas my local Supermarket Asda still only carries Manns Brown Ale - they also only update their range as regularly as an Easter cactus flowers.

Last time Tesco had a quite good range of bottled beers (sorry, packaged beers), if small, and now they had indeed changed it since I visited earlier in the year. Unfortunately they'd got rid of some of the stouts and most frustratingly the American Double IPA, AKA Brewdog Hardcore in disguise. The Brains Stout looks interesting though, and they are also selling a Carribbean lager called Banks, so its not all run of the mill, but surely a retailer like Tesco could carry some BCA's? Maybe this is the work of the same person that made their wine list so safe and uninspiring....
Of course, the Supermarket's loss is the independent retailers gain, so thankfully I will be purchasing my Christmas bottles from Archer Road Beer Stop once more. Am hoping someone will buy me a bottle of the excellent Brasserie Fantôme Saison for Christmas.
So that rounds up stuff for now, hopefully I will be back with some info soon after a Friday night meal at a country pub, and a day out in the wilds of Cheshire on Saturday, weather permitting......
Wee Beefy

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