I thought today I might tackle the issue of the decision by the Sheffield CAMRA, who is a person, to vote Shakespeares the 5th best pub in Sheffield. The fifth?
Lets quickly remind you all that I am not a CAMRA member. Not since 1999 or 2000. I left for reasons including funds (mine), not actually giving a shit about Addlestones dispense methods, and mainly, because of a complete lack of interest from CAMRA in saving historical and locally important pub heritage, an area that Sheffield has been woeful at. I therefore don't any longer know what criteria the CAMRA apply to judging a pub.
However, I was in Shakespeares last night for a late drink. The two Chris's and the lass who's name I don't yet know were behind the bar, and whilst being served I found out that Shakespeares, recent pub of the year winner, was now only considered the 5th best Sheffield pub.
I was, once again drinking one of the beers of the year in Shakespeares, that being the OAP Double IPA brewed by North Riding and I think Five Towns. The one and a half pints of the immensely drinkable and perfectly hopped IPA at 9.6% was the perfect end to a night out. How many times have I said this before about a beer in Shakespeares? Obviously, the CAMRA judges have failed to enjoy this same experience quite as frequently as I have.
For info, the winner was the Kelham Island Tavern, for the umpteenth time, with the Blake, Fat Cat and Gardeners joining in behind. I drink irregularly in all the other four pubs. My intent here is absolutely not to slag them off. My concern is, what has improved in them and failed, in the eyes of CAMRA, at Shakespeares, in two years?
I don't blame CAMRA, a members organisation, for making this vote. Their members pay to make these decisions (or not, as am sure is still the problem). If nothing else this has stimulated debate, which is always a positive thing. The problem is, I don't see why any of the four pubs above are any better. I think until the CAMRA can reveal why Shakespeares boxes were not ticked. and which ones they are, we are left with a puzzling result that disheartens the hard working staff at Shakespeares and infuriates some of its devoted customers.
It is rumored that Sheffield CAMRA has 1400 members but only 60 voted. What I am certain the CAMRA would say is, if you disagree, join and vote differently. It makes sense, yes, but its easy to say and I doubt those voting the Kelham winner in the recent past have now left. So would the results change if Shakespeares fixed and upgraded their loos and put in more comfy seats?
According to Facebook, people seem to think the following areas could be improved: Toilets, beer garden, and comfort. It would therefore be interesting to find out for definite the reasons behind the decision, from CAMRA judges. I really can't see how the pub could fall from first to second to fifth best in two years on the basis of price, and I doubt CAMRA would prefer one pub or four over another based on how comfy the seats are....
I have asked on Facebook and Twitter for comments and so far, all are in support of Shakespeares. Below are a few quotes.
"beer quality should be highly weighted (by which I mean both the pub keeping the beer well AND the beers themselves not being badly brewed)."
"Sounds like absolute cobblers. Henrys has wonderful toilets..... Shakey is tops for me for beer and service. I try not to spend too long in loo and it's rarely nice enough to sit outside."
"I think for a campaign for REAL ALE (as opposed to a campaign for nice pubs) clearly nowhere near enough weighting is put on beer quality or range..."
"Shakespeares is by far the best pub in Sheffield. Never change keep doing things exactly the way you have been. The bogs are the only area where there is room for improvement. Still number one as far as I'm concerned"
Obviously, as the author of this post, I have chosen the above carefully, but looking just at mine and Chris's Facebook pages I can't really see anyone agreeing with the result, despite concern about loos and seating. Does anyone agree?
Many people insisted that beer - quality, choice and price - should be the outweighing factor when assessing a pub. I agree, and this is where the decision falls down. I like all the top 5 pubs but Shakespeares sells the best beer. End of. This year, more so than any actually, the best beers I have tasted have been in there and I don't expect that to change.
For interest, my Top 5 Sheffield pubs are currently:
1. Shakespeares Ale and Cider House
2. Bath Hotel
3. Three Tuns
4. Brothers Arms
Finally, I always think a good conspiracy theory livens up a debate so have cobbled together some of my own.
One: following the excellent display of beers brewers and related loveliness at Sheffield Beer Week by Shakespeares, this non CAMRA event has put their noses out of joint.
Two: the CAMRA felt so bad about kicking the Gardeners Rest out of the GBG and almost never recognising the Blake that those two's scores were inflated to counter that.
Three: fear of change. The Kelham has won for the 24th time...!
Four: I dunno, something to do with keg?