I’m going through a period in 2017 where I’m trying to write about pubs a bit more. The writing part hasn't started yet with time limitations and other commitments getting in the way; mostly being in the pub in the first place gets in the way. But at least I'm in pubs. It fits in nicely to something I witnessed in Huddersfield on Saturday.
A queue to enter a pub.
Now as a Brit I’m not adverse to a queue, but there’s a time and place for one. Think going to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London or trying to get to the toilet at a Manchester brewery based beer event. Entering a pub should be no harder than dodging smokers who haven’t learnt what constitutes outside yet.
Due to my interesting choice in football team to support I find myself in Huddersfield at least once a fortnight. In the last two to three years, like many larger towns across the country, we’ve seen the development of the beer scene in this upsurge of beer popularity. The town’s beer scene three or four years ago featured two, maybe three, must-visits and a small scatterings of not-too-bads if we fancied a scene change. But that is far from the case now. Match days now present a problematic decision on which great places to sadly skip.
One bar opening in 2015 turned this pleasant West Riding town into something of a beer sanctuary. The relocation of Magic Rock Brewing to a more central location complete with on-site Bar Tap drastically increased the numbers of beer fans planning on making the trip to a town that has always been easily accessible. This was going to be a real boost for all the great beer destinations in the town.
This is certainly nothing against the team from the Magic Rock Tap. For a start, they love the town of Huddersfield as a whole. Their own success and appeal is great credit to them and the area they have created. I am a huge fan of the place myself. This is about the attitude of many beer drinkers and their approach to modern beer bars.
Since it’s opening around 21 months ago, I don’t seem to have come across many good beer drinkers (mostly from the north – but it stretches much further) who haven’t been to Magic Rock Tap at least once; many a fair few times. I’m always pleased to hear this but my follow up question of “Where else did you go in Huddersfield?” is almost always followed with “Erm... nowhere, we got on the train to Leeds afterwards.”
You didn’t dip your toe into The Sportsman? Into The Corner? Into Arcade Beers? Into the Rat and Ratchet? Not even the palace that is The Grove? Nowhere else? You did no further research or assumed there was nothing else to see here?
So this past Saturday afternoon I was surprised, yet not at all surprised, by the sight of a queue outside a bar that had reached a one-in-one-out level of saturation.
For those who haven’t been to Magic Rock Tap, this isn’t a small Bermondsey archway on a famous beer mile. Magic Rock Tap is very much a separate bar entity in its own right, that just happens to be on the site of the brewery. It is also very spacious – inside and out. Its people capacity will be in the hundreds, especially on a dry, almost sunny, northern day where the large outside area would be in use.
I was also walking to Magic Rock from the fabulous Arcade Beers on Station Street. This bottle shop-come-bar has six taps on of generally high quality and sought after beers, as well as plenty to go at in the fridges. There was also fewer than ten people in here; fewer than ten compared to the hundreds it would take to make Magic Rock reach peak capacity.Why?
Refusing to queue for a pub, we walked down to the Slubbers Arms. This pub was busy as it always is on match days, but we still found seats and soaked up this friendly pub atmosphere with pints of Dark Mild.
I’m not queuing for a pub.
I enjoy the Grove in Huddersfield most match days and have repeatedly sung its praises or mentioned it on this blog. But if it was busy I would never queue to go in it. Never. I’d just find room elsewhere in the many other great places in town. But because there's no desire from newbies to go the Grove I suspect they'll never be one.
If Magic Rock Tap was an isolated entity where one couldn’t simply move on to the next good place – a la Hawkshead Beer Hall in Staveley - then I would understand the formation of this queue. But I don’t. I do not understand how this is so much busier than everywhere else in town. I suspect those willing to form a queue were the sort only in town for one place – and as an adopted son of Huddersfield this really frustrates me.
To really put things into perspective, I had four different beers from Magic Rock Brewing on Saturday in four different establishments – three of which are in the centre of Huddersfield - just in case there is an argument that people go there to specifically seek out Magic Rock beers...
This is an anecdote that canvasses my feelings at present about anything that involves queuing or FOMO. This won’t be the only time I see people queue for a pub I’m sure. It’s just like those that scurry for online beer releases the moment it goes on sale. It is only for certain breweries with certain beers. It is the same ones doing the rounds on Facebook forums. There’s no frenzy for beers that aren’t universally praised, just like there seems little desire to drink in establishments that don’t have some form of bucket list status behind them.
I’m sure they’ll be a few newbie beer drinkers thinking “This is Craft Beer man – Get over it.” Sure, this might well be the future and maybe I have to accept that. I certainly don’t have to like it.
I’m an idealist that hankers for a time where pubs and bars are used as such. It will always be worth seeking out the best. I will never understand the excitement and status around very specific places though in areas with a tidal wave of good beer available. I will not queue to pick up a rare bottle of beer. I will not refresh my computer page to try and get some limited release before anybody else.
I will never queue to enter a god damn pub.
I want to re-iterate that this is not me maligning Magic Rock Tap. The fact they are so busy is testament to their hard work. It is a very good bar. Yes, obviously the queue was a necessary safety precaution. I'm not questioning why the bar had to put the queue in.
There wasn’t a special occasion on Saturday. This isn’t the same as me travelling to a place like Knaresborough just for Rooster’s annual open day. This was a regular day of trading.
It has been brought to my attention that Magic Rock Tap has a fire limit of 200 people. My approximation of capacity in my head was 200 people so I'm leaving my original draft of this post unchanged as it in no way changes my view.