Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matt Eley is an Inapub contributor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

5.9.2013 Matt Eley
I just spotted an entry in my diary that made me laugh. It read ‘Well done  Matt you have now gone 100 days without a drink’.
Matt Eley
30.8.2013 Matt Eley
You would think that a book called The Good Pub Guide would focus on the positive side of the industry.
Matt Eley
20.8.2013 Matt Eley

Diversity: an energetic dance troupe or a box-ticking exercise at local authorities across the UK?

Matt Eley
2.8.2013 Matt Eley
altOne of the many excellent things about going to pubs for food and drink these days is just how often your expectations can be exceeded.

I have lost count of the times I have walked into a fairly standard looking set-up and been met by lovely surprises such as an unfamiliar beer on tap, amazing service, amusing banter or a meal that you’d expect from a Michelin starred gaff, but at half the price.

The flip-side of this is the disappointment of going somewhere where the experience just doesn’t match the expectation. This happened most starkly when I took The Wife and The Boy to a pub that had received a glowing write-up in an esteemed beer guide, only to find the pub was shut for lunch on the day of our visit.

I haven’t been back in a hurry.

Last week I at least managed to get inside the pub of my desires, but it was when there where my hopes were dashed.

I won’t reveal the name, to protect the innocent, but it was on an A road somewhere between my home in Sussex and my holiday destination in Dorset.

We passed it in the car on the way West and I would have been tempted to stop had it not been for a toddler meltdown a few miles up the road that had already caused me to pull over once.

Plus, I thought, it probably looked a bit posh for me and my clan to go in and create havoc.

It looked stunning, a new coat of bright white paint and signs in the type of font that screamed class with tempting food and drink offers. The car park and hanging baskets were immaculate and the fact that a village cricket match was taking place next to the garden added to the romance.

I took a mental note to check it out at a later date.

Well, that later date came as we returned from holiday and needed to make a pit-stop – The Boy had spilled a tiny drop of drink on his leg, which created more havoc than you could possibly imagine.

So, into the perfect car park we went and ventured up the stone steps of this wonderful looking freehouse. Only when we got inside the class disappeared and it bore more resemblance to a pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap managed chain.

Of course the food was anything but cheap. My steak, ordered medium rare, managed to be rare in places but also medium and well done in others. That was quite a neat trick that I doubt the chef could have pulled off had he been trying.

The wife’s veggie option was described as ‘bland’ by the wife and ‘something she could have done herself’. I let that hang without disputing her statement.

And then the boy’s kiddie’s portion was more fit for a hulking 16-year-old than one who had just turned three. I’m sure we would not be the only parents to despair at seeing an adult size plate covered in chips with a handful of token greens.

He was also served an anaemic looking orange squash that was about as tempting as the idea of pouring it over him and seeing what the reaction would be.

That said, The Boy wasn’t grumbling and he duly scoffed his chips down.

The peas were more problematic for him, particularly with grown-up cutlery. But by then I knew how much I was going to be paying so I wasn’t going to worry about a few peas being scattered about the place.

On top of the food itself the service was a little slow, due to a lack of staff rather than the skills of those working, and the atmosphere was stale.

I ended up looking forward to getting back in the car and heading off, £40 lighter.

My suspicion is that whoever runs the pub is brilliant at marketing and running a business – afterall how many more people will stop like we did to go in to the pub? This is all well and good for a pub that probably relies more on passing trade than local custom.

So maybe they have in fact got the offer right for bringing in people and money, but I doubt most people wouldn’t stop for a second bite.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
16.7.2013 Matt Eley
altI always feel a bit sorry for a celebrity when someone says ‘yeah, I met so and so and he was a total git, completely up himself’.

Was he? Was he really? I wonder. Or did he just find you approaching him annoying, or maybe he was just having a bad day? We’re all entitled to those, even if we are rich and famous.

I suppose it just goes to show the importance of a first impression.

Pubs are celebrities too. Everyone in the town knows a pub by name and has an opinion about it whether they have been there or not. If they have paid a visit that first impression is everything.

‘I’m never going back there again. They didn’t say hello / the toilets were filthy / my pint was woeful’

People can be very unforgiving – they are nowhere near as generous as me in the celebrity situation above.

If you make a bad first impression the chances are you have lost that customer for good. And his friends. And the friends of those friends.

That’s the problem with celebrity and pubs. Not only do we all have an opinion but we are all desperate to share it these days to. And word of mouth is not just word of mouth: it is Facebook, it is Twitter, it is Trip Advisor. It is everywhere.

As one licensee once said to me ‘it used to be that if a customer had a bad experience he would tell his friends. Now they tell the world.’

So whether you are a bed-hopping b-lister or a pub that serves a poor pint, people will find out about it.

In both situations the answer is standards. The higher your standards and training the best chance you have of not falling foul to an angry review or tweet.

Same with celebrities. While they will inevitably have bad days, many of them trade off their popularity with the public so they have to do their best to hide it and put on a brave face.

Landlords and bar staff simply have to follow suit. Nobody wants a member of staff with a face like thunder serving them or moaning about how crap everything is.

In fact that is probably the best piece of training a landlord can give his staff on day one. Smile, it’s about the customer’s experience. It’s not about how you feel.

Give the punters the A-list treatment and you will be regarded in the same way.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
3.7.2013 Matt Eley
altOK, so hands up. I failed. Pure and simple, as I believe Hear’Say once said.

I said I was going to go alcohol free for three months and I managed six weeks. In old school terms I would be lucky to get away with a D for that performance. Maybe a generous teacher would give me a C- for effort

So do I feel like a loser? Well, no more than usual.
Attempting this when you work in the pub industry is not dissimilar to an accountant saying he won’t use a calculator for the same period of time. It is both pointless and bordering on the unprofessional.

Drinking is not a pre-requisite to writing about pubs but turning down alcohol at events or promotions or visiting a brewery and not trying their beer can be viewed as rude and a little odd.

I like to think I am neither of those things.

So I have succumbed, initially at a launch for a beer event and then in slightly more spectacular style at the weekend. I had a couple, as the saying goes.

Even though my detox period was not as long as I had planned it has not been without merit.

For a start I have learned that giving up alcohol is actually not that difficult. I found the experience much easier than say giving up smoking, which took years of failed attempts before finally knocking it on the head once and for all (I think).

I suppose the fact that I knew this was only temporary helped but there were no cravings as such. The only times when I felt like I was missing out was when I was in the pub and others were enjoying what looked like lovely pints of beer or cider or glasses of wine.

On the positive side I felt more inclined to exercise more and received one or two comments saying that I looked well. I’ll take any compliments I can get so that was most welcome.

But I certainly believe it is possible to live a healthy and balanced life that includes alcohol as part of it.

Before I started my brief period of abstinence I viewed alcohol was a life-enhancing product - when used properly - and I stand by that.

A drink to celebrate, relax with friends or to mark an occasion is no bad thing. And while soft drinks have improved I still don’t think they can match the intense flavour experiences you can enjoy with alcohol.

So far the only drinks I have had have been when I have been out and actually at work events. The occasional glass of wine or other at home is not something I have missed as I have a social occasion in the pub.

And while I think I could probably continue to give up drinking at home I can see no advantage and nor do I have any desire to do the same at the pub!

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
27.6.2013 Matt Eley
altGoing to an event billed as ‘Let There Be Beer’ is not great for someone who has vowed to give up alcohol for a period of time.

It’s also bordering on the unprofessional not to show your support for the cause so I must confess to having a drop, albeit a two per cent ‘Radler’, which in my father’s eyes at least would never count as a drink.

Anyway, my own drinking habits are by far the least interesting thing about a mega campaign to promote beer as a category. And this is not about preaching its virtues in some craft or niche way to the converted, this is promoting beer to the masses on a national scale.

For a starter, it is being led by all of the big boys. Top brass from AB InBev, Carlsberg, Heineken, Miller Brands and Molson Coors all shared the stage to launch the campaign earlier this weeek.

Getting that lot in a room together, let alone working towards a common aim, is something of a logistical triumph in the first place.

Of course, falling sales of big brands should be helped by this campaign but they have clearly gone to lengths to make this inclusive of the category and not just about getting the country back on mainstream lager.

For while those global brewers took centre stage, the room was also packed with a veritable who’s who of the British beer industry, from regional brewers, to pubcos, to writers and experts.

Phrases such as ‘extremely positive’, ‘much-needed’ and ‘the industry's been crying out for this’ peppered conversations at Brewers Hall.

So what can we expect from the campaign?

For a taster we will get an uplifting and witty advert (I’ve seen it, I laughed a few times) that shows great beer-drinking moments and the unity it can inspire. It will be screened in TV this weekend for the first time.

There is also going to be a load of viral and social media stuff, plus celeb beer lovers chatting to Michael Parkinson to highlight the joys of bar room conversations.

Parky wasn’t at the launch but we did get the equally affable Eamonn Holmes, who looks like he might like a pint, chatting to the brewers about the campaign and their life in beer. To a man, they reminisced about having their first pint with their dads. Molson Coors chief Simon Cox extended the theme and talked about having a pint with his son and how he hoped that tradition would carry on through the generations.

And while the advert and all that was associated with it was positive and impressive, his comment may have been the most telling of the night.

Beer, and specifically beer in pubs, brings people together and plays a vital role in the social fabric of our nation in a way that not many other products can get close to.

It was also interesting that all of the big wigs talked about their first pint. For while off-trade sales are fundamental their businesses, nobody really remembers their first can of beer, do they?

As a publication for pubs we would naturally prefer that this campaign was on-trade focused but that would be wishful thinking. We have to take the positives and back the fact that companies with vast resources are doing something unified and positive that could inspire a few people to go to the pub.

It certainly made me fancy a pint anyway.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
19.6.2013 Matt Eley
altThe fact that I am doubting why I ever thought giving up alcohol for a period of time was a good idea probably helps prove my point.

It has been three weeks now and while I am not physically climbing the walls for a drink there have been several occasions when my day could have been improved with a tipple.

Last Friday when I finished work the sun was shining and, as I walked to catch a train, hundreds of people seemed to be mocking me as they chinked their glasses and relaxed after work.

People were spilling out onto the streets and enjoying a drop at the end of the working week.

I phoned my brother to take my mind off it. I could hardly hear a word he was saying because while I was heading home, dry as skunk who hasn’t touched a drop in weeks, he was barely audible over the sound of people enjoying themselves in the background.

Selfish little git.

It was the first time since the start of my self-imposed detox that I really felt like I was missing out - on the chat, the fun and the sensation of unwinding that a few beers on a Friday after work can bring on.

Admittedly when I woke up the next day, or rather was woken repeatedly in the night, by the cries of a newborn baby (followed up by the groans of a miffed three-year-old) I was grateful for not having a hangover.

But then, one or two drinks does not really cause too much grief in that department.

My abstinence has been further tested by some lovely gifts in the post – new beers, a mini cask, some cider, a new porter/cider combo, ginger beer, some vodka. It’s all looking at me as if to say ‘what’s wrong with you? We’re your friends, come on’.

Thankfully I have also had some splendid soft drinks to try too.

It’s actually been interesting to see what is out there for teetotallers, detoxers and designated drivers. The range of soft drinks, and natural energy drinks (cheers Gusto) on the market has improved so pubs have no real excuse for just offering orange or fizzy drinks via the gun.

There is certainly choice for people who do not want to have an alcoholic drink in pubs. But the choice of having a drink again is something I am very much looking forward too.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

До сих пор в ушах "Талдомские журавли т.2/7тт Зульфикаров" стоял его смех и смех Тома.

В сумеречном "Наблюдая за англичанами Скрытые правила поведения" болоте зверю снилась кровь.

Хью облизнулся и внимательно посмотрел на дорогу вперед и назад.

Впрочем, когда вы с Алисой "Рваные валенки мадам Помпадур" спорили, меня "ЗП11 Весы" поразило ваше сходство на уровне личности точнее, силы характера, внешность тут ни "Россия. Европейская часть. Атлас автодорог. Подмосковье М 1:425000. 59 регионов европейской части России М 1:850000" при чем.

Еще раньше, таская лед, я заметил там "Снежная Королева" кратер, ведущий к центру горы.

Правда это такая священная штука и я свято охраняю ее.

Matt Eley
13.6.2013 Matt Eley
altI’ve often wondered why there isn’t a campaign for a ban on the advertising of cars at inappropriate times of day.

Surely it can’t be right that a product that you are not legally allowed to be in charge of until you are 17 and can potentially cause serious harm if handled incorrectly, should be advertised when children could be watching TV?

Similarly, cars should not be allowed to sponsor sporting events due to the likelihood of young people being influenced by the advertising and immediately planning a joyriding spree.

Likewise, bookmakers and loan companies should not be allowed to have their names on the shirts of sport stars just in case it leads to someone who is not legally old enough to do either taking out a loan and gambling it all away.

All of the above is of course nonsense.

Car manufacturers would rightly point out that, in the main, accidents are caused by people making bad decisions, not vehicles.

Bookies and the like would also argue that the individual involved has the ultimate responsibility when it comes to gambling.

So why is it that that those sour-faced, fun-haters at Alcohol Concern think that they can make huge demands on the way alcohol is promoted?

I heard so much nonsense coming from that particular health group this week that if I didn’t know better I would assume they were nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant.

In its new report, titled Stick to the Facts, it calls for a number of Draconian measures on alcohol sponsorship and advertising such as banning ‘lifestyle’ images of drinkers or scenes.

Alcohol Concern doesn’t want people to be shown enjoying alcohol, despite the fact that this is exactly what happens in pubs in every city, town or village in this country every single day of the year.

It also wants a complete ban on alcohol advertising at all ‘sporting, cultural, or musical events’. So that covers pretty much any activity.

Sponsorship deals have been of huge benefit to many sports and events – just look at the popularity of the Heineken backed Champions League. With such great exposure surely kiddy football fans must be turning up to school with huge hangovers the next day, failing to hand in their homework?

Of course they are not. Drinking rates among the young in this country are dropping, as indeed is the overall rate for alcohol consumption – again these are facts that Alcohol Concern conveniently chooses to ignore.

Alcohol Concern seems to be implying that moronic youngsters are being turned on to alcohol by evil blood-sucking drinks companies. It does a huge disservice to both the youth of this county who incorrectly and damagingly continue to be seen as dangerous binge-drinkers and to the responsible drinks-makers who are subject to strict self-regulation.

Meanwhile, over in France drinking rates among the young are on the up, despite a ban alcohol advertising at sporting at cultural events.

Stick to the Facts was an unfortunate title for a report that seems determined to ignore any inconvenient truths.

Matt Eley is the editor of Inapub. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley
4.6.2013 Matt Eley
altIf you want to give up alcohol for a while I suggest having a baby.

That’s the path I have taken and so far it has proved much more straightforward than I thought.

Well, the not drinking part has, babies need a fair bit of attention it turns out.

Anyway, I didn’t produce my second born to help with some kind of alcohol addiction problem. However I did think his arrival would be a good time to see what life would be like without a drink.

As the editor of a pub trade magazine, alcohol plays a central role in my day to day life and I spend many hours either writing about, discussing or sampling alcohol.

This is of course a wonderful perk and I consider myself very lucky. However, I am keen to find out what life would be like without drink – possibly healthier, probably more dull. For my part I imagine I will possibly be slimmer and most definitely more dull.

It’s not that I have gone off booze or think it is having a negative impact on my life. I just want to go without it for a while to see where I really miss it before welcoming it back with open arms.

So after wetting the baby’s head with a few beers and bottles of champagne I have started what now seems like a ludicrously ambitious (if not career threatening) three month long abstinence. Why three months? Well loads of people do a month these days so it had to be longer to make it more of a challenge but an entire summer without a drink is depressing enough without stretching it to Christmas.

This is day nine and so far it has not been as tough as I imagined.

Being away from work and in the paternity cocoon means that I have not been around alcohol as much as I normally would. Waking up several times a night also means that I don’t miss the feeling of the hangover creeping in as the alcohol creeps out of the system.

Over the last couple of days I have received some beer and alcoholic ginger beer in the post (another glorious work perk) and with the sun shining it seemed a shame to put them to one side. But they will be a treat I can look forward to on the other side of this folly.

Health wise I have to admit to already feeling slightly more alert and sharp, but again this could be due to the excitement of the new arrival coupled with having time at home with the family.

Next week I will be spending less time at home and more in the pub. I can already feel my will power diminishing as I think about settling in a pub garden with wine, beer and cider flowing all around.

Make mine a sparkling water.

Cheers. I think.

Oh and if you are drinking or having a baby, please do both responsibly.

Matt Eley is the Inapub editor. Follow him on Twitter @mattheweley

Matt Eley