Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

Matthew Eley

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

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
17.5.2013 Matt Eley
altI’ve been having some strange thoughts about alcohol lately. I’ve been contemplating giving it up.

Not forever. That would be silly. But not for just a week or a month either, because that isn’t quite long enough for the test I want to take.

It’s not that I don’t like alcohol or that I am on a serious health drive. It isn’t even as if people have been taking me to one side and saying ‘you know what Matt, you might want to watch your intake a little bit, it’s getting a bit embarrassing’.

The actual reason is that I want to miss alcohol and the benefits that it can bring.

I’m bored of reading about the dangers of alcohol and the negative impact it can have on society. Of course it can, if it is misused, but so can cakes and chocolate and cars and fizzy drinks and most other things for that matter.

In all of those instances the problem usually rests with the individual rather that the substance that more often than not gets the blame.

It is rare that we hear, particularly in the wider media, about the societal benefits alcohol can bring. How flat parties can be without corks popping, the awkwardness of a new social situation without a glass of wine or a pint of beer, or your favourite meal without your favourite drink.

I like all of the above and in each instance alcohol plays a positive part. I firmly believe that alcohol can be a life-enhancing substance when used properly. I want to miss it to prove my point – sometimes you have to let the ones you love go and all that.

At an event recently, the kind of occasion when a glass of something goes down a treat, there was a non-drinker at our table. This person had not had a drink for several months and seemed very happy with the decision.

She talked about the benefits of not having hangovers and getting soft drinks bought in return for being the designated driver.

However she admitted to a degree of self-consciousness when it came to dancing and speaking to new people.

Even there you can see how alcohol can help take the edge off and help with relaxation.

Of course for my own part, contemplation is one thing, actually doing it is another.

But the timing for this could not be better. My wife is due to give birth to our second child soon. Very soon.

After raising a glass to the new arrival I can think of no better time to have a break from alcohol for so many reasons not least because children are no respecters of hangovers.

I know it won’t be easy. Hell, I write about and visit pubs for a living!  This could potentially be career suicide but it might just help me prove a point.

So if you see me in a pub in the next few months (I'm thinking three, possibly six, probably two) mine’s a lime and soda please (at least until I discover my new favourite soft drink… or give up on this folly altogether).

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

Matt Eley
7.5.2013 Matt Eley
altA good steak is a great pub meal but one that I personally tend to view as a bit of a treat and to be enjoyed occasionally.

This is in part due to price and also because of a vague feeling that too much red meat can’t be that great for someone who spends half of their life in pubs.

As I view it as something special it is always nice when a bit of theatre accompanies the meal.

The Gaucho chain of restaurants has nailed this over the last few years. The cow print furniture coupled with (I suspect) primarily Argentinean staff bringing pre-cooked steaks to your table for you to feast your eyes on before you satisfy your appetites helps to create a great experience.

This, alongside great food, allows them to get away with charging extra for side dishes and a silly price for a ‘portion’ of one scallop that has been cut down using the Goodfellas garlic and razor blade technique (sorry, personal gripe).

Anyway, the point is I have associated theatre and good service with the chain and assumed that other steak houses offering similar ideas had borrowed them from Gaucho.

So it was a little embarrassing when I visited the recently refurbished Charles Wells pub the Fox & Hounds just outside of Bedford.

The have a great steak offer which I assumed had been implemented at the same time as the refurb.

‘So this is all a bit Gaucho inspired is it?,’ I ventured.

‘Not exactly, they’ve been doing it for 20 years’, I was told.

‘It,’ refers to customers who order a steak being led to the meat counter. Here they get to choose from rump, sirloin, fillet or ribeye.

They can then choose how much they want and watch the ‘butcher’ cut it to measure.

The action carries on with the steaks being cooked – to your preference of course – on a grill in the pub.

This creates a great visual and aromatic sense of theatre and increases the likelihood of more steaks being sold.

The pub is so big that not everyone can see the cooking ‘live’. However, a live feed from a camera over the grill is played on TV’s around the pub. It’s a quirky touch, which I am told the kids especially love.

It is also probably more entertaining than say Stoke v Sunderland.

Overall it creates a great impression before the food arrives. That the food was fantastic too was of course vitally important.

I left satisfied with just a rough idea as to how much the steaks were, but knowing that the experience was cracking value.

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

Matt Eley
18.4.2013 Matt Eley
altTwo beer launches caught my eye this week, and that I am told is the part of our bodies we start drinking with.

McEwan’s is getting a new lease of life with a brand new product launch – McEwan’s Red – a smooth flow beer that is designed to get the younger folk in Scotland and beyond into beer, or specifically that beer.

At the briefing we heard a lot about consumer research, advertising campaigns and how the beer was a little different. We were told all about the design and target demographics, but not that much about one seemingly important element.

‘Is he ever going to mention the beer?’ another attendee asked as we took down some more notes on marketing.

Eventually the beer arrived and we got to try and place the product with the pitch.

And it was OK. A sessionable beer that slipped down well enough without having a real wow factor, but to be fair that’s not easy to achieve at 3.6 per cent ABV.

But then, I am also not really the target demographic. Yes, I fall into the 30 to 50 year old age bracket (comfortably, I hasten to add),I am a man, but I already drink ale whereas this is more likely to appeal to those who drink lager and might make a cross category move.

What was clear was that huge amounts of time and money have been spent on the marketing and the visual clues, which appeared to be at least, if not more important, than the liquid itself.

The second launch, incidentally on the same day, was JW Lees MPA (Manchester Pale Ale) – billed as a refreshing alternative.

By tapping into Manchester’s musical heritage and by positioning itself as a ‘cool’ product it appealed to me instantly. I’m not from Manchester but there have been literally hundreds of nights out that have involved myself and a bunch of friends murdering some Stone Roses or Oasis tunes.

A beer designed to go with that? – launched by Bez no less – yeah, I’m aving that.

I like it already, but I haven’t even tasted a drop. Would I feel the same after a pint? The association might make me slightly more forgiving if it was an average beer, but if it turned out to be not for my palate I would soon move on.

It does help highlight the vital role of marketing and why so much emphasis is put on it by drinks producers of all types.

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

Matt Eley
12.4.2013 Matt Eley
alt‘How I am supposed to tell the difference between horse and beef?’

It wasn’t an unreasonable question. The food on the plates at The Thatchers Arms looked very similar.

Ten of the burgers going out were horse (sent from Brazil because ironically landlord Mitch Adams couldn’t source any closer to home) and three were the more traditional beef variety (or so we were told).

‘Because I will tell you’, deadpanned the chef.

It was the first interaction we had but in that short, sharp sentence, I immediately knew who the king was in this part of the pub.

I had been pulling a few pints in the bar as part of my attempt to get know the pub business better from the other side of things, when Mitch decided to take me into the kitchen.

It felt like a different world. The easy-going camaraderie in the main bar where golfers back from a pub society day swapped hard-luck stories over beers was left behind the minute the door swung shut. In a few steps I was transported into an environment higher in tension and lower in laughs.

The team had been working hard on creating some delightful dishes and my job was simply to trot through and deliver the food without falling over any hurdles.

Sounds easy enough and with two plates at a time I was fairly confident. But I wasn’t about to get let off that lightly again.

‘You are not leaving this kitchen without three plates in your hand,’ demanded Mitch on my return.

‘I can’t do it,’ I whined like a three-year-old.

‘Yes, you can,’ added Mitch, like a patient parent.
And he duly demonstrated how I needed to position my fingers and thumbs to pull off the technique which bar staff across the country make look so simple. I wonder if when they are walking to deliver the food their thought process runs along the lines of ‘don’t drop anything, dog don’t come anywhere near me, people with pints in hand watch out, yes there’s the table, nearly there, I can do this, done! Get in.’

I managed to deliver the food without a major disaster, primarily due to the fear of having to tell the chef that I had ruined his work.alt

Up until going to The Thatchers – a freehouse in Mount Bures on the Suffolk and Essex border – I had mainly focused on drinks service during my shifts. Food really does complicate things.

Mitch gave me a tour of the pub, explaining the table layout. It made sense but with three dining areas and two exits from the kitchen I pictured potential chaos.

Next he took me to the specials board, where I looked at the meals on offer for a good couple of minutes before realising nothing was really registering.

On to taking an order. This could be done either at the bar or at the table. Choosing the right moment was problematic in itself because you don’t want to bombard people the moment they come in and make them feel like they have to eat, but neither do you want to leave them waiting too long either.

When the order is taken, one slip of paper gets stuck on the rack in the bar. The other goes to the kitchen. Pieces of paper had various rips in them, indicating if tables had cutlery or if check backs had been completed.

The processes are really well organised and probably simple enough to follow after a shift or two but there is a lot of information for a newcomer to take in, which highlights just how important training is for the team.

With my head in a spin, one of my colleagues for the night, Milly, suggested it might be an idea if I studied the menu before I got to work.

‘Great idea,’ I thought. ‘I’ll have the horse burger’. Which I duly did, and sat down on the side of the bar where I am far more comfortable.

And the burger? It was succulent, tender and, well, tasted a bit like beef.

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

Matt Eley
4.4.2013 Matt Eley
altWhen the Chancellor revealed he was ditching the beer duty escalator and cutting duty by a penny it was naturally seen as a cause for celebration.

But while pints were being raised and glasses clinked across the country, there were also those who questioned what difference this could actually make.

It’s only a penny after all. Is this merely a token gesture by a government trying desperately to connect with the man in the pub?

And by ditching the ‘beer duty escalator’ rather than the ‘alcohol duty escalator’ he ensured that not everyone connected with pubs, notably wine, spirit and cider producers, would toast the Budget with the same gusto as the nation’s brewers.

However, as the Chancellor told Inapub this week, the cutting of beer duty is just the first step.

I was among a handful of hacks in attendance when George Osborne visited Marston’s brewery in the industry’s Burton heartland today.

After the customary tour and photo op with a beer he spoke publicly to journalists and privately to chief executives and industry leaders about his reason for cutting duty and what he hopes to see next.

Issues such as encouraging youth employment and cutting red tape around apprenticeships and in town halls were all discussed.

The Chancellor was in listening mode and this is hugely significant because nobody in the room could ever remember the last time any Chancellor sat down for this kind of discussion with leaders from the sector. It is hoped this will not be a one-off chat.

He said he was persuaded to cut duty by a campaign that focused on the economic impact of the escalator. It was a positive campaign that highlighted how pubs and beer contribute to society in terms of employment, finance and community.

The campaign’s success came from its unity. Major brands, trade bodies, beer lovers, trade press and scores of MPs were all able to demonstrate why the beer duty escalator was bad news for pubs and bad news for the wider economy.

It got the Chancellor’s attention and now the industry has his ear like never before.

It is a unique opportunity in time for everyone in the sector – whether they run pubs or frequent them or produce drinks with apples, grapes or grain – to show the positive contribution pubs make to society and the economy.

The government has said it wants to support the sector so now is the time to show them exactly what we can do with the right kind of help.

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

Matt Eley
27.3.2013 Matt Eley
altThere was a time when brewers made beer, cider makers stuck mainly to apples and distillers focused on spirits.

Occasionally they may have strayed into different fields but these days it seems everyone wants to have a go in a category they are not renowned for.

AB InBev was not the first brewer to make a cider, but they did it on a huge scale and the likes of Carlsberg and Molson Coors have followed suit.

Heineken of course already own Strongbow and Bulmers so we are not likely to see Heineken Cider (or a variant on the usual spelling, anytime soon).

And it isn’t stopping there. Cider makers are understood to be looking to get in on the beer market and craft producers usually known for cask are looking at other styles such as lager and other kegged beers.

Brewers are even making spirits with Adnams celebrating two years since it started production at its distillery.

And there are partnerships too, with the likes of Hi-Spirits teaming up with Kissingate Brewery to make a Bourbon flavoured IPA.

It is well documented that beer volumes, and indeed most alcohol categories, are tumbling, so it should come as no great surprise that those who traditionally produce beer are looking to other markets to encourage growth.

This expansion also means the big boys, the likes of Carlsberg and Molson Coors, can offer a wider portfolio of products to pubs and bigger pubcos, making their offer more complete. It also gives them even greater scope to dominate bars.

This diversification is not dissimilar to what has happened in the pub world in recent years.

In days of yore you could make a living selling a couple of beers paired with a food offer that comprised bags of peanuts hanging off a pin-up.

Things have certainly changed.

The most successful operators these days trade throughout the day providing numerous attractions to different demographics.

Those that do specialise, such as the craft beer pubs, succeed because their standards are so high and because they can offer a vast range of interesting products. They are certainly not limited by the specialism.

And while we have lost many good pubs, we are now reaching the point where the consumer has actually never had it better in terms of the quality and range of pubs available.

With producers also following the same pattern we are actually seeing the rebirth of the pub industry and not the death that had been forecast.

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

Matt Eley
19.3.2013 Matt Eley
altIt’s 5pm on St Patrick’s Day and I am dreading going to the pub.

Not because of the hordes of people in daft hats swigging back the Black Stuff and singing out of tune or even because the Welsh will fancy a drink or two after their Six Nations success.

I’m not up for it because instead of drinking I am supposed to be working tonight.

I am down to do a stint behind the bar at a local pub, The Blue Anchor in Crowborough, East Sussex, as part of my own initiative to get more practical experience of a subject I spend my days writing about.

The fact is though, it’s Sunday, my two-year-old son is clinging to my legs for dear life, it’s tipping down outside, and I can’t really be arsed to leave the house.

But I do. And the main reason is because this must be how many people feel before putting a shift in. Not motivated, not at their best but still having to get behind the bar and put a smile on.

I needn’t have worried about having to find a forced sense of jollity. My hosts for the night brothers, Martyn and Damian and wife/sister-in-law Caroline, welcome me behind the bar and deftly bring me into a conversation with a friendly bunch of locals.

The atmosphere is good and I sense that this could actually be fun.

The trio have been at the pub – a Shepherd Neame tenancy – for four years and in that time have built up local and destination trade based around good quality, locally sourced food and a bar run to the highest of standards.

Thankfully as tonight is quiz night I don’t have to worry about any food orders. My job is to serve drinks and take the money.

You might think that with it being St Patrick’s Day there would be plenty of Guinness flowing but despite an Ireland themed section in the quiz, it isn’t really that sort of night. I only serve a few pints of Guinness and these come with a dash of blackcurrant. My biggest achievement is not turning my nose up at the order.

As I completed my first shift last week I feel confident pulling a pint (first up, cider – yes! Easy) but the team have plenty of tips for me.

I’m told to give the lager a swirl as I pour to encourage a decent head, which is the exact opposite to the problem I faced last time out.

When my fingers stray too close to the top of a pint Damian tells me to grab the glass with my little finger rested underneath, explaining that if a hand is anywhere near where the customer drinks from he won’t let it go across the bar.

After pouring what I, in my humble opinion, consider to be a darn decent pint of Kent Best, I tell a customer I can’t serve him that one and begin pouring another.

‘You’ve just poured me a pint. What’s wrong with that one?’

‘Oh, I can’t give you that one I’m afraid.’

‘Why ever not, it looks fine (he may have said ‘darn decent’, I can’t quite recall).

Anyway, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to explain why I chose to rest that first pint on the back bar. I look across to Damian for help, but his expression suggests that he doesn’t have a clue why I am faffing about and wasting good drink.

‘I’m afraid I’ve contaminated that one,’ I venture

As soon as the sentence leaves my mouth I realise that my choice of words make it sound like I have gobbed in his pint.

‘A hair fell in it.’ I add. ‘An eyelash’, I splutter out, just for the sake of clarity.

‘Right, lovely. Thanks,’ says the customer, unimpressed, walking off with his uncontaminated beer.

Still, Damian tells me I did the right thing, even if my phrasing, a little ironically, wasn’t of as high a standard as my pint-pouring. It also means that I now I have a pint to drink, because my own eye-lash doesn’t bother me one jot and it’s either that or chuck it away.

The bar gets busier before the quiz gets going and the four of us work fairly solidly. Of course they all manage to serve about three customers to my one. If I’m not looking for the right glass, I’m struggling with the till.

Naturally, it’s electronic and for the other three it is as easy as typing in a PIN number at the cashpoint. But for me every attempt to use it is like trying to crack the Da Vinci Code. alt

‘Hit ‘clerk 4’ first, that’s you tonight, then add your drinks, enter the cash and give them the change’

Sounds easy enough, but where the bloody hell is the ‘dash of lime’ button? Which wine am I looking for? Is there a ‘175ml button’? And don’t even get me started on people with tabs or those paying with cards and asking for cashback.

I muddle on and thankfully my colleagues are always close at hand for when I need help. Either that or they’re taking the piss out of me on Twitter.

Things quieten down as the quiz gets going and I manage to collect a few glasses and perfect my lime and soda pouring technique(there’s a few students in), thinking that I’m just a few shifts away from being Tom Cruise in Cocktail.

Then it’s break time and the teams need to quench their thirst.

‘Pint of Best. Hold the eyelash’ quips the returning customer. I exaggerate leaning back as I pour his pint and hand it over minus any detached parts of my body.

That for me is a huge success.

And as soon as the shift has begun it seems to be drawing to an end. I half-heartedly help with cleaning tables before thinking ‘sod it, I’m working tomorrow’ and head off.

I leave happy with my efforts behind the bar but more importantly delighted to have found somewhere that from now on I will call my local.

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

Matt Eley
8.3.2013 Matt Eley
‘So he always has his cider in that oversized glass. And he likes a pint in the straight glass with the Manchester United badge on it. And he likes a large red wine in a pint glass, with ice, topped-up with soda water. But he will have something different after that.’
Locals. They can be a particular lot, can’t they?

The above were among the instructions I received from my brilliant trainer/manager/guide/bodyguard Sally, as I stood behind the bar for the first time at The Grove Tavern in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

A while ago, after a drink, it has to be said, I thought it might be an idea to work a few shifts at pubs to get a more practical insight into a subject that I write about on a daily basis.

Landlord Steve was one of the first to get back to me on Twitter and, as his buzzy community local is only a few miles from my home, it seemed like a good place to start.

About 20 minutes into my first shift with a lively group of lads ordering Jager Bombs (at 5.30pm!) I was beginning question my wisdom.

The lads were regulars and they were, good-humouredly, putting me to the test.  alt

I actually took a strange delight in creating the Jager Bombs, and making sure that the energy drink filled neatly around the shot glass, without the two liquids mixing. Not every drink made me smile though.

Surely lager would be easy, but I began to dread it every time someone ordered a Beck’s Vier. My initial attempts (and ‘it happens to everyone’ Sally kindly reassured me) resulted in half pints of head sitting on a half of lager.

‘It’s how they like it on the continent?’ I tried.

‘Not in here son,’ someone replied.

The trick, I eventually discovered but never really mastered, was to hold the glass in an almost horizontal position before gently changing the angle as the liquid was nearing the top. Sounds simple, but with a small crowd gathering and waiting for their drinks, I felt nervous about getting it right and not pouring away Steve’s profits.

‘Pint of Mother-in-Law please?’

‘You what?’

‘Pint of Mother-in-Law. Dark and bitter.’

That was an unexpectedly popular choice, but one I will probably avoid this weekend. Real ale was popular here, and must have outsold lager five to one. I even earned my ‘changing a barrel’ badge.

As well as Sally’s guidance, the locals were also on hand to give me useful pointers.

‘Stop asking people if they want a fresh glass. It’s annoying. If they do they’ll ask you,’ one chap explained, after I put that question to him for about the third time.

‘If you pour over the spot on the glass where you have your thumb, you’ll get less head,’ said another.’

‘Keep the pump in the pint as you pour, just twist the glass and bring it out at the end,’ someone else chipped in.

I looked a bit cack-handed doing it but it seemed to work.

Serving the drinks was one thing, remembering names was another.

Virtually everyone in the pub was a local and they were all calling me Matt (or Max, which is close enough) within minutes of my arrival. I, on the other hand, felt dreadful about not returning the compliment.

‘So this is Pete, that’s John, Kevin, Sam’s over know Steve and met Richard earlier,’ Sally said, before reeling off another 20 names, including two dogs.

‘You lost me at Pete,’ I confessed.

And this, I think, is probably the key and a point that Sally impressed on me. While most people can learn to pull a pint and pour a glass of wine, at a community local it is imperative to be able to get on with the customers. And get their orders right.

In fairness, the crew at the Grove treated me brilliantly. They knew I was on work experience, and while I was put to the test they were always forgiving of my mistakes.

The one time anyone was vaguely rude (I was told to ‘top that pint up. Boy.’) Sally stepped in and had a quiet word. My raised eyebrow and deadpan stare clearly hadn’t earned enough respect to get the same result.

As a man who uses words more than numbers the till was another area of concern. Thankfully Steve is an IT whizz and he has made an electronic system that even I managed to work out fairly quickly. Only once did it tell me that I had to give a customer £350 change for the £10 he handed over.

I suspect that was probably an error on my part.

Other than that, and a little bit of wasted liquid, I was grateful to get through without any major incidents.

So while I enjoyed being behind the bar for a change and getting some practical experience I am still in absolutely no doubt about which side of things I feel most comfortable on.

And the pint that a customer kindly bought me at the end of the night as my shift came to an end, certainly tasted all the sweeter for feeling that it had been earned.

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