I find January a difficult month to do any visits to a pub. Because it's after Christmas I feel like a fat bloated mess, even though this year I was actually pretty good and barely put on any weight at all. I just can't seem to scarf down chocolate coins, "Christmas" wine and fourth helpings of roast potatoes like I used to. The heady days of having a third helping of trifle after finishing a Chocolate Orange are behind me. In fact the days of receiving a Chocolate Orange at all for Christmas appear to be over as I didn't receive one of the spherical faux fruity treats. Luckily for me my poorly wired brain lets me feel all the guilt and worry of putting on a few pounds anyway.
Another reason January is difficult for a pub visit is that nobody has any cash after Christmas, and with beer prices going up and up with no sign of stopping it's getting harder to justify a night out at the pub. Having starting to hit the limits on what they can tax on cigarettes and petrol before the public hit the streets and lynch an MP it appears some sections of the government have targeted booze as the next easy money maker. Luckily most MP's enjoy getting sloshed so I'm not sure how far they will take thesetax rises. Still you know things are getting bad when the Wetherspoons in Victoria Station has reached £3.30 a pint for the guest ales. I might as well go to a proper pub for those prices.
The poor weather isn't helping pub custom either, with our ever reliable transport system effectively making sure I can't visit any decent pubs. I also don't trust myself with a belly full of ales and a pavement full of ice.
January has probably been even more difficult this year for pubs due to the Dryathlon campaign. I have mixed feelings about the campaign. I understand the sentiment of asking people to give up drink for a month for Cancer Research, and holding it in January means people can feel better about their new years resolution by donating to charity. But it seems a bit unfair to me to hold it during the most difficult month for pubs. With pubs closing down at the rate of two a day they need all the help they can get. Of course many of the pubs closing are flea ridden, vomit soaked pits of violence and despair, but plenty of good ones go as well.
I'm aware I'm being a terrible hypocrite by bemoaning that pubs get no custom in January when they really need it, and I've barely visited any pubs myself. In fact the only couple I've been to this month have been Weatherpersons. However I have been supporting the ale industry in my own little way this month by enjoying some good bottled ales. With Winter here in full force a warming Sneck Lifter from Jennings hit the spot perfectly. This is a full bodied strong ale with subtle raisin notes that is always a winner. I also enjoyed a bottle of Victory Ale from Bateman's which was another solid strong ale this time with caramel undertones. There's nothing more pleasant than a sturdy strong ale on a chilly Winters evening and I can recommend both of these for such an occasion.
While at the Wetherspoons in London Victoria Station I tried a half pint of Hopslinger Red Rye, from the fledging By The Horns brewery based in merry old London. Their brews are a bit of an acquired taste at the moment and I get the impression they're still finding their feet. The Red Rye was an OK attempt at an American Red Ale, but it got a little sickly and I was glad I only had a half.
With payday coming soon I think a lot more visits to pubs are going to be on the horizon. Maybe next year I'll make it a resolution to visit more pubs in January, if only so I don't feel guilty when I inevitably berate Cancer Research for holding Dryathlon a second time. See you in February.