Beer is like no other product. It raises emotions and opinions in just the same way as politics and religion. People who drink beer regularly almost always have a view on the subject. Sometimes it's the price of a pint, sometimes it's the brand of beer, sometimes it's the temperature or the fullness of the glass or the use or otherwise of extraneous CO2.
Pubs are like no other business. Perhaps it's as a direct result of them still being, for the now at least, where the majority of beer is consumed. Regular and irregular pub customers almost always have a view on this diverse industry. No one style of pub is going to suit everybody. For some, the basic traditional pub doesn't provide the level of comfort or sophistication that they desire, perhaps these people are snobs. Others find too much ponciness results in an "up their own arse" impression that doesn't belong in a pub, and perhaps this set of customers lack the appreciation required.
For me, like many other publicans, my pub is my livelihood, my home and pretty much my life. I know that I get oversensitive when comments are made about the industry. I know that many publicans are putting in hours well in excess of the working hours directive, many are working for less than the minimum wage. Some, like me, do it for reasons that are hard to define but for sure have very little to do with money. It is, basically, our passion.
More than this, the niche sectors of the beer market, real ale and extreme beers, are promoted well by unpaid people. Be it CAMRA or beer bloggers or tickers or beer geeks they all, we all, contribute towards promoting and encouraging the more unusual small time brewers and the pubs that are bringing these beers to market.
I am part of that niche industry and therefore I care about what these groups of people say. If there is something that we don't do and feel we are unable to do, but there is comment that it should generally be done, I feel bad. I think that I care too much because it drives me to distraction, far too often, from the general good running of the business.
So why do people do this unpaid promotion? There always has to be an exchange. For paid work there is the exchange of money in return for hours attended. Without the money, most of us wouldn't do it. Conversely, when we do something for the fun of it, when the pay is negligible or none existent, like running a pub, blogging or being a CAMRA activist, there has to be an alternative payback, a discretionary exchange. Much of these activities are well meaning and truly intend to help the industry that is providing the goods and services that the impassioned desire.
The payback for many, of course, is the feeling that they are a little bit more in control of what they care about; pubs and beer. A feeling of being able to shape the things they are passionate about. For me, part of running my place is to do something I care about. To be able to create a pub that does things the way I see that they should be done. As I say, perhaps I care too much. When the things that the promoters say are at odds with what I feel I can or should do, or are impossible to attain because of our location or where the layout of the building prevents it, these comments cut deeper than anybody might ever believe.
In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove
that laid him down or cut him
till he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains