Beer drinkers: steer clear of the South East

Adrian Holliday
David Cameron visits The Royal Hospital
David Cameron visits The Royal Hospital

If you want a cheap pint, avoid London and the South East. The latest edition of the Good Pub Guide claims the capital's beer drinkers will pay almost £3.80 for a pint compared to a little bit more than £3 in some areas of the UK. A huge gap. Beer lovers in Buckinghamshire, Kent and Sussex all pay prices close to that of the capital.

But the guide, despite some steep mark-ups, claims the UK pub scene is booming. So, where are the UK's best booze bargains?

Beer bargains

Head for Herefordshire, Worcestershire, large swathes of Northumbria and Derbyshire - all areas where you shouldn't be ripped off for a pint. Prices ranging from £3.03 to £3.16 says the Guide, typically.

Do the maths though and some of the savings really start to sink in. Drink a pint a day in Herefordshire for every working day and you save £3.80 compared to some of the affluent parts of London. Over a year, a £197 saving.

Areas where beer prices are more modest also include Cornwall - typically £3.19 - and Wales, £3.18. Land and rents though are higher in London and the South generally - so there are considerable secondary factors to add in, not to mention wage differentials.

During the last year the price of a beer has surged nearly 3.5% to £3.31 on average. Although around 28 pubs are still closing a week, this is about half the number that were closing a couple of years ago says the Good Pub Guide.

Don't try competing

"However, the significant change," it says, "is that many of these are being reopened by visionary and energetic new licensees and are thriving. The success of these pubs has led to a new mood of forward-looking confidence and is transforming the whole pub scene."

What's the advice, then, for running a top pub? When The Good Pub Guide asked a sample of its own top publicans the returning answers were firm: don't bother trying to beat the big retailers.

"There is no point trying to compete against cheap supermarket deals or the lure of home cinema," said one, "so tempt customers in with something distinct."

The key is hospitality, warmth and service quality, said another. "Anyone can do food and drink, but it's what comes with that, that makes the difference."

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