Thursday, 21 May 2009

Exclusive News - Pimp My Handpull

You heard it here first folks - Wells & Young's has pimped the traditional handpull.

Starting with Bombadier, and moving through the brands, the brewery will be making the poor old handpull more appealing to those who do want to drink decent beer but are easily distracted by shiny lager marketing.

I'm impressed with this bold move, whether you like the design or not you have to agree that the handpull is well overdue an update and if it means that cask beer will be on in more pubs then hoorah!

It would be lovely to frequent a style bar with my mates and have a pint rather than being forced(!) into drinking cocktails or wine for a change and apparently swishy joints are throwing their doors open to this concept already.

So, tell me what you think - are you pro pimping the handpull? What would you do differently? Can real ale ever be sexy? Will Kate Moss consider cask beer the next must-have accessory? Am I getting a little carried away?!


  1. I'm very far from being any kind of cask beer traditionalist, but I think it looks awful. I think the shiny-font arms race is just going to make pubs less visually appealling.

    Plus, there are presumably going to be knock-on effects for guest beers: they're not going to have big fancy handpulls, so if all the prospective drinker's attention is focused on the beer from the big brewery with the big marketing budget and the big shiny font, guest beers from breweries that don't play that game are going to suffer, I'd have thought.

    Competing for the customer's attention at the tap is a race to the bottom, IMO.

  2. I think it's a great idea. I mean, more traditional pubs can keep the preferable old school pump whilst the bars can wack this new one in.

    I'm with you on this, the thought of walking into a style bar and finding a cask ale is great. I cannot stand the lagers served in Britain so a nice nutty pint would be great.

    Fingers crossed, eh?

  3. Thanks for your response. The 'arms race' (great description by the way) has been going on since the early 80's and it's continued. Cask hasn't been involved in that time, and it has made a real difference to sales. I don't think not competing is a serious option long term, but I totally respect and understand your concerns - I stick by our objective to grow total market and thereby create opportunity for others. I hope you will bear with us and see that we are as good as our word. Thanks for the debate, and I hope you can buy Bombardier near you soon!

  4. Sharp points, well made as ever from Beer Nut.

    In the context of the arms race, I like what Wells have done; it looks better than the competition. Fair play.

    But I worry about what it will dispense - if you're spending wads of cash on presentation what about ingredients? We've seen plenty of flash presentation before dispensing little flavour. Do we want to take cask down this route?

    Another concern is the number of style bars who haven't the logistics, skill or interest to serve good cask ale (alright, Bombadier is pretty much bright off the dray and it takes a cretin to mess it up) but just want it because it looks cool. Now that doesn't do cask any favours at all.

    In summary: I almost admire Well's attempts here to spread the word but I very much doubt their methodology. In getting folk to appreciate cask it is necessary to get them to come to you to some extent. And that may mean waiting until they've got fashion out of their system.

  5. firstly, if it's an attempt to get more people to try cask ale, then it's a shame that it's not a beer with a more neutral name and without an England flag in the design.

    secondly, the points about badly kept ale are important - there are already many pubs and bars in London (and i imagine the rest of Britain's the same) with a solitary pump of badly kept big name ale - e.g. London Pride, Bombardier, or similar. i'd rather see interesting keg or bottle offerings as an alternative to the lager, John Smiths and Guinness.

  6. I don't agree that the handpull is well overdue an update - I like the simplicity of a black, or wooden handle, so this is a bit showy for me.

    I do quite like the fact that it looks like a set of cricket wickets - seems to fit well with W&Y's (perhaps slightly unjustifiable!) claim on all things English :~)

    On the negative side, I presume there's more energy used both to make & power the thing, & I do worry (as a craft-brewer, trying to get my cask beers on to the bar) that having a branded pump in a way might "lock" an all-too-rare handpull to one brewery's beer.

    Not that bigger breweries should (ahem) supply & install dispense equipment for smaller breweries to later sell their beers through, but I do think that the hassle of removing the behemoth branded handpull & replacing it with an unbranded one, might lead to a reduction in beer diversity.

    Oh & talking about slightly unjustifiable claims - did anyone else spot how they launched this? "WELLS AND YOUNG’S REVEAL BIGGEST INNOVATION IN CASK BEER…EVER" from -

    My vote might be for the microscope, pH meter, coopering, steel casks, plastic casks, race spiles, cooled lines & cellar cooling, or indeed the handpump itself maybe, but a big plastic lit handpull - no :~)

  7. There is nothing more attractive to me than walking into a pub and seeing a vast array of traditional wooden handpumps taking pride of place on the bar. Leaving aside the fact that I don't like the design, I believe all of the concerns voiced above are valid. In particular Anon's ascertion of "locking" valuable handpumps to big name and all-too-often uninspiring ales.

    Hopefully this is just more headline-grabbing akin to GK's bizarre Northern/Southern switch device and won't prove too commonplace in traditional pubs.

  8. That handle is sexy. But if I am drinking a tradional ale, I would prefer and old world tap handle. I hope Young's and Fuller's don't turn into the AB of English Ale advertising.

  9. I saw a picture somewhere with a bank of unbranded, gleaming chrome handpulls that would be quite nice if wooden handpulls don't match the feel of a pub.