On Sunday evening I made my semi-regular trip to my local to meet long-haired Tony, exchange boyish stories and drink fine ale. Tony only drinks the guest beers and insists that his pint is headless - as a consequence his poured tipple looks less than palatable, but it's to his taste.
However, when I arrived at the bar I discovered, with horror and surprise, that they had run out of beer.
This is only a mild exaggeration. Due to some delivery mix-up or general staffing incompetence, only one of the pumps had any product to pump. That was, fortunately for Tony, one of the guest beers. The two John Smiths pumps - smooth and cold - were empty. So were the equivalent for Guinness, my drink of choice. The three lagers were down too. And so were the other two guest beers.
This meant that everyone - and this was quiz night, so it was well filled with customers, the type of middle-aged punter that visits the pub once a week in a smart shirt as the main social activity of his week - found themselves looking at their fingernails and mumbling that it was all a bit unfortunate. Then their eyes, and mine were among them, fixed on the fridges at the bottles.
There was one Newcy Brown there. That had my name on it, and I got it. The barmaid dutifully nipped down to the cellar after serving me and came back with three more. Sadly, by the time I returned to the bar for a second go, they'd all gone. Every single beer drinker in this rapidly dehydrating tavern had to go for that bottled Corona stuff or drink the guest beer favoured by a grinning Tony, even though everyone else I heard whining at the bar had labelled this particular ale "disgusting".
Going somewhere else was not an option as there is only one other pub in the village and that keeps closing down due to trouble finding anyone to manage the place. I did toy with nipping to the local Spar, buying a six pack of Guinness and sneaking it back in, but it was gone 10pm and our Spar hasn't grasped the concept of 24-hour opening just yet. So I struggled down some bottled lager, fresh from the cellar and therefore not exactly cold, and unrepentantly expensive.
And we were dreadful at the quiz.
I left the pub sober, irritated and about half an hour earlier than normal for a Sunday evening.
Have you ever known a pub run out almost completely of ale and yet still stay open, cheerily telling its regulars that it had barely any of its wares? Most odd. Most odder that the punters stuck around, though the quiz does have decent prizes and there's a pub tote and also a few quid up for grabs on a Play Your Cards Right game. No crate of ale as one of the prizes, mind.
It's okay, indeed almost expected, to test the loyalty of your regulars when there is no other pub in the village. You can fairly test their loyalty by putting on live music or darts nights or karaoke and the like. But to test their loyalty by cocking up the one thing pubs thrive on - a suitably inexhaustive range of intoxicating liquors - is extremely risky.