The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, October 30, 2015

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For some it might be the plants in the garden, for others the school holidays, but for everyone each year has a rhythm. For all of us there are certain calendar landmarks that are hard to avoid. Christmas, Easter, and Bank Holidays affects us all in one way or another. Some of us will look forward to them as an opportunity to have a few days off work or to go away for a long weekend, whilst others will see them as an unavoidable nuisance which interrupt the natural flow of the months. We are now entering the long stretch between the August Bank Holiday when there is little to distract us from the darkening nights and long weeks stretching out to Christmas. In the past the bright light in the autumn gloom was Bonfire night. When I was young every spare patch of land such as the Ponderosa, the Old Buildings and the Farmers Field had a bonfire built over the preceding weeks by the kids who lived in the nearby streets, and when the big day arrived all the local families would come out with their box of fireworks and homemade treacle toffee for a community gathering. These days seem far behind us, perhaps because of the inherent dangers of unsupervised fires and pyrotechnics, or perhaps because most of the open spaces have been covered with housing. Instead over the last couple of decades we seem to have imported Halloween, a day that slipped by almost unnoticed when I was young (except for being my father’s birthday).

These days it’s a different matter and one sector which has really cashed in is pubs. Maybe it is a coincidence that bonfire night has faded away, except for organised displays, whilst Halloween which is a much better opportunity to earn money has flourished. After all, what can you do for the 5th November except to sell fireworks? With Halloween, the possibilities are endless and research by Him! in 2014 shows that it has now become the third biggest earing opportunity of the year for pubs after Christmas and Easter. This year it will be even bigger as it falls at the weekend, so look out for all the special events.

The Fleurets newsletter, which is endlessly fascinating for anyone with an interest in pubs, has a load of suggestions to make the party go with a swing/extract money from the punters, ranging from the usual fancy dress parties to the more authentic gruesome experiences with, for example, a south London restaurant offering a bespoke selection of insect tacos and marinated cockroaches this year.

It’s also a great opportunity for breweries to wheel out seasonal specials, though Hobgoblin seems to make Halloween last all year anyway, and Moorhouses Pendle Witch also has a head start. In the USA, from where most of our Halloween customs seem to be imported, it’s the season for pumpkin beer – over a thousand varieties are available. Here, this style is hard to find, but it’s on its way, with Brewdog Pumpkinhead and Beavertown Stingy Jack both available in the more specialist outlets. Mostly, though I think we will have to make do with themed names such as ‘Bucket of Blood, a red ale from St Austell , whilst Cameron’s offer ‘A-Hop-Alypse Now’ and can supply a ‘Thirst Blood’ pump clip complete with a moving cleaver. So, go out and support our local pubs. I will leave it up to you to decide if you have been treated to a great night out or tricked into parting with your money for themed tat.