I had lunch with a couple of friends yesterday. It was a good pub: a decent turnover of cask ales and real food made from scratch. My friend asked for vinegar for his chips.
"Sorry, we don't do vinegar - this is a real ale pub" came the reply.
A few weeks ago, in another pub a few miles away, the people at the next table were ordering food. They asked for chips:"Sorry, we don't do chips. Too many people ask for vinegar and we can't do vinegar because this is a real ale pub".
In a third pub, a regular grumbled to me: "We asked for a big jar of cockles on the bar but the boss won't do it because of the vinegar. The same with pickled eggs".
I've been aware of this no-vinegar thing for some years. The idea seems to be that the mere presence of vinegar in the pub somehow adversely effects the beer.
This is vinegar that smells of bullshit.
By what means does the vinegar allegedly adversely effect the beer? I asked one of my lunch friends, who is a very sciencey person, with a PhD in organic chemistry to prove it. "Vinegar ectoplasm" he explained.
Adding to my suspicion that this is mumbo-jumbo, each of the pubs concerned is quite happy to serve other condiments that contain vinegar – tomato ketchup and brown sauce for instance. Indeed, one of them prides itself on making its own chutneys and pickles. Joined-up thinking is not in evidence.
My conclusion is that the vinegar-adversely-effects-beer thing is magical thinking. It is an idea - a meme - that is passed between people who don't question it.
Has anyone else spotted this? Can anyone defend the no-vinegar rule?
*Update: The Beercast has also covered this subject. Interestingly, the pub they mention is is no more than 15 miles or so from the ones I mentioned. Could the no-vinegar rule be a local South Cumbrian thing? http://thebeercast.com/2012/08/keep-our-pubs-vinegar-free.html