It’s sad news that the pioneer of real ale in south shields, Ken Taylor, died earlier this week. To many of my generation in South Shields, he offered their first experience of real ale.
Under Ken Taylor, The Dolly Peel set the standard for real ale in South Shields, and for a long time was the alehouse by which other pubs were measured. This was rewarded by a healthy and loyal custom, an almost mythical word of mouth reputation and awards from beer experts CAMRA year after year.
High standards, the commitment to quality beer and pride in the product raised the expectations among many beer drinkers like myself of what good beer and good service should be like, and not meekly accept the poor quality dishwater that too many other chain pubs in South Shields ambivalently served. Consumers like myself expected better, and if a pub didn’t measure up, discerning drinkers went elsewhere.
Unfortunately, there are still poor pubs out there, but now real ale is mainstream, with chains like Wetherspoons and our own Jarrow Brewery offering a range of quality (and local) real ales, ciders and world beers. It’s arguable that without independent pioneers like Ken Taylor, we might be stuck with the bland beers and ciders of the giant brewing chains, rather than the diverse range of tipples created and served by people with a passion for good product with distinctive flavours.
Everyone I know who drank in the Dolly Peel has a Ken Taylor anecdote, some funny, some showing his sometimes eccentric personality, but most revealing his uncompromising commitment to a good pub and most importantly, happy customers.