While the CAMRA revitalisation project debates the protection of pubs, I still view increasing the quality of beer in pubs, or not serving it at all, as the fundamental challenge.  It’s the not serving it at all bit that many CAMRA members will struggle with.

That said, beer quality has been impressive this year, though I do largely stick to pubs in the (much derided) Good Beer Guide. Noticeably, the stock beers from established family forms like Otter, Butcombe and particularly West Berkshire have been excellent this year, and that’s just the Southerners.

It might just be that I’ve come across them in a few more traditional pubs and a few less restaurants; these things go in cycles. It’ll all be new micros in the Guide next year.

Goring and Streatley are on a particularly attractive stretch of the River Thames, and get a fair amount of visitors just to see the locks and weirs.  It’s slow tourism at its best, though unlikely to attract Reading’s famed beer cognoscenti out of the Nag’s Head.

The Miller of Mansfield is your archetypal small Thameside hotel, in a village about as different to Mansfield as it’s possible to find. I’m sure even Goring’s residents would rather be asked “What can I get you me duck” rather than “How ya doing“, as I was in Goring though.

Scandalously cheap cars outside

It’s OK, but again there’s a lack of comfortable seating in a pub full of people standing around waiting to be seated. The Good Old Boy in its own half pint glass is very good though, benefitting from being the prominent beer in a range of just two.

This is the evidence you need that CAMRA branches pick Guide entries on beer quality not pubbiness; there are two cracking Brakspear pubs round the corner, with the John Barleycorn and Catherine Wheel both proving the survival of that 3.4% BBB. You can still find great Brakspear around here; it’s particularly good to see the Reformation at Gallowtree Common back in the Guide.

Nothing can stop the march of Brunning and Price though, and their Packhorse at Mapledurham is exactly what you’d expect from the chain, as easy to detect from the interior now as a Wetherspoons or Ember.

You can guess Brunning & Price by now
Fast-moving staff at the Packhorse

Nothing wrong with smart old dining pubs with decent beer, of course, and I’ve always found somewhere pleasant to sit with a half and listen to light ’80s pop (yuk).  Their ale range, with beer miles displayed, are always well judged, but I never find the quality better than average (Maggs Magnificent Mild NBSS 3). Like Wetherspoons, their commitment to cask is meaningless when everyone is drinking wine and lager with their £15 lunches.

If nothing else, this one will confuse Mr Everitt, with a Pack Saddle two minutes down the A4074 ready to give him An Erroneous Tick.

As always, no pub with pictures of Nemo in the Gents can be judged too harshly, even if it is from the Independent.  Does anyone ever read framed newspapers in pub toilets ?


At least there wasn’t a greeter in either pub, a Good Thing.


  1. I read that and thought “I agree with every word”. When I lived down there I used to love the John Barleycorn on my excursions to the Chilterns – a classic pub with that distinctive Brakspear character.

    Is it time the Brunning & Price bubble was pierced? They started out as an independent company with laudable intentions, but have now become just another upmarket gastropub chain with a nod towards the CAMRA ethos. Very little welcome for drinkers in any of their more recent conversions.


    1. Forgot you were a temporary Southerner, fortunately no traits remain ! The John Barleycorn was in the Guide and I scored it highly for beer and character a few years back.

      I don’t look forward to visits to B&P or Ember, be interesting to see if standards and prices slip like they did in Chef & Brewer which also started out smart.


  2. I’m not over-struck with our Brunning & Price outlet, the White Hart, on the road into Sevenoaks. Not only is the beer range uninspiring, the food is pricy and it’s a place where you have to request a top-up every time. This happens so regularly, that I’m almost tempted to think it’s deliberate policy!


    1. I share your lack of enthusiasm. Went when it opened and decided not to eat at those prices ! Beer not fantastic either. Large head on beer now you mention it. Amazing how they keep coming up with fantastic old buildings.


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