IN PRAISE OF THE GOOD BEER GUIDE

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Well the new Beer Guide arrived on Monday, only a week after folk in Wimbledon and Essex were tweeting about their local pub being in it.  Unlike the Southerners, I won’t be breaking the embargo by revealing entries before 15 September.

Whatever my irritation with the postal system, the Guide itself is a wonderful thing, and a real bargain for a tenner on Direct Debit.

An increasingly heavy tome too, as the number of micro-breweries rapidly catches up with the number of pubs in the Guide.  I support Colleague Everitt’s proposal for a leaner book.  Alternatively, I might support the closure of all breweries except Marston/Bass, Sam Smiths and Cloudwater.

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Sorry. And Joules.

I’m at the start of a week of cross-checking the new Guide against my spreadsheet of nearly 10,000 pubs visited, which is the most fun you can have with a pink pen and a laptop.

All I can say at the moment is that micro-pubs are entering the Guide even faster than Wetherspoons were a decade ago, all over the country.  I’m almost tempted to get my Man Cave licensed and stick a polypin of Milton on my shelf. Add a few posing stools, salted nuts and my Bass mirror, I should be in for GBG18.

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Future micro pub – names welcomed

Luckily, I know local CAMRA branches are more discerning than that.  I can already see that a few pubs I  found duff beer in are out of this year’s Guide, and my experience at a few CAMRA selection meetings shows they put quality at the heart of selection.

There’s often a negative view of the GBG expressed by bloggers, “Why would you rely on that, we don’t ?”.  Bluntly, it’s the best Guide we’ve got to beer quality, and it gets it right most of the time.  I suspect the folk who open these micropubs do care more about beer quality (if not pub quality) than the average PubCo tenant.

It’s another thankless CAMRA task, keeping a record of pub changes, hoping a few visitors leave NBSS scores rather than whining on Trip Advisor. But unless folk get directed to the very best cask, it’ll lose its appeal.

Lose the Beer Guide, lose the heart of CAMRA.

 

 

34 thoughts on “IN PRAISE OF THE GOOD BEER GUIDE

  1. People often say “what’s the point of the GBG in the Internet age?” but, unlike most online pub guides, it offers a curated selection of pubs where someone else has taken the trouble to pick out ones worth visiting. You might not agree with the choice all the time, but in my experience it’s far more often right than wrong and will lead to to places that otherwise you might never have come across. Sometimes entries might not be to your taste, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad pubs or serve poor beer.

    If you just key in the name of a town to WhatPub, you will get an undifferentiated list with little indication of which are worth visiting and which aren’t. Branches are understandably reluctant to say anything negative about pubs, so it just comes across as very bland. I once chose to visit a pub on the strength of it’s WhatPub entry only to find a characterless, knocked-through establishment which was wall-to-wall Sunday lunches and reeked of gravy!

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  2. Some good comments on here. The only reservation I have is that it is only a small minority of folk who are submitting NBSS scores and actively attending meetings and putting forward nominations etc. Granted it is the same in all walks of life. I guess I’m saying that more CAMRA members should be actively involved in CAMRA membership.

    Pubcurmudgeon hits the nail on the head for me when he says it ‘offers a curated selection’. In the same way you need to know the history of the historian before reading ‘their’ account, and indeed ‘their’ interpretation, of the past, then you also need to know all about the curator before you visit their exhibition.

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    1. It’s also noticeable that different areas take a different approach to selection – for example the almost complete absence of family brewer tied houses in the Cheshire entries, whereas there are plenty in Greater Manchester.

      It worries me when I hear that some branches make no use whatsoever of NBSS scores. Yes, they’re never going to be the be all and end all, but at least they give you *some* statistics to go on.

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      1. Agree. Even NW Wales make some.attempt to use scores and feedback from WhatPub (chap.I met in Snowdon made same points as you). Even if all few tourist scores do is make local branch go and have another look.

        There’s very little churn in some parts of the country. Unless it’s a micro.

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  3. A great ‘non-embargo breaking’ piece.

    Yes, i’ll never my first GBG, late 2001, early 2002 and no longer having to ‘take my chances’ on entering pubs at Hull City away games, thinking ‘will they sell real ale?’ and if so, ‘will it taste nice?’

    It was Kidderminster’s Station Inn 29th Dec 2001, the best quality ale I’d ever tasted and cheap ‘filled rolls’ and friendly staff too. A year later, not in new GBG but went back anyway. Pub had gone downhill.

    I knew then the value of the GBG and why it’d be essential for the rest of my life. Yes, they don’t always get it right but I’d trust it implicitly (and that’s even after a night in Barnsley).

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    1. We travel to the UK from overseas and for the last 12 years or so have used the GBG almost exclusively in planning our visits. Very rarely do we run into issues with the selections and normally the choices take us to pubs we would not run across by chance. The beer, ambiance and people in the pubs are excellent. Our editions don’t arrive until late September… We are anxiously awaiting the arrival. Simon is correct that clunkers are almost always pulled out of the next edition.

      My wife always asks me “can’t we go to any pub not in the guide?” We do periodically and our visits are much more hit or miss.

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      1. really pleased to hear that. If you’d been to York when the Blue Bell was temporarily omitted, because it didn’t let groups in, you might have been upset, but that was an oddity.

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  4. 2 suggestions for your micropub name – “Martin’s Inn -sometimes ” a la Keith Floyd or “Dun Ticking ” for when you either complete or abandon your mission.

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      1. The Imbiber carries all the new beers.

        Untappd is a better bet – crowdsourcing is the only way to keep up these days. It’s still useful to have a reasonably up to date list of breweries, although even the official CAMRA lists can be 10-15% out these days.

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    1. If only people carried around with them some kind of pocket-sized electronic device that was much smaller than a book but used microchips to accommodate gigabytes of information….

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      1. There are a lot of ways i use the guide that do not work as well online. Paper gives me a higher level view that online cannot provide. Both formats are important. I use whatpub and the guide. I am not anti technology.

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