Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good Beer Guide 2012

It is that time of year again, when lots of drinkers around the country get really excited at the sight of the brown package dropping through their letterbox  containing their copy of the new 'Good Beer Guide'. Mine duly arrived this week and a quick scan through it at the usual suspects showed no changes around my favourite drinking haunts. This year it seems to have been printed on better quality paper though. The brewery section has reached around 230 pages, about 25% of the guides content, and  there is a section on the pubs that have been made 'Pub of the Year' by different Camra regions. But why do I feel it is time for a change?

Really it depends on your use of the beer guide. If you want a copy to carry about in your car (or canal boat!),  it is ideal, giving you a heads up about pubs in areas unfamiliar to you. If you work in a pub and want to check on the provenance of that unusual brewery then again, I have no problem with it. It does what it sets out to do, and does it well. There is everything there that you want - area maps, opening times, bus routes and availability of food, and these are all things I have used in the past, and no doubt, will do again. But it is now just too bulky and possibly a victim of its own success.

It does not easily fit into any kind of pocket and constant use often breaks the spine leading to the pages  becoming dislodged and scruffy, or even falling out. It is heavy to carry, and for those of us who like to travel light, it usually means taking a bigger bag.

Maybe it could be time to make the guide regional. A few years ago Cumbrian CAMRA produced a wonderful guide, based on the good beer guide but including more pubs and more details, in a pocket sized format that was spiral bound to prevent the spine breaking. It was handy enough to slip in your pocket and very easy to carry about.

So would it not be possible for CAMRA to produce regional guides, still containing all the relevant information, with town plans (how often do you see groups of enthusiasts with print outs from google wandering around town?), with local brewery information, and transport details to serve the itinerant enthusiast, whilst combining them into a large beer guide for home or car use should you want one for the whole country?

No doubt someone will say, why not get the mobile version, or get the e-book format, both will serve the purpose, but I am a dinosaur and prefer hard copy to add my own comments to the Guide. I am not being critical, I still find the guide a useful tool, I could just do with it more Timbo friendly!       


Tandleman said...

Problem is that it would be a very large effort indeed and would not be realistic in the way you suggest. It is hard enough to do the GBG.

Jibber said...

A friend of mine once went to a CAMRA meeting in Halifax where one of the big noises from St Albans was present. They were talking about various pubs in the Halifax area worth visiting, and my friend brough out some photocopied pages of the GBG for reference.

The CAMRA man went apoplectic. Totally illegal to photocopy pages of the GBG like that! Breach of copyright! Get rid immediately!

My friend pointed out the cumbersome nature of the guide - useless if you go on a summer crawl in T shirt and shorts. But to no avail. What might have been a solution is sadly out of bounds.

I still buy the GBG but find that I rarely use it. If you're going somewhere unknown, a visit to the local CAMRA web pages usually give you an up-to-date view of pubs and beers. Beer sites such as 'Beer in the Evening' can also add pointers. The trouble with an annual tome like the GBG is that it's bulky, and it's out of date the moment it reaches the shops. Added to that, it tends to be biased towards town centres, you can often detect the 'favourites' of committee members at the expense of equally good or even better pubs, and if you rely on it as a definitive guide to the best pubs in an area, you often miss out on some absolute gems.

Perhaps local branches should be encouraged to produce smaller local guides, as many already have.

Cooking Lager said...

It's illegal to photocopy an entire book, not a few pages.

A library will let you photocopy a few pages of a book.

I used to do it all the time at university. You cannot buy every book, you only want a few pages anyway and the library hasn't got a copy for everyone.

Barm said...

It could also be split into two or more volumes but do you really want a GBG box set?

I think that ongoing work on CAMRA's data holdings and surveying tools will eventually make it possible to automate a large part of GBG production, at which point it may become feasible to also produce sub-guides. The question then would be whether printing and marketing them would add up financially. I suspect that by the time this happens we will all be accessing the data on our phones anyway.