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!