Thursday, April 05, 2012

Sorry if I sound critical ......but

One of the 'must have' books in the beer drinkers bag is the CAMRA 'Good Beer Guide'. Plenty of us have a copy, and often rely on it to point us in the direction of good pubs with good beer. Most of the time it does what it says on the cover, but just now and then I am somewhat concerned about the content. Let me tell you a story.

A couple of days ago when I had nothing special to do, I set out armed with my beer guide to check out a pub I rarely visit. Since I trust the guide, I accept what they write at face value until I can confirm it otherwise from my own observations. The pub I  refer to will remain nameless, for reasons that will soon become obvious, as will the write up in the guide which led me to visit it. All I will say is that it is within West Yorkshire.

I was led to believe that the pub was clean, pleasant and had a good range of real ale, what I found was a little different. It did have a range of beers, that was true. However, the pub, although not run down, was in desperate need of TLC and a good deep clean. It had a member of staff whose afternoon I seemed to spoil by ordering a beer and stopping him from his more important tasks of chatting to his mates and playing on his phone. I ordered a swift half and left. The pub is no stranger to the guide, just one I rarely get round to visiting. It will be a long time before I return again.

I am a broad minded chap (really) and can tolerate a certain amount of writing up to make a pub more attractive. This went beyond and was almost misleading. I know that local CAMRA members make the choice of pubs to go in the guide, but I must query what makes a number of them choose such a pub for inclusion. Maybe a year out of the guide may make the owners take a look at what they provide and spruce the place up. Maybe they have just become complacent. Or am I  just hypercritical. Does the 'Good Beer Guide' merely suggest pubs that sell good beer, for I cannot criticise the beer quality, just the pub? Or would an honest write up prevent customers from going?
Strangely enough, I went to another pub about 200 yards away. It was not in the Guide, but had attentive staff, was clean and pleasant, and had a good range of beer as well. I know where I will go to next time.  

14 comments:

John Clarke said...

I think we have all experienced a "what the hell is this pub doing in the Gooed Beer Guide?" moment, and I say that an an active member of CAMRA.

Depends on what the local branch's selection criteria are I guess - is beer quality the be all and and all or instead, once you have established beer quality do you look beyond that to consider other factors?

So you have a grubby pub, some indifferent staff but great beer. Given that even the best pubs can have an off day with at least the odd beer, then the casual visitor might encounter a grubby pub, indifferent staff and poor beer. Perhaps on balance it's best to leave it out. Not sure there's a completely right answer for that one.

Of course it also depends on when you call. I'm guessing that most CAMRA activists visit most pubs at night (certainly during thr week) and the same pub can be very different at night to how it is in the afternoon.

Tyson said...

I think you have to remember that the current GBG is over a year out of date. A lot can happen in that time-perhaps the pub has gone downhill?

Anonymous said...

NAME & SHAME, NAME & SHAME, NAME & SHAME .....

Steve Lamond said...

feed back to the local camra branch

Simon Johnson said...

The Guide is already out of date before it's even printed, given the time it takes to produce. And there's a quota of pubs that can be included. And no pub is always at 100% of what it should be.

How was the beer? After all, it's a Good Beer Guide, not a Good Pub Guide...

Anonymous said...

Tim, you were in camra long enough to know thwt the good beer guide is just that, a good BEER guide. Pub of season/year takes the other factors into account. Pub 1 you mention does divide opinion, I think it is much improved, it was almost impossible a few years ago to get served if your face didn't fit, at least you got a decent half. Pub 2 was not even open when the current guide went to press, and only open a couple of weeks when the 2013 guide assembly began so it will be our secret until 2014.

Jibber said...

Tim, I'm not sure I agree with you about the GBG being a 'must have' book. Perhaps it was once, but for the reasons you cite, plus the fact that it is always going to be out of date, and the problems of carrying such a bulky book around (unless you're one of those people who have succumbed to a 'man bag'), I tend not to bother.

I'm sure I've said this before, but, if I'm going anywhere for beer, I do a bit of web based research, including websites such as Trip Advisor, BITE, as well as the local CAMRA branch web pages. I think you get a far more balanced view that way. And you can do things like print out a street map and mark in the pub locations.

Some local CAMRA branch websites actually provide sample crawls in their area, which can be printed out. OK, you end up with loads of sheets of A4, but isn't that better than a 900 page book, most of which is totally irrelevant to your immediate needs?

Cooking Lager said...

There are 2 approaches depending I think on whether you have an idea of how it is complied.

Before I read beer blogs I'd have assumed it similar to Michelin guides and if the guide proved unreliable I'd bin it off. A couple of duff entries would lose me as a user and buyer.

The wonder of beer blogs has led me to believe each branch decide the better pubs of their own area. If I got a duff pub I would either think that area of the guide was unreliable and not bin the whole book or think if this is one of the better pubs round here, god help the crapper ones.

Tandleman said...

What they all said and you can't really judge a pub on one visit.

Anonymous said...

Its the good BEER guide. I know of several pubs in it that are not the nicest of places and have terrible staff at times but nice beer is what i go for, it is just a GUIDE after all not a definitive list of what you personally like.

Cooking Lager said...

On a further note, I've never really seen the need for a beer guide.

I can see the point in a bus timetable but not a "good bus guide"

Maybe there was a point when real ale drinkers wanted to find something that wasn't as common as it now is.

Some of the more interesting dives I've found myself come from leaving the hotel, walking around and walking in anywhere so long as there is no blood or teeth on the steps. But then again I'm not on a search for the best pong, I just want to slip a bit of gut rot.

Not sure I need either advice or to follow the well worn path of others.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Token visit to the sticks perchance.

MISTER CRYPTOS

Curmudgeon said...

One man's shabby pub is another one's unspoilt pub. One man's grubby pub is another one's down-to-earth, authentic pub.

Neil Harvey said...

Just to say that I must agree with Jibber - I get the GBG every year, but only to keep my collection going, I've got every one since 1983! I never use it when going somewhere new, or even where I've been before, just use a lot of web-based research. Most local CAMRA websites keep up-to-date lists, York branch being a good example, and with other sites such as Beer In The Evening, the GBG is just so outdated.