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.