Edited by Roger Protz
If you’re familiar with the Good Beer Guide, you’ll know what to expect from this latest edition.
Now in its 37th year, the Guide keeps on growing and currently pushes 900 pages, which makes for a hefty tome to carry around with you – especially now that the format has been enlarged, making the book a touch wider. But where else can you find so much detail about the best beer pubs and breweries? There are other pub guides in publication, but none of them focuses on beer quality and variety in the way that the daddy of pub guides does.
The layout, as ever, is functional rather than flowery. Any attempt to be over-adventurous when you’re trying to pack so much information into one volume proscribes that. So you have the pubs, broken down by county, followed by an A-Z of British breweries, with their regular beers noted and tasting notes added for many. Editorial features highlight the state of the industry, with the emphasis on beer duty and pub closures, but with heritage pub preservation, beer styles and the basics of brewing also given prominence.
The great strength of the Good Beer Guide is also, in some people’s eyes, its weakness. Because pubs are chosen and researched by local volunteer CAMRA members, the descriptions are occasionally not perhaps as evocative as they could be, which leads some critics to suggest that the professional paid inspector is the better method of inspection.
As a former editor of the Good Beer Guide myself, I would hotly dispute this. I know how word from the ground filters up to the head office and how changes can be accommodated late on in the production process, with pubs mercilessly slung out if the beer quality suddenly collapses. Books relying on readers’ recommendations or a small core of anonymous, paid snoopers cannot hope to be anything like as topical. I’ve seen pubs glowingly reviewed in other guides that have been closed for two or three years!
That’s a key point. With the pub trade undergoing such enormous upheaval at the moment, who are you going to trust: the man who’s last visit was nine months ago (at best – assuming there has been a visit of some kind in recent times and not just a quick e-mail or phone survey) – or the locals who are in and out of pubs on a weekly basis, and have an ear to the ground for any significant changes?
No, the Good Beer Guide’s not perfect, but it’s built on the love of a good pint. The fact that so many readers make sure they get a new copy every year underlines that. Don’t waste your money on any look-alikes. Get the real thing.
888-page paperback (CAMRA Books)
Click on the following links to buy now at a discount from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com