Today sees the publication date of the Good Beer Guide 2020. Those of us who get it on prescription have had it for a week or two on the basis that the contents are embargoed.
In addition to the embargo I was placed under an official CAMRA handicap system that prevented me from entering a Guide pub until now. That meant I couldn’t tell you about hunting pre-emptive entries in Barry.
Or the rather wonderful Bewdley Brewery Tap in Worcestershire’s handsome Georgian town.
The 47th edition of the good book has benefited from a nimble redesign including a bold, clean cover. It includes contributions by Brian Cox and Jodie Kidd, who I always get confused. Not with each other but with you know, the other one. No not Brian Kidd, the other former model.
But it’s the pubs of course that demand our attention. Slacking a bit these days, I didn’t quite finish the 2019 edition – 7 are carried forward, 5 of which survive to fight another year.
Not that they are all pubs. Hello Chester-le-Street Masonic Centre, Whitworth Vale and Healey Brass Band Club and Mildenhall Town Football Club.
Welcome back to the Fintry Inn, with its recycled denim bar stools (one man said I was literally sitting on his backside).
And to the Cellar Door in Pun Street, Newport.
My opening deficit is 431, just under 10%, much the same as last year. Of those needed I estimate about 75 are micropubs or brewery taps, which broadly reflects pub trends across England, at least. There are now more breweries in London (125) than there were across the whole of the UK in 1978, when about 120 made cask beer.
Hull Brewery was one of them, with an interesting description. Anyone know what “rough filtered” meant?
Some older traditions are observed such as the annual inclusion of a new pub from an apparently inexhaustible supply in Portland, Dorset. High quality accommodation will be needed for such trips.
The Connoisseur Ales award for limited opening times goes to Message in a Bottle, a bottle shop with outdoor seating in Cleethorpes that only sells draught beer at weekends. Sharing the award is the Leigh-on-Sea Brewery Tap in Essex, which also only opens for 12 hours a week.
An exciting overseas trip is on offer to the Holy Island, where a double beckons but the only first time entry in beer-friendly Norwich looks like a Greene King house and the Suffolk branch have teased us by including the Greene King Beer Cafe. It must be an acquired taste.
An evaluation of the allocation formula is long overdue. There are areas with allocations that they are increasingly unable to adequately fill and others where plenty of excellent pubs don’t make the cut. Like the council tax, no one is going to grasp that nettle in a hurry.
It is, of course, easy to find fault – any guide of this type is going to contain minor errors. Orlingbury has an entry but doesn’t appear on the county map so if you don’t know where it is, you may never will. Nor is any guide of this type able to reflect very recent changes or closures. But the Good Beer Guide remains a remarkable publication and indispensable companion that will rarely leave my side in the months ahead.
Good quaffing everyone!