The 1985 Good Beer Guide

I hope lockdown ends and the pubs reopen before this blog trickles towards the present day, but in the meantime here is a glimpse of 1985.

That year’s Good Beer Guide contained a useful review of the year. Some things had changed: Scottish and Newcastle produced a cask version of Exhibition Ale, the first real ale to come out of the Tyne since 1971; and John Smith’s produced cask beer for the first time since 1976; both suggesting a tipping point for CAMRA’s campaigning. Some things, though, had not changed:

Public enemy number one was the Host Group, a subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan, who announced it was creating 1,500 ‘theme establishments’ including “cut-price fast food services, ethnic theme pubs, all day entertainment centres titled ‘Slots of Fun’; and pseudo-New York cocktail joints.

Though theme pubs were nothing new – as explain in their excellent 21st Century Pub, which dates them back to at least the 1950’s – I do wonder what happened to the planned ethnic theme pubs unless they mean fake Irish and Walkabout bars.

I went to the Cardinal’s Hat in Worcester that year, which was a relatively southern outpost for Davenport’s bitter. A fine C14th building, in more recent times it spent an undistinguished period as an Austrian-themed pub, an idea that surprisingly didn’t catch on.


The Guide rails against unchanged opening hours in England and offers the following advice:

Mostly holds good

Guides of that period had a liberal sprinkling of cartoons, some of which contained more than a germ of truth:

There was also 15 pages devoted to the burgeoning beer scene around the world, and a useful map of established independent breweries, more than a few long gone:

The review also marked the death of Doris ‘Ma’ Pardoe at the magnificent Old Swan in Netherton, one of only four brew pubs left in the country after 1974.

Pic from Tandleman’s blog

My modest enough aspiration in those days was to get a tick on every page of the pubs section. The plan to visit every pub must have seemed over-ambitious back then and I only went to 270 new pubs. I remember being childishly pleased (and still am) about visiting three consecutive Ploughs in April, an uncontrived hat-trick.

I couldn’t have done that today as the Plough in Shadforth is now called the Farmer’s Arms.

Can’t recall the cow but it needs milking

The Captain Cook in Staithes, North Yorkshire stands out in the memory. It was run by a lovely, seemingly ancient couple from London’s East End. An old railway hotel, it stood high above the village. In my memory it provided a gorgeous view of the coast.

For the avoidance of doubt it’s named after the seafaring chap, not Alistair, the former England cricket captain. Captain James Cook moved to Staithes when he was sixteen years ago, in 1745, though the pub looks Victorian.

The Coalhole in West Sherburn, County Durham, was another gem. It was later renamed the Bay Horse, and run by Jean Newman, a former female jockey who, in those unenlightened times, never actually rode against another woman. It inevitably reminded me of the pleasingly named Bay Horse at er, Bay Horse.

Poor ticking performance

A final recollection. The Barrack Tavern on Leeds Road, Bradford was a lively Cameron’s pub, also a southern outlier for that brewery. The Guide said it had a ‘good cross-section of topers’ which was a neat way of putting it.

The Closed Pubs website recalls the pub had an Educational Group for many years after the war. Not to be confused with the Barracks Tavern on Lumb Lane, it’s long closed now.

23 thoughts on “The 1985 Good Beer Guide

  1. The Host Group was a spectacularly disastrous exercise in marketing hubris. Few of their theme refurbs survived more than four or five years, and many of the pubs concerned are now closed. And the Mersey Tavern in Stockport (which is still with is) was transformed into the “Far Pavilions”, complete with giant pith helmet above the bar 😮

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting, looking at your superb hand written notes I suspect I visited the Cleveland, Thornaby on 14th April 2001 prior to a famous 1-0 away win at Hartlepools United. I looked it up in case we actually visited on the same date, I recalled it was at the business end of the season. I had a walk around Thornaby several years later to identify the pub.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t at that game. If they are anything like Reading fans there will be a generation of City fans who eulogise those times. Stuff your Cup Finals and Arsenal away. I have 5 volumes of those hand written lists and my writing has deteriorated massively since then!


      1. Even with you pedigree, I’d have been amazed if by chance you were at the game Duncan. You are quite right, I am among that generation. It seemed far more honest down in the lower leagues. As long as we win the odd game, it will be a pleasure to be back.

        My handwriting has never been anywhere near that level.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is great. A special request, can we have 1986 next, please.

    Your handwriting was very neat; not sure mine has been that neat since I was at primary school.

    April 7 was a great day. That’s the Loftus pub that’s back in this year , is it ?

    Were you combining pubs with football at this stage ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the Station in Loftus this year I think. Yes lots of football seen then too, most of it league games, the worst of all in May 1985 Reading 3 Bolton 4 play off final aet. After finishing 2nd in the league too above Bolton but only one went up that year. Even worse than that, 2-0 up then missed a penalty. Couldn’t bring myself to mention it. I only did 1985 to fulfil your request but perhaps you are detecting a chronological pattern.


      1. The play offs are a cruel game. We are fortunate to have never lost a final, in fact our only failure in them was in the aforementioned 2001 season when we lost a second leg 2-0 away at Orient having won 1-0 at home. Shame really, as I don’t think we will ever play at the Millenium Stadium. Losing a final 4-3 from 2-0 up sounds horrible.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Since then we lost 3-2 to Walsall in the Div 2 play off in Cardiff after being 2-1 up in extra time. Then in 2011 lost 2-4 to Swansea after being 3-0 down at half time, pulling two back, hitting the post then conceding. The last defeat was a penalty shoot out to Huddersfield. Went to all four and vowed never again, a vow not yet put to the test.


      3. So it was. I am transferring my football records onto a spreadsheet and have just reached 1995 and THAT match. I can’t keep him up with all your posts but love the pics of old progs. Strange lost decade symmetry.


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