The 1987 Good Beer Guide

These old Guides are all well worn but they were working documents pressed into frequent service. The 1987 edition had a hefty 10% mark up to £4.95.

Now that Thursday night clapping for pub tickers has stopped, we are left to our own devices and wistful recollections. Lockdown may be taking its toll but once again the past reflects the present.

There are almost more words in the cartoons than the text in the 1987 Guide, which is distinctly light on the written word.

I was a model of restrained pub ticking consistency in those years.

My football watching was also much more limited in those days. I was living in Carlisle at the time and managed only the following matches in the opening months of the 1987/8 season. There are some inexplicably gaps in the chronology. Did I really go 18 days in November without a game?

Low crowds

If so, I apologise. As well as removing the twin statues of Arthur Montford and Hugh Johns, I will also make handsome reparation to the Barry Davies Home for Retired Groundhoppers. Incidentally, Chelsea 3 Reading 2 was actually a win, 5-4 on aggregate, which made the overnight train back to work more enjoyable than it might otherwise have been. Gordon Durie scored a hat-trick for Chelsea, who led 3-0 after half an hour then declared prematurely.

Tell me about the pubs you cry. Paisley had a magnificent seven in the Guide. My impending move to the area must have been influenced by that. Today the town has four pubs that sell cask beer, one of which, the Wee Howff, remains an unchanged Guide regular.

Howden-le-Wear, high in the uplands of County Durham, had two entries. The Australian is still going strong though perhaps not with this weather beaten sign (?).

It gets its name from William Walton, a local miner, who made his fortune prospecting for gold in Australia. He returned home and, in 1874, opened a hotel he called the Australian. A generous man, he would handover nuggets to locals and, according to the Northern Echo, drank the modern equivalent of £1.28m worth of beer. Unsurprisingly he was “his hotel’s best customer”.

The other entry was The Plantation, which closed in 2010 and is now housing. This picture (from Northern Pies blogspot) was probably taken in July.

Another pub called the Australian was in Birmingham. Listed in Hurst Street, but as far as I can establish was actually in Bromsgrove Road, the Guide’s description was “lovely old Victorian Gin Palace, rediscovered after renovation”. It appears to be a gay night club now. Sticking with the West Midlands, Wolverhampton had 15 entries including the famous Combermere Arms (“tree growing in gents”) and Coventry 14, including the uniquely named Elastic Inn on Lower Ford Street, now student accommodation.

From those Geograph lads again

1987 saw my first visit to Bessie’s in Pontfaen. Like my second visit it had opened for a funeral party, which I gatecrashed. Sensitively, of course. A third visit last year was lovingly documented by Martin.

Of Chandlers in Clydebank, open from 07.30 to 23.00, the Guide asked “are these the longest opening hours in Britain?”. At the time pubs in England were only permitted to open for 9.5 hours a day. The very fact that pubs like Chandlers and the Venture in Linwood sold cask shows that real ale was the trendy craft beer of the day, in towns like these at least.

Still there minus the odd letter
Pic: Zomato

If you want more proof of that real ale was sexy, look at Northern Ireland’s half page.

Good opening hours except Sundays

Alongside pioneers Hilden there was the Herald Brewery in Coleraine and a brewpub in Lisburn. Herald supplied 35 pubs but came with a warning that “the cask beers are often served under gas pressure, often using pure nitrogen”.

I ended that year’s Guide on 938 pubs including Laal Moota in Moota, Cumbria, the description for which bears repeating in full: “Recently modernised pub, toilets now inside. Landlord reputed to be the shortest in Cumbria. Ask for a pint of Jaspers. Don’t mention dominoes”. It closed in 2004 and became a house. Shame.

11 thoughts on “The 1987 Good Beer Guide

  1. Love these! That was year Villa went back into top flight although we did pick up a welcome 2-0 win at their place! In other news I left school in 87, London 0 Hull 4 was the album to own that year and I remember Cov winning the FA Cup… not really a pubgoer by then but the small little place in Paisley looks terrific!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah yes, Happy Hour – how appropriate. They showed all that Coventry v Spurs final a few weeks ago. Houchen’s flying header! Sad and ridiculous how that club has been taken apart. Remember the Reading game that season at Villa as it poured all day and I got soaked. Only 13k there. Wee Howff is a cracking bar.

      Liked by 2 people

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