It’s Saturday October 17th. It isn’t but it was then and chronology is so yesterday. News arrives from the east (Newmarket) of the first sighting of the 2021 edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
Having already left home five hours earlier I relied upon telegrams and carrier pigeons to relay the contents, arriving at noon at the King’s Head in Buckingham’s rather charming High Street to usher in the good book with half of Silverstone Pitstop. It was in the wrong glass- Belgians would recoil – but it tasted marvellous.
Off and running then and next up was the Hundred at Ashendon accompanied by a glass of Dark Star Hophead. Is it my changing taste buds or has that beer shaded in recent years?
It’s the very picture of an English country inn, though with an unusual sign.
As you know these are dangerous times. Whatever you do, don’t use a hand dryer.
After an afternoon salivating at Chesham United’s lovely terracing, it was off to Great Missenden, an obviously prosperous small Buckinghamshire town (popn. 10,138). In 1972 the then Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale produced a prototype Good Beer Guide. The pubs listed largely reflected those most familiar to the authors so were largely, though not exclusively, in the south of England. There were 13 A4 pages of pubs, and Great Missenden featured prominently.
Of the 6 entries, the only surviving pub, also in the 2020 Guide, is the Cross Keys. It’s a lovely 16th Century building, all low beams and roof tiles, with Fuller’s beers. My Oliver’s Island was very quaffable. On checking it’s strength I found the brewery’s website doesn’t exactly promote their beers but it’s 3.8%.
This one wasn’t on that 1972 list, nor has it ever appeared in a Guide until now. The heart of Great Missenden – if it has one – is one long street but I managed to walk past the George Alehouse twice. Someone had paid them to cover it up just before my visit. I have reported this malicious act to the local Sergeant-at -Arms and expect imminent action.
The name suggests a micropub but it’s not – it’s a locals bar with plenty of cask beer going down including my Saltaire Triple Choc stout. The White Lion wasn’t on the 1972 list either.
Of the others in the original Guide, The Bugle at Lee Common (title pic) was once a general store, then a pub run by Keith and Marjorie Webb and, later, their son Anthony. Now closed, according to the above website Mrs Webb was buried in the car park. In accordance with her wishes, we are invited to presume.
The Prince of Wales, an Ind Coope house described as “completely unspoilt, small pub. Beer served directly from the barrel” closed, fell into disrepair and was demolished for housing in 2009.
The Barley Mow and Red Lion – the latter described by the closed pubs site as being “at the forefront of the real ale revolution” – are also long closed and the Pheasant became a house.
Pubs disappear for different reasons in different parts of the country and demand for high end housing is a factor in counties like Bucks. It’s not all relentless decline but where and how we drink has changed. The Wild Kite Taproom and Bottle Shop is in Great Missenden and not far away, the Malt Brewery also has a tap, places that would not have been feasible until a few years ago.
The night came to a premature conclusion with a covid failure.
Not the first I would experience in the short interval before all the pubs were closed again. And surely not the last when they once again reopen. Who’d be a publican in these times?