The 2022 Good Beer Guide is the 49th edition and has been one of the most problematic for local branches to compile. The combination of submission deadlines and lockdowns created much uncertainty about what would be open. Some branches have largely replicated the 2021 lists, perhaps reasoning those pubs didn’t fully reap the benefits of inclusion (which is fortunately more than just a few dozen tickers running in for a quick half, never to return). Consequently turnover is roughly half that of a normal year. Wales has only 5 entries that have not previously featured.
Us tickers struggled through the 2021 edition, handicapped by almost half the year when pubs were either not allowed to open or were required to operate under restrictive conditions. A small number haven’t been open since the first lockdown. It’s a miracle so many have kept going in the circumstances. After a particularly slothful August-October I remain 64 short of completion, most of which retain their place, and am still 14 short of finishing the 2020 Guide. Remarkably the number of breweries shows a net increase despite 75 closures, most – though not all- small recent entrants to the industry.
My opening deficit in the 2022 edition was 260 pubs and, after some remedial action in the south-west and north-east of England, it currently stands at 215. This is interesting, nay vital information as I’m sure you’ll agree (alternatively, insert yawn emoji). As is the fact that I was denied a clean sweep of the south-west by the owners of the Seven Stars in Dartmouth, Devon “taking a well-earned break” posting it outside the pub but not on their Facebook page, which states it is “always open”. Not only that but it was the second time this year we had found it closed. Ah well, it’s only a 988 mile round trip. But at least the ferry over from Kingswear was great.
Some pubs make welcome reappearances after long absences. The Yew Tree at All Stretton, Shropshire was last listed in 1980. Then it sold Mitchell and Butler’s Mild, Brew XI and Bass on electric pump, enjoying a two word description: “untarnished pub”. Now it sells Wye Valley beers and earns 77 words.
The Alexandra in Hull (pic: Georgiasam) last showed its distinguished face in 1976, then a Hull brewery “busy working man’s pub with an unusual Victorian facade”.
The longest gap belongs to the Cross Keys, Hatfield Peverel, Essex which graced the first two editions in 1974 and 1975 but not since, and there are plenty of others that last appeared decades ago. Inevitably, there are anomalies. The Wychwood Brewery Tap reappears despite having not being open since March 2020. And limited opening hours continue to be the bane of the ticker’s life with the Rock Mill Brewery Tap in New Mills open only six hours a week. Not that that stopped a well-known Northern ticker bagging it early doors.
Shildon in County Durham gets an entry for the first time for 26 years though in midweek you have to be there before it closes for the day at 14.30. Of the 6 previous entries in the town, only 2 survive, neither selling real ale. The Cross Keys was in from 1977-1984, “small local with pleasant atmosphere. Spot the ‘Strongarm’ carving.” And there was joy unconfined in the Western Isles as the Crown in Stornoway made its debut, though perhaps not so much joy amongst the ticking community
There had been some debate whether to reduce the number of pubs included or even publish at all but the Good Beer Guide remains an annual treat and branches have worked hard in difficult circumstances to make it relevant. Here’s to the 50th edition next year.