So the new Good Beer Guide is out. That’s your drinking for 2014 sorted, right? Last week’s launch was somewhat overshadowed by a spat with the editors of the Good Pub Guide over the future of the traditional boozer. It was something of a no-contest as CAMRA came over all positive and supportive, while the GPG came over all elitist with a rather hackneyed view of the situation. Not good for a publication supposedly extolling the virtues of the British pub. Of course the GPG is elitist and any credibility it may have aspired to went by the wayside when it started charging for entries.
But what about the GBG? Well as I sit here perusing it whilst supping my rather tired pint of Windermere Pale, a few points struck me. Yes, as usual, it does contain articles about beer and pubs and the 4500 pubs chosen by CAMRA members. It’s somewhat economic with the truth on that issue as it mentions the National Beer Scoring System as if that is the universal standard in the selection process. When, in reality, branches have been known to completely ignore it. But I won’t tell, if you don’t.
One interesting aspect is the ever-expanding breweries section. This is proving something of a headache, for the print edition anyway, as the growth in microbreweries tests the finite space that the guide can provide. This is being looked at but for the moment the only solution is to limit the amount of tasting notes. With that in mind, I doff my cap to Spire Brewery and their Brewery Liaison Officer who, by guile or serendipity, manage an impressive ten beers complete with notes.
Now CAMRA often finds itself accused-sometimes with just cause-of ignoring the craft beer scene. And when I say “craft” here, I am of course referring to the keg brewers. Well, in a move that began some editions ago, you will find plenty of these listed in the GBG. Some, like Kernel, can perhaps be justified on the grounds of having produced at least one cask beer. And perhaps some traditionalists can accept Partizan on the basis of bottle-conditioning. But the inclusion of others, with no pretence of being interested in cask brewing, has irked some members who complain it deprives more deserving entries of more space.
GBG 2014. Overall, still worth buying, IMO, but the digital version is cheaper and more portable. However, sad bibliophiles like me will continue to collect the print version.