The Good Beer Guide 2015 should be falling on my doorstep this week and a chat with a fellow CAMRA member last night brought it home to me how subjective it is as to which pubs get included although, in our branch at least, the process is as democratic as we can make it. First of all, how does one define 'good beer'. To most members the pubs in the guide must meet at least one criteria - they always serve their beer in excellent condition. It may only serve Greene King IPA but it is Greene King IPA as good as it possibly can be whenever you go in there. But would most CAMRA members think any GK beer is 'good' even if it is served in excellent condition? I'm sure some would but there are many who won't.
My discussion last night revolved around a pub that was on our short list this year but did not receive a single vote. My argument was why put it on the short list again as the beer selection is still the same, the pub is still more restaurant than pub and nothing has changed to suggest it will receive a vote next time around. When we meet later this month and discuss the initial long list I'm sure it will be included on that one but personally I would like to see more worthy pubs on the short list this time around.
Those of you wondering how pubs are included in the GBG I can therefore tell you that the process for selecting the pubs for the 2016 guide will begin this month. We draw up a long list and come December we will have narrowed it down to a short list of about 30-35 pubs. All members will be aware of which pubs are on the short list so they can visit those pubs selected over the winter months before we vote on which pubs to include in a special meeting in February. At this time all the branch socials will involve visiting these pubs too. All members will select their 24 pubs (the allocation for our area) and the number of votes for each pub are added up. The top 24 pubs are therefore included and those finishing just outside are listed as reserves in case of last minute occurrences such as licensee changes or closures.
Going back to my discussion last night the question goes back to how we define 'good beer'. Personally I would not vote for a pub that only sells national brands if they are free to sell anything else. In my opinion a pub selling Doom Bar is not selling 'good beer' whatever condition it may be in. There are many pubs in our area selling this beer but rarely at the exclusion of anything else too. There was one example this year of one pub which sold this Cornish beer but which also sells some notable guest beers (one or two depending upon season) but when I went to survey it the guest beers were off and I ended up having a bottle of Punk IPA. Despite this I voted for it to be included because I know the pub and I did do my survey on a Monday after a weekend which saw all their guest beers sell out. Another member going into the pub for the first time may not have known this and would probably not have voted for it. So you may begin to see how subjective it all is. All members have their favourite pubs and will always vote for them to be included I'm sure but other pubs will be judged on just one or two visits by some members.
The vote is an open meeting to all CAMRA members. In our branch we have over 300 registered members but it is generally only the active members who attend the meeting and last year this was attended by 18 members. When you are wondering why certain pubs are included then you may begin to realise the decision is actually made by a small number of members but I would guess that it is these members who are the ones who have actually been to the majority of the pubs on the short list and therefore better placed to compare those selected for inclusion. If you would like to see your local included though go along to a meeting and tell other members about it and tell them why it should be included.
As always I would like to know what others think of the Good Beer Guide, the process for deciding which pubs to include, how this varies from branch to branch and anything else you wish to comment upon here relating to the GBG. I would also like to know how others would define 'good beer'. Do some people base it purely on condition irrespective of the quality of the actual beer or not? And that is a question I will leave you with.