I was rather suprised to find my copy of the 2008 Good Beer Guide on my doorstep yesterday. This is the 35th edition of the book and as a CAMRA member who has signed up to a special direct debit scheme, I receive it cheaper and earlier than it is available in the shops, but I didn't realise it was due just yet.
As I am sure most of you know the GBG lists the best real ale pubs in Britain as chosen by local CAMRA branches. It also lists every brewery in operation at the time of going to print - together with a list of most of their beers - and also gives details of pub groups, and CAMRA beer festivals.
At the front of each year's edition there are articles written by beer journalists. This year we have articles on the smoking ban, beer with food, green brewing, short measures, and others. The article which interested me the most was regarding the ten pubs which have been in all 35 editions of the guide. These are:
The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall
The Buckingham Arms, London SW1
The Cherry Tree, Tintern, Wales
New Inn, Kilmington, Devon
Queen's Head, Newton, Cambs
Roscoe Head, Liverpool
Sow & Pigs, Toddington, Beds
Square & Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset
Star Inn, Netherton, Northumberland
Star Tavern, London SW1
Hats off to these pubs!
As with all pub guides peaople will complain that such and such a pub should be in, or such and such a pub shouldn't. There is no way everybody can be totally pleased, but I reckon the GBG does a pretty good job.
The two pubs in my home county that have made immeasurable improvements on the real ale front this year are both included. These are The Wig & Pen, Northampton and The Coach & Horses, Wellingborough. The inclusion of these pubs is well merited and is proof that the guide is as up to date as can be.
If I do have a criticism of the book, it is that important information is hidden away amongst the pubs, For example on page 199 there are obituaries to George Bateman, Bill Witty and Claude Arkell, and on page 47 there is a description of real ale. Both of these need more prominence in the book and should be at the front with the other articles. Having said that though, these are small complaints, and I wouldn't be without my copy each year. There is no better pub guide in this country or probably the World.