Inside the mind of CAMRA

We hope CAMRA appreciates the brilliant if unsanctioned work of its activist bloggers. All the paid-for PR and press releases in the world can’t compete with the kind of insight we get daily from Maeib, Tandleman, Steve and others.

Recently, all three have come into their own, explaining the murky world of Good Beer Guide selection to outsiders in posts like those linked above. When we questioned why a particular pub wasn’t in the Good Beer Guide a few months back, Steve commented here, chased up with his contacts in the region in question, and then posted a detailed response here. Although Steve is careful to remind everyone that he isn’t speaking on behalf of CAMRA when he blogs, he certainly boosts its image by doing so.

We still don’t understand why, in some towns, the GBG lists so many indifferent Wetherspoons and Greene King pubs; and we’d rather be told, straight up, which are the most interesting pubs in town, rather than those with the most consistent beer quality (inconsistency is half the fun with real ale, right?); but at least we know now that the decisions aren’t made by robots or at random.

20 replies on “Inside the mind of CAMRA”

For at least a year, when I first starting properly drinking, I assumed it was Roger Protz’s job to choose the pubs!! How naive of me! I now know better, thanks in part to those great blogs. It’s a good insight.

Thanks for the shout out – twice in two posts!

Being directly involved with GBG selection the way I am this year is good fun even if I’m getting to drink some substandard beers. Tomorrow I’ll write about how all CAMRA members can play their part.

Perhaps the is a place for an Idiosyncratic Beer Guide.

I’ve mostly found pubs that are in the GBG to be good when I’ve visited when out and about, but to a certain extent it will be a bit of a camel; designed by a committee.

“inconsistency is half the fun with real ale, right?” Agreed! Choice and change is why we eat different food most nights….and so with beer. I mean, filet mignon is great to eat, but after six nights of it, don’t you just long fpr eggs and bacon?

I find it slightly closed minded that the GBG focusses only on Real Ale, and cask at that. There are plenty of good pubs serving continental lagers that left out due to pure ignorance.

Tim — I suppose (and I do always forget this) that it’s called the Good Beer Guide, rather than the Good Pub Guide, so we shouldn’t really complain about the emphasis on beer over venue. But, yeah, I usually want to know where in a strange town is worth visiting, not just whether it’s got real ale on.

Beer is not a term which describes only cask ales and I hate it when old codgers describe ale as beer and lager as a subspecies. The Good Beer guide should describe both ales and lagers which sadly it does not.

Kind words, thank you. The answer to your first line would be a resounding no – unsanctioned, unedited, unsupervised – makes people nervous. The answer to your last line is “not in every branch”.
Cheers Steve


I think you’re missing the point. As explained, CAMRA is an organisation dedicated to promoting real ale. The GBG is a by product of that-it was started and its purpose still is to help find real ale pubs. It is not close minded for an organisation to fulfill its remit-it is normal. The Catholic Church does not print a directory of Anglican churches, nor does the AA print the Good Train Guide.

Interesting to hear an outisde view-it is actually quite simple, but I can see how it may seem mysterious to those not in the know. I wouldn’t say incosistency is half the fun of real ale and if you bear that it mind, it might answer why some pubs you think interesting don’t get in.

On the specific point about Wetherspoons and Greene King. Firstly, if really shouldn;t matter what the pub serves, or if it’s a chain pub or not. Always remember it is the Good Beer Guide, first and last. What can happen-luckily not in my area-is simply a matter of practicality. There are a certain number of places available in each area. In an area where real ale pubs are scarce, the 10 places (for example) may well include a JDW as that is one of the top 10. The only other way would be to set a minimum standard score across the country and any pub failing below that would fail. This would mean that the GBG would vary in size from year to year. Branches are very reluctant to leave quotas unfilled and so the GBG is simply the best 4500 pubs currently out there. Allegedly!

Where are these pubs selling amazing continental lager?

In my experience, pubs that care about having interesting continental beer also sell real ale.

Or is Tim proposing to include every tedious city centre bar in the GBG on the strength of them having some bottles of Budvar or Fürstenberg in the fridge?

As Tyson says it is interesting to hear an outside view, albeit one that seems to miss the point. I would be horrified though if a knowingly sub standard pub was knowingly put in the GBG just to make up numbers.

Also as I pointed out to my meeting, it is the Good Beer Guide, not the Good Pub Guide, though usually where you get one you get the other.

I have said before it isn’t a perfect system, but what guide is?

I’ve taken on the job of co-ordinating the 2010 GBG entries for CAMRA’s East London and City area. Our selection is primarily based on more than 1,500 survey reports by members over recent months. If anyone is familiar with this area and wants to help with the selection you are welcome to come to my meeting which is at 8:30pm at the Black Lion, Plaistow High Street, London, E13 on Monday 9 February. All help gratefully received – if anything comes to a vote, then only CAMRA members may take part, but all are welcome at the meeting. As others have said, the GBG is a real ale guide and consistently high beer quality is the sole criteria for entry.

Comments are closed.