Considerable Resentment

Illustration: a glowing pint of beer.

On Saturday we did something we’ve been putting off for a long time: we submitted a rating to CAMRA’s national beer scoring system (NBSS).

What took us so long? The faff of log­ging on to the web­site to sub­mit a score, for one thing, although it was pret­ty pain­less once we were in, but also, there was a reluc­tance to get sucked into robot­ic tick­ing-scor­ing-log­ging behav­iour.

We were prompt­ed to action by the fact that, for the sec­ond year in a row, the only Pen­zance pub in the Good Beer Guide is The Crown – a very decent place in its own way but whose beer isn’t the best in town by a long chalk. Per­haps there aren’t many scores logged down this way, or per­haps those that are record­ed come from peo­ple who (as is com­mon among old­er Cor­nish drinkers) have ongo­ing beef with St Austell, or with par­tic­u­lar pub­li­cans. What­ev­er the rea­son we sus­pect, or hope, our scores might actu­al­ly make a dif­fer­ence.

Get­ting used to the sys­tem might take a while, though. We’ve chuck­led over the NBSS scale before, when we saw it repro­duced in a local CAMRA mag­a­zine, but were amused anew when we refreshed our mem­o­ries in the pub at the week­end:

0. No cask ale avail­able.
1. Poor. Beer that is any­thing from bare­ly drink­able to drink­able with con­sid­er­able resent­ment.
2. Aver­age. Com­pe­tent­ly kept, drink­able pint but doesn’t inspire in any way, not worth mov­ing to anoth­er pub but you drink the beer with­out real­ly notic­ing.
3. Good. Good beer in good form. You may can­cel plans to move to the next pub. You want to stay for anoth­er pint and may seek out the beer again. 
4. Very Good. Excel­lent beer in excel­lent con­di­tion.
5. Per­fect. Prob­a­bly the best you are ever like­ly to find. A sea­soned drinker will award this score very rarely. 

Our favourite is num­ber 1 which con­jures an image of a hard-done-by Albert Step­toe fig­ure grum­bling into a pint, too ner­vous to take it back but too tight-fist­ed to walk away. But, of course, we’ve all been there, and the same goes for the more pos­i­tive num­ber 3.

Exact­ly how rarely will a ‘sea­soned drinker’ give a per­fect score? We’re prob­a­bly fair­ly well salt­ed and pep­pered these days and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, have become quite fussy – it some­times feels as if all we do is moan. Nonethe­less, we reg­u­lar­ly come across pints of St Austell Prop­er Job – a beer we know very well – in absolute peak con­di­tion. It would seem daft to hold off award­ing 5 just in case there’s an even bet­ter, mag­i­cal­ly won­der­ful pint to be found some­where down the line.

What we won’t be doing is using NBSS scores to com­mu­ni­cate our expe­ri­ences here on the blog. No, sor­ry, but you’re stuck with ‘like lick­ing Kia Ora off a pot plant’ and all that for the time being.

12 thoughts on “Considerable Resentment”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever giv­en a 5 since the new sys­tem has been in oper­a­tion, although I vague­ly recall giv­ing a 4½. The main point is to sort out the 2½s, 3s and 3½s. though.

    Also some branch­es still com­plete­ly ignore NBSS when mak­ing GBG selec­tions. Yes, it can only ever be used as a guide, not as Holy Writ, but that is just stick­ing your head in the sand.

  2. It’s always struck me that the CAMRA scale is log­a­rith­mic, in that even though 2/5 doesn’t sound a good score at all, a 2 (accord­ing to the descrip­tion) is actu­al­ly a fine, accept­able beer, but a 3 is a huge jump in qual­i­ty, wor­thy of chang­ing your plans for the rest of the evening. I think of 4 as the best that mor­tal men can expect to achieve, and 5 is what the beer is like in Val­hal­la.

  3. Seems like “0” is actu­al­ly a bet­ter cir­cum­stance than “1,” but I’m not skilled in CAMRA hermeneu­tics.

  4. We were prompt­ed to action by the fact that, for the sec­ond year in a row, the only Pen­zance pub in the Good Beer Guide is The Crown — a very decent place in its own way but whose beer isn’t the best in town by a long chalk.”

    Judg­ing by the con­tents of the beer guide for the 3–4 cities I know well, the rela­tion­ship between entrance in the Good Beer Guide and the qual­i­ty of the beer, let alone the qual­i­ty of the pub, is almost entire­ly arbi­trary.

  5. It would be inter­est­ing to hear about Cor­nish drinkers’ ongo­ing beef with St Austell. Do tell.

    1. We’ve writ­ten about it a few times here and there. The gist is, the beer used to be pret­ty rot­ten until about 1998–9 which some peo­ple still aren’t over, hence the nick­name ‘St Awful’. Then there’s the prob­lem with their dom­i­nance of the pubs – some­thing like 200 tied hous­es, none of which ever have guest ales, which makes it real­ly tough for Cor­nish brew­eries to get their beer into Cor­nish pubs and con­tributes to an over­all sense of stag­na­tion.

      1. No guest ales is a ter­ri­bly short-sight­ed pol­i­cy. If their best is as good as you say it is (I haven’t drank Prop­er Job in years, and don’t recall it being a tran­scen­dent expe­ri­ence), sure­ly hav­ing some of the best of the rest along­side it would only serve to increase foot­fall rather than reduce their slice of a fixed-size pie.

        1. Depends where the foot­fall is com­ing from – the geog­ra­phy of Corn­wall and Snozzle’s dom­i­nance means that they’d like­ly only be can­ni­bal­is­ing sales from anoth­er of their pubs, whilst hand­ing brew­ing mar­gin to some­one else. I had a chat with the Rebel guys a few months ago and they claimed there were <20 free-of-tie pubs in the whole of Corn­wall – in fact there’s more brew­eries than FOT pubs. Not sure how true that is but it sound­ed plau­si­ble.

          It’s tricky – the geog­ra­phy is very dif­fer­ent to some­where like Der­by, where com­pe­ti­tion can come in from all sides from well-fund­ed com­pa­nies. Kent might be a par­tial com­par­i­son being sur­round­ed by sea on two sides, it’s no coin­ci­dence that it was home to the microp­ub move­ment giv­en the dom­i­nance of Sheps. But again it’s a bit dif­fer­ent as there’s more mon­ey in Kent and lots of micro­brew­eries with­in direct deliv­ery dis­tance, where­as Cor­nish microp­ubs would prob­a­bly rely more on dis­trib­u­tors, which add cost and don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly do any­thing for beer qual­i­ty. I’d guess the sea­son­al­i­ty of the Cor­nish trade prob­a­bly doesn’t make it easy for the aver­age microp­ub either, they don’t have the cash reserves to weath­er the win­ter.

  6. Where’s bet­ter than the Crown, then? Will be back down that way in a few weeks, and although the beer isn’t that inter­est­ing, it’s not bad, and it’s a nice pub. Where do you rec­om­mend?

    1. Most pubs in town serve beer at least as good as The Crown (in terms of con­di­tion, if not vari­ety) – the stan­dard is gen­er­al­ly good. A notch above is the con­sis­tent­ly great Stuff Austell Prop­er Job at The Yacht, and Broad­side at The Pirate. The Dock, though it’s lost a lit­tle mag­ic under new man­age­ment, has decent Spin­go, and Pen­zance Brew­ing Co Potion 9.

      1. Thanks. I’m very fond of Prop­er Job, but we stay in Sen­nen Cove for a week so that’s nor­mal­ly what I drink most of in The Old Suc­cess. Pen­zance drink­ing has most­ly been con­fined to The Crown, The Admi­ral Ben­bow and The Turk’s Head, so will give The Dock a go this time. The Pirate is a bit far out of town.

  7. I sub­mit­ted a score for a pun in Kendal for the same rea­son. Been for times in last year and beer is superb but not in GBG for some years. Not unique sit­u­a­tion as oth­ers state. One thing my local branch does well is to not use the nation­al scor­ing sys­tem but score from 0 to 10.

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