It’s new CAMRA Good Beer Guide season and across the land can be heard the familiar cries of “I can’t believe X is/isn’t in!”
Most people who are into beer know that the Good Beer Guide is not the be all and end all – it doesn’t claim to be.
It’s an assessment on the quality and consistency of cask beer, so pubs without cask beer will not get in, no matter how stunning the keg selection.
Selection processes vary from district to district, as we understand it, but the Bristol branch has clearly documented processes which seem to be about as thorough and democratic as is possible to be, but obviously will still favour pubs that are popular with active CAMRA members.
We’re not really sociable enough to contribute to this sort of thing so of course we don’t get to complain if we don’t like the entries. And actually, in Bristol, there isn’t much to grumble about from our perspective.
(Unlike in Penzance where to our eternal bafflement The Cornish Crown got in year after year, sometimes as the only entry; it’s fine but we could think of three or four consistently better cask ale pubs in town.)
In the two and a bit years we’ve been here, the Bristol selections are generally a good representation of quality beer and also reflect a range of different pubs and other drinking establishments to suit all tastes.
There are a couple whose inclusion we might question based on our visits but the main issue is the omission of some particular favourite pubs, probably down to the space allocated to some degree.
With that in mind, we’d like to suggest a couple of supplementary entries for 2020.
The Highbury Vaults
This is a veteran GBG entry but not included this year. It has a multi-room layout, including a snug and a toy train, and can’t help but be cosy. The garden, or yard rather, has an oddly good atmosphere. There are Young’s beers, including Winter Warmer in season, and a selection of bottles. It has good old-fashioned pub snacks (pork pies, baps) as well as homely homemade food.
The Good Measure
We assume this didn’t make the GBG as it only opened in December 2018. The team at Good Chemistry are behind this so their beers obviously feature but also several guests, usually from the north, which makes a refreshing change in Bristol. Timothy Taylor Landlord is often on, for example. There are keg beers, too. We particularly love the contemporary yet classic feel of the interior.
The Canteen (AKA Hamilton House)
This was in the guide in 2019 but isn’t anymore. It’s not really a pub, more a community cafe with an emphasis on all things local, which is perhaps why it’s not in our main Bristol pub guide, but regularly has four or five cask ales from Bristol Beer Factory, New Bristol and others. Being round the corner from Jess’s most recent job, it’s also somewhere she got to know well and found the beer to be in consistently good condition.
In coming up with the above list, we’ve kept to GBG criteria and haven’t included keg bars, cider houses and so on.
We’ve also left out a couple of pubs we really like but we haven’t visited enough to judge the consistency of the ale – maybe we’ll suggest them for 2021.
It would be interesting to read similar supplementary guides to other cities and regions from other bloggers. How well does the GBG represent your town, city or region?