Nineteen-Seventy-Four: Birth of the Beer Guide

In 1974 the first edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide was published. We spoke to those who were involved in its genesis to find out how it came to be. Here is the story in the words of those who were there, a version of which first appeared in the summer 2017 edition of BEER magazine.

John Hanscomb
Ear­ly CAMRA mem­ber, and first edi­tor of the Good Beer Guide
We all knew we liked prop­er beer but the prob­lem was, we didn’t know where to drink – we didn’t know where the pubs were. There was Frank Baillie’s Beer Drinker’s Com­pan­ion but that was all about the brew­eries, not the pubs, although it did give you an idea of their trad­ing areas. And the brew­ers… The brew­ers wouldn’t give me any infor­ma­tion! I rang up one and asked them which were their pubs and which sold prop­er beer and they wouldn’t tell me because they thought I was from Watney’s or Whit­bread: ‘We don’t know who you are.’

Michael Hard­man
Co-founder and first chair of CAMRA
John Young [of Young’s brew­ery] was cham­pi­oning cask ale in a very seri­ous way, and had been hold­ing out for a decade before CAMRA came along. He thought of him­self as the only one left. Young’s had nev­er been a par­tic­u­lar­ly prof­itable com­pa­ny. They had some pret­ty dingy pubs, and a very ‘bit­ter’ bit­ter that was going out of fash­ion. In 1963, he’d been approached by Derek Pee­bles, a for­mer naval offi­cer, who said: ‘What you need is a PR cam­paign, and I’m the man to do it!’ What he did was put togeth­er the first ever com­pre­hen­sive list of Young’s pubs under the title ‘Real Draught Beer and Where to Find It’.

Real Draught Beer and Where to Find It

John Hanscomb
The Young’s guide was undoubt­ed­ly an influ­ence, very much so. With Young’s you could guar­an­tee that all their pubs would have prop­er beer. John Young deserves a lot of cred­it.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Nine­teen-Sev­en­ty-Four: Birth of the Beer Guide”

#BeeryLongreads 2018

On Saturday 26 May (in three months’ time) we’d like our fellow beer bloggers to post something a bit special – longer, more challenging, or just different – and share it on social media with the hashtag #BeeryLongreads, or #BeeryLongreads2018.

What’s the pur­pose? To some degree, it’s pure­ly self­ish: it’s about increas­ing the amount of deep beer and pub writ­ing around for us to enjoy. But it’s also sup­posed to encour­age oth­ers, like the writ­ing equiv­a­lent of sign­ing up to a 10k run. If there’s a project you’ve been mean­ing to get round to but keep putting off, this is your chance. If your blog has gone dor­mant, this might be a peg on which to hang its revival.

What are the rules? There aren’t any rules, as such. You don’t have to link to us when you post, though obvi­ous­ly it would be nice if you did. Using the hash­tag will help peo­ple find your con­tri­bu­tion via social media and  is prob­a­bly the bare min­i­mum com­mit­ment.

We don’t have any objec­tion to pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers get­ting involved, either, if they want to, per­haps by shar­ing an arti­cle you want to write but nobody will com­mis­sion, an old piece from your archives, or an extract from a book you want to plug.

How long is a lon­gread? If you want a tar­get, aim for 2,000 words, or twice as long as your nor­mal aver­age post, whichev­er is big­ger. But it doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have to be long, this time round. It might be deep­er, dark­er, just some­thing that push­es you out of your com­fort zone. Def­i­nite­ly don’t flog your way to, say, 2,000 words for the sake of it.

And here’s what we can do to help: if you’d find it help­ful, we’ll read drafts, com­ment on ideas before you start work, share our research mate­r­i­al, or advise you on where to find your own. If you are some­one who strug­gles with illus­tra­tions or pho­tographs, we might be able to lend a hand there, too. Email us:

And when it’s all done, we’ll include your post in a round-up and maybe share it sep­a­rate­ly on social media.*

If you want some ideas or prompts: write about a local brew­ery, active or defunct, that peo­ple might now know much about; or an inter­est­ing local pub. Give us a fam­i­ly mem­oir or tell a per­son­al sto­ry you’ve hes­i­tat­ed to share. Dig up a sto­ry – read old books, old news­pa­pers, ask ques­tions, until you find an inter­est­ing tale nobody else has noticed. Crunch some num­bers. Brew a beer. Vis­it every pub in town.

We’ll issue occa­sion­al reminders, prob­a­bly at the end of March and again at the end of April. You might con­sid­er stick­ing it in whichev­er cal­en­dar app you use and set­ting a few nudg­ing reminders of your own.

If you’ve got oth­er ques­tions, drop us a line, or post in the com­ments below and we’ll update the post as nec­es­sary.

* But we reserve the right not to include a post if it’s, say, down­right abu­sive.

An Extraordinary Gentleman: the Brand New Victorian Pubs of Roddy Gradidge

MAIN IMAGE: The Markham Arms in 1976 © Klaus Hiltsch­er, used with per­mis­sion.

The architect and interior designer Roderick ‘Roddy’ Gradidge was both a conservative and a wannabe Teddy Boy proto-punk. Though he worked on all kinds of buildings, and wrote several books, he is usually described in short-form as one thing: a pub designer.

We’ve put togeth­er this pro­file based on the news­pa­per archives we were able to access, online sources, and the books in the ever-expand­ing Arthur Mil­lard Memo­r­i­al Library (our box room). As such, con­sid­er it a work in progress: when we get chance, for exam­ple, we’ll vis­it the RIBA library and see if we can come up with a more com­pre­hen­sive list of his projects. Here’s what we know for now.

John Rod­er­ick War­low Gra­didge was born in Nor­folk in 1929 but grew up in India where his father served in the colo­nial army. Young Rod­er­ick came back to Eng­land in 1943 to attend Stowe under the head­mas­ter­ship of J.F. Rox­burgh. Writ­ing in the after­math of Gradidge’s death the writer A.N. Wil­son, a friend, sug­gest­ed that Rox­burgh was a key influ­ence on Gradidge’s char­ac­ter:

When one thinks of the flam­boy­ant gallery of tal­ent fos­tered by that school­mas­ter – Pere­grine Worsthorne, Antony Quin­ton, George Mel­ly, – it is hard not to feel some con­nec­tion.

Flam­boy­ant is cer­tain­ly the right word: Gra­didge, who every­one describes as ‘huge’ or ‘mas­sive’, start­ed wear­ing an ear­ring in 1955 and ‘longed to be a Ted­dy boy’, don­ning the uni­form drape jack­et, side­burns, tight trousers and suede broth­el-creep­ers and devot­ing him­self to rock’n’roll.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “An Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­man: the Brand New Vic­to­ri­an Pubs of Rod­dy Gra­didge”

Panic on the Streets of Woking: Rise of the Lager Lout

 This bumper #beery­lon­greads post is ded­i­cat­ed to the kind folks who have spon­sored us via our Patre­on page, like Chris France and Jon Urch – thanks!

In 1988 the British government faced a now forgotten domestic crisis.

Pre­vi­ous­ly placid towns, vil­lages and sub­urbs up and down the coun­try were sud­den­ly awash with mob vio­lence – the kind of thing peo­ple expect­ed in for­sak­en inner cities but which seemed new­ly ter­ri­fy­ing as it spread to provin­cial mar­ket squares and high streets.

The police pan­icked, the pub­lic fret­ted, and politi­cians were pressed to take action.

What was caus­ing this rash of insan­i­ty? Who or what was to blame for this descent into mad­ness?

In Sep­tem­ber 1988 at an infor­mal press brief­ing John Pat­ten MP, Min­is­ter for Home Affairs, point­ed the fin­ger: the chaos was a result of ‘the Sat­ur­day night lager cult’ and ‘lager louts’.

Lager. Lager was to blame. A type of beer that had arrived in earnest in Britain only thir­ty years before as the upmar­ket, sophis­ti­cat­ed, sharp-suit­ed Con­ti­nen­tal cousin of the tra­di­tion­al pint of wal­lop.

Where did it all go wrong?

Skol advertisement, 1960: "British Brewer Goes Continental".
In the Beginning

Lager was first brewed in Britain as far back as the 1830s and had its first boom in pop­u­lar­i­ty, pri­mar­i­ly as a hip, high-price import­ed prod­uct, from the 1860s until World War I. (See Gam­bri­nus Waltz for more on that.) For the next 40 years or so it sat in the back­ground, very much a minor­i­ty inter­est, rep­re­sent­ed by imports from the Con­ti­nent and the occa­sion­al attempt by British brew­ers such as Bar­clay Perkins. In the 1950s it had a less than 2 per cent share of the total UK beer mar­ket.

The 1950s were an unset­tling time for British brew­eries. They could no longer rely on armies of indus­tri­al work­ers tramp­ing to the pub on a reg­u­lar basis to drink ale in sub­stan­tial quan­ti­ties. Young peo­ple seemed less inter­est­ed in pubs and beer and drawn rather more to burg­er bars, cof­fee shops, Coca Cola and pop music. Mild was def­i­nite­ly passé – a rel­ic of the slum era – and though sales of bit­ter were surg­ing, it too lacked glam­our. Bit­ter drinkers wore blaz­ers and smoked pipes. The tiny hand­ful of Lager drinkers, on the oth­er hand…

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Pan­ic on the Streets of Wok­ing: Rise of the Lager Lout”

The Pubs of Boggleton, 1837–2017

The development of Boggleton, a small English town which I have traced at set periods in the next pages, is symptomatic of all England. We can learn the character of a country from the scars and wrinkles on its face.”

John Bet­je­man, ‘1837–1937’, 1937

With apolo­gies to Sir John what fol­lows is our attempt to con­dense the over­all plot arc of the Eng­lish pub in the last two cen­turies. It’s simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a bit of fun – well, it was cer­tain­ly fun to write – and semi-seri­ous in intent, giv­en that the town is pur­pose­ful­ly gener­ic and com­plete­ly made up.

This also seems like a good place to announce what most of you have prob­a­bly already guessed from all the hints we’ve been drop­ping about The Big Project: we have a new book on the way. It’s going to be called 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub: from beer­house to booze bunker and is due out this sum­mer. It cov­ers every­thing from improved pubs to microp­ubs (the long 20th Cen­tu­ry, shall we say), via estate pubs, theme pubs, Irish pubs, Wether­spoons, and numer­ous oth­er stops.


Header graphic: 1837 town map.

Bog­gle­ton, being a rel­a­tive­ly sober town much dom­i­nat­ed by church folk, had only twelve pubs, to serve a pop­u­la­tion of 3,000 peo­ple. They were not called pubs at the time, how­ev­er. One, The Dol­phin, was most cer­tain­ly a great Inn, sit­u­at­ed on the main street, busy with coach­es and the hors­es that drew them. It had beds, served meals (grudg­ing­ly, it must be said) and all sorts of drinks from ale to wine. The build­ing ram­bled, was rid­dled with mice, and was marked by a gild­ed sign hang­ing over the street depict­ing some­thing like a mer-tiger.

The Red Lion on the mar­ket square was small­er, sag­ging and smoky, intri­cate­ly half-tim­bered. It too was an inn, at least on paper, but peo­ple rarely stayed or ate there. Some­times it was referred to as a tav­ern, but it was not quite that either – there was noth­ing of the city about it, and it had no wine of dis­tinc­tion. It was most often called a ‘pub­lic house’ and was busiest on mar­ket days when farm­ers from the sur­round­ing vil­lages came into town, stuffed into shirts and waist­coats, sweat­ing and mer­ry.

The rest were beer­hous­es, or beer­shops – small estab­lish­ments more-or-less resem­bling the cot­tages that sur­round­ed them. They were licensed to sell only beer and were brought into being by the pass­ing of the 1830 Beer­house Act. None had promi­nent or elab­o­rate heraldic signs and many were sim­ply known by the names of the peo­ple who ran them. Thompson’s Beer­house was typ­i­cal: a sin­gle room – for­mer­ly the par­lour of old Thompson’s own home – with bare plas­ter on the walls, scrubbed floor­boards, a bench against one wall, and a wood­en cask of home-brewed beer on a rough-hewn table in the cor­ner. The beer­hous­es could be wild places and soaked up work­ing men’s wages which wor­ried the pious peo­ple of the town, but all they could do was com­plain, and watch like hawks.


Header graphic: 1867 with Victorian manicule.

When the rail­way came in the 1850s, New Bog­gle­ton was cre­at­ed. There came row after row of hous­es for rail­way­men and for work­ers at the new fac­to­ries, as well as sub­urbs and vil­las for the well-to-do. And for 100,000 peo­ple, twelve pubs were hard­ly enough.

Despite the efforts of the Bog­gle­ton Tem­per­ance Soci­ety, found­ed in 1855, the beer­hous­es had grown in num­ber and some, the most suc­cess­ful, had increased in size, too, until they rivalled The Red Lion. Thompson’s had become The White Hart and scarce­ly a trace of the orig­i­nal dwelling from which it had sprung remained.

Nor could the Tem­per­ance Soci­ety pre­vent the mag­is­trates from grant­i­ng licences for new beer­hous­es on street cor­ners among the ter­races, until it was said that from any point in town you could always see two pubs. The Venezuela on Oxford Road, serv­ing the pis­ton works, was pur­pose built by the firm that con­struct­ed the sur­round­ing hous­es in 1860. It was small but nonethe­less had two rooms, one a touch more respectable and suit­able for fore­men and clerks.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “The Pubs of Bog­gle­ton, 1837–2017”