Pints West: a mine of information

We’ve found ourselves getting a bit excited when we find a new edition of the local CAMRA magazine, Pints West, in the display holder at The Drapers Arms, because we always learn so damned much.

The lat­est issue, for autumn 2019, is just out and is a good exam­ple of why we like it so much.

First, with #Every­Pu­bIn­Bris­tol in mind, there’s a com­pre­hen­sive update on what’s going on with local pubs based on exten­sive field­work from the Bris­tol Pubs Group. It tells us which pubs have closed, reopened and changed hands, usu­al­ly before we hear via social media.

We’re fas­ci­nat­ed by the fate of The Merchant’s Arms in Sta­ple­ton which just sits there with its big, blank, board­ed-up facade; Pints West always gives us an update – stale­mate, appar­ent­ly, with the own­er deter­mined not to re-open it as a pub despite its ACV sta­tus.

But there’s more: we don’t dri­ve (and wouldn’t dri­ve to the pub if we did, obvi­ous­ly) so the pub crawls focused on walk­ing and pub­lic trans­port are always inspir­ing. This quar­ter, Vince Mur­ray sug­gests a cou­ple of trips in South Glouces­ter­shire by bus while Dun­can Shine gives a run down of all the pubs along the Bris­tol-Bath Rail­way Path. We’re already work­ing out ways to tack­le some or all of those on the list.

We were also struck by a piece in the last edi­tion by Robin E Wild on the best val­ue pubs in the area – a pos­i­tive way to address the fraught issue of the some­times exclu­sive price of beer.

In gen­er­al, there’s an open­ness about it that shows CAMRA at its best. All brew­eries are cov­ered with enthu­si­asm and hon­esty, regard­less of their par­tic­u­lar cask-ale cre­den­tials. Licensed premis­es of all kinds get a look in and there are heart­en­ing tales of local activism to save appar­ent­ly doomed pubs.

Now, dis­clo­sure, before some­one brings it up: in the past, before we moved to Bris­tol, we pub­licly rolled our eyes at one of the car­toons in the mag­a­zine. It irri­tat­ed us then and look­ing back, it’s still irri­tat­ing. But we haven’t noticed any­thing like that since.

Any­way, our piece said, we’re off to explore a cou­ple of the pubs men­tioned in the most recent edi­tion – and isn’t that what a local CAMRA mag­a­zine ought to inspire?

Some Beer-Related Projects of Note

BEER! (Type illustration.)

Apparently, some people aren’t satisfied with the endless ramblings of beer bloggers.

They want to hear voic­es, see mov­ing images, and feel paper between their grub­by fin­gers.

Well, they’re in luck, as there are a few new projects in the pipeline which we think are worth high­light­ing.

In print

Hop & Bar­ley mag­a­zine (@hopandbarley) looks as if it’s going to the equiv­a­lent of a beer blog in print. Fund­ed through a Kick­starter cam­paign, it promis­es ‘a fresh look through the UK’s vibrant brew­ing scene’.

The first issue of Orig­i­nal Grav­i­ty mag­a­zine (@OGBeerMag) is due on 1 Sep­tem­ber and will be giv­en away free in pubs, bars and at beer fes­ti­vals. The web­site does­n’t have much infor­ma­tion at the moment and we don’t know who’s behind it.


We don’t real­ly lis­ten to pod­casts – they seem a painful­ly slow way to absorb infor­ma­tion com­pared to read­ing – but Beer­linescur­rent­ly being put togeth­er by vet­er­an writer and ‘craft beer’ indus­try fig­ure Jeff Pick­thall (@BeerlinesEd) might be inter­est­ing. Its for­mat is inspired by the BBC radio pro­gramme From Our Own Cor­re­spon­dent, and the first pro­gramme will fea­ture a con­tri­bu­tion from The Beer Nut.

On Telly

And, final­ly, one from the rumour mill: we were told recent­ly that we might be approached by a TV com­pa­ny mak­ing a series about the resur­gence of British beer. Now would­n’t that be inter­est­ing?

Considering a Good Beer Magazine

Dave Bai­ley, prompt­ed by some­thing Roger Protz said at the Beer Writ­ers’ Guild meet­ing in Lon­don, Tweet­ed this:

First, the gen­der ques­tion: there might be some­thing in that, but then there are ultra-spe­cial­ist mag­a­zines which aren’t espe­cial­ly ‘gen­dered’, and there’s no rea­son why a beer mag­a­zine, if a decent one exist­ed, could­n’t sit with the food mags. We know loads of blokes who buy and read cook­ery mag­a­zines. Every­one eats, after all, and, as it’s not the nine­teen-fifties, quite a few blokes know their way around a kitchen these days.

Sec­ond­ly, though, the con­tent: what the hell do you put in a mag­a­zine about beer? Gen­er­al­ist food mag­a­zines fill their pages with recipes (‘Fif­teen ten minute sum­mer sup­pers’) and con­sumer reviews, but that would­n’t work so well for beer, because it’s a fin­ished prod­uct, not an ingre­di­ent. ‘One hun­dred great lagers’ might work, but, real­ly, just read­ing a list of beers you prob­a­bly won’t be able to find in your local shop, with some tast­ing notes, is not like­ly to be that inspir­ing or excit­ing to most peo­ple.

Real­ly spe­cial­ist mag­a­zines such as, say, Retro Gamer, do fill their pages every month, and sell well enough to keep going, but they do so by appeal­ing to a minor­i­ty audi­ence of hard­core geeks, and, frankly, by repeat­ing them­selves. We bought it for a cou­ple of years and stopped when we’d read the sto­ry of the found­ing of Atari for the third time. Anoth­er exam­ple, Com­put­er Music mag­a­zine, relies on mul­ti­page ‘ulti­mate’ and ‘begin­ners’ guides to pro­duc­tion tech­niques and prod­uct reviews and, again, repeats itself on a fair­ly reg­u­lar cycle. It does not, appar­ent­ly, have loy­al read­ers.

A quar­ter­ly or year­ly prod­uct might stand more chance of com­mer­cial suc­c­cess. We’d buy, say, Good Food Mag­a­zine’s Ulti­mate Guide to Beer 2013, in the ‘bookazine’ for­mat, for a long train jour­ney. Alter­na­tive­ly, there is the bleed­ing-edge-cool, beau­ti­ful­ly designed sub­scrip­tion jour­nal mod­el. Gin & It, about booze, is already with us, and Mark from Real Ale Reviews has pre­vi­ous­ly sug­gest­ed that this foot­ball pub­li­ca­tion might be a good mod­el for beer writ­ing.

Real­is­ti­cal­ly, beer is one facet of ‘drink’, which is one facet of ‘food and drink’, and it is prob­a­bly too ambi­tious to expect con­sumers to sup­port a pub­li­ca­tion with such a nar­row focus. A decent cou­ple of pages on beer in exist­ing food mag­a­zines, and good qual­i­ty reg­u­lar columns in the lifestyle sec­tions of news­pa­pers and cur­rent affairs mag­a­zines, would do us.

UPDATE 12:33 12/6/2013

After we post­ed it came to light through Twit­ter that there are some plans afoot at Future Pub­lish­ing.