I borrowed the pub copy of the new Good Beer Guide [GBG] in the Guest House recently and turned first to the entries for pubs where I live, like most people do. I wasn’t surprised to see the Guest House listed, but I was at the wording, which stated that the licensee was doing her best despite PubCo restrictions. As this sounded like damning with faint praise to me, I had a word with Gail the licensee and - as I expected - found that she was rather unhappy with the entry (that’s something of an understatement, by the way).
For those who don’t know Southport pubs, the Guest House has had the best range of beers ever since Gail took it over several years ago, routinely having up to 10 cask beers on at any time. Granted, the PubCo limits the range, but Gail stretches those limits as far as she can. She supports small local breweries whenever possible, and the beer is always well kept.
Other pubs, such as the Falstaff and the Windmill, don’t try to stretch PubCo restrictions and concentrate on limited ranges of beers, to which the GBG makes no adverse reference. No disrespect intended to those pubs as they provide what their own customers want; I was simply contrasting their treatment in the GBG with the Guest House’s. The choice of words in CAMRA’s flagship publication implying a very restricted range when the opposite is true could discourage visitors to Southport (a destination for holidays, day trips and conferences) from visiting the pub.
Following from the error that excluded the pub from the GBG a couple of years ago, even though it had been voted in, and the initial failure to nominate it for an award at this year’s Sandgrounder Beer Festival, this is yet another faux pas by the local CAMRA branch in relation to this pub. As a CAMRA member, I have even been asked by Guest House regulars to explain what they see as a campaign against their pub, and my assertion that there is no conspiracy is sounding increasingly hollow.
CAMRA branches consist of unpaid volunteers who generally do their best to decide GBG entries, make local awards, put on a beer festival and publish both a magazine (Ale & Hearty) and a website. With those activities goes a responsibility to bear in mind how the public will perceive our actions, especially in relation to local pubs. After all, what we say or do could have a real impact upon people’s livelihoods, especially at a time of recession and punitive tax on beer.
As a footnote, I know the popular Baron’s Bar also has a good range of beer, but as it's a hotel bar rather than a pub, it has no PubCo tie. Although I do like going to the Baron’s sometimes, it doesn’t feel like a pub.