|I suppose "The Belgian Good Beer|
Guide" wasn't dramatic enough.
With the internet and Branch websites, it's not hard to find out the decent pubs if you're going to a town you don't know, plus for CAMRA members only there is the What Pub website that is currently being developed. In addition, the GBG is scarcely a pocket reference book: with the ever-increasing number of microbrewers listed, the book is getting bigger and bigger and it isn't particularly convenient. It is the biggest-selling book published by the Campaign, and I think it is a bit of a con. Many of the sales are for presents for a relative, often Dad, who likes to go to the pub; the fact that Dad generally goes to the same pub most of the time and really isn't interested in a list of pubs in places he will never visit is neither here nor there - a sale is a sale.
All the information about pubs in the GBG is compiled entirely by local branches, and it takes a lot of work all done by unpaid volunteers in their own time. The CAMRA conference passed a motion a few years ago that branches could not list all of the pubs that they put forward for the GBG in any of their publications or websites. They do all the work but are not allowed to use that information locally in case (the ludicrous argument goes) it damages the sales of the GBG. I spoke against this, but the conference were, I'm afraid, taken in by visions of tumbling sales of the campaign's best seller if they happened to print in their local magazine a simple list of GBG pubs in their own area, although the motion did kindly permit branches to publish incomplete lists as "tasters". The argument (propounded by Roger Protz, GBG editor) is stupid because people don't buy the guide just to find out the pubs in their local area, which they probably already know about - you buy it to see what pubs there are in other areas. In this instance, commercial considerations outweighed common sense. I'm surprised that there hasn't been opposition to the What Pub website on the grounds that it may affect GBG sales.
As for local guides, one problem is that few branches have the time or resources to update them when they get out of date. While it might be nice to buy a local guide for a town or city, if you go there infrequently, it will be out of date before you can get any significant use out it.
I wouldn't want a good bottled beer guide because, compared to draught real ale, bottled beers are always a compromise and sometimes a disappointment. I can't think of one bottled beer that compares favourably to a decent, well-kept pint of real ale.
So I don't buy beer guides any more. They get out of date so quickly, much more quickly than they used to with the turnover of licensees being noticeably higher than in the past. But if you want to buy one for Dad because he goes to the Dog and Duck every weekend so he can peruse a list of thousands of pubs he'll never visit, go ahead. At least it will be another sale to keep the GBG editor happy.