Sunday, 14 September 2014

Deciding the best

The Grafton in Kentish Town, London has been declared the Sky Great British Pub of the Year 2014. These awards are organised by the Publican's Morning Advertiser, the weekly newspaper of the pub trade, and Sky is a significant sponsor. There are 17 awards; you can find the full list here.

For all I know the Grafton may well be a worthy winner, but what struck me was that of these 17 awards, 4 are in the north of England, while the remaining 13 are firmly in the south, as this interactive map makes clear. Three of the northern pubs are in Yorkshire and one in Lancashire, while the northernmost of the remainder is in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. Most of the winners are in the country or small towns: cities are seriously under-represented. The same bias applies to most of the regional winners.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the awards reflect a certain perception that English country inns represent the best of British pubs, a view supported by the fact that no Scottish or Welsh pubs appear in what is supposed to be a list that covers all of Britain. In fact, Wales is bundled together for judging purposes with the West Midlands, and Scotland with Yorkshire and the North East: devolution seems to have gone right over the Morning Advertiser’s head.

I'm not an uncritical CAMRA member, but I do believe that CAMRA's network of local, regional and national pub awards - decided as they are by ordinary drinkers, not by a self-appointed panel, a newspaper or the industry - provides a fairer and more representative cross-section of our best pubs. It's not perfect, but in my opinion it's the best system currently available.

I'll be publishing a list of our local pubs in the 2015 Good Beer Guide in a future post soon.

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