Central Lancs

Campaign for Real Ale

Good Beer Guide Selection

The Good Beer Guide is CAMRA’s flagship publication and the definitive rundown of the best places in the UK to get a pint of real ale. Compilation and selection for the Good Beer Guide is a complicated and time-consuming process for each CAMRA branch and is quite an emotive subject each year following publication, when pubs are either omitted or included in the guide. Hopefully, the following “myth buster” will assist in developing an understanding of how the standards are applied in the Central Lancashire branch area.

How important a role does beer scoring play in GBG selection?

It is critical, by far the most influential tool in our selection process and is the way in which every CAMRA member can consistently contribute to selection each year. This is first and foremost a publication for lovers of real ale and, as CAMRA members, it should reflect your views. In 2021 thousands of scores were submitted for pubs in our area not only by locals but also by visiting members from 40 other branch areas across the country.

Is it possible to buy your way into the Good Beer Guide?

No. The Guide is completely independent, there is no charge for entry and incentives would never be accepted.

If no beer scores are submitted for a pub during the preceding 12 months, could it still be selected for the Good Beer Guide?

No. In supporting CAMRA values, there is a responsibility on us all to promote and record beer scores…members, landlords and committee members alike. If there is no motivation to score the beer in your local, then it’s almost certainly not a pub that should feature in the guide.

If a pub serves more cask ales, is it more likely to be selected?

No. In some respects this may make them less likely to be selected if the same quality is not maintained across the full range of real ales. Quality not quantity is key, and the Circus Tavern in Manchester was evidence of this mandate; serving just two cask ales to a high quality ensured they were a regular in the guide for many years.

Can anyone contribute to selection of pubs in the guide?

No. Only CAMRA members can get involved, either through submitting regular beers scores through WhatPub and/or suggesting potential candidates to the committee via email. As a branch, we would love members to email their suggestions to us during the year for review ku.gro.armac.scnallartnec@buptahw(), as with over 300 pubs selling cask ale in the area it is possible that one or two may be unwittingly overlooked.

If a pub serves good cask ale is there a reason why it may not appear in the Good Beer Guide?

Yes. Sadly, each area is given a quota of pubs that can be included. In our case this is fixed at 34, roughly 1 in 10 of the pubs serving real ale in our area, so good is often not quite good enough, as we are blessed with a significant number of very good pubs here in Central Lancashire.

Isn’t it just the same pubs getting in every year?

No, since 2017 56 different pubs have featured in the guide in our area, a mixture of traditional pubs and micropubs from rural and urban locations.

Could one member adversely impact the selection of an entry into the guide?

In theory this is possible, but all beer scores for every potential contender are rigorously checked before selection and where there is a disproportionate percentage of high scores for a pub submitted by one member, the committee will arrange for committee members to visit to verify if the standards are met.

How far in advance are the selections made and is there a risk that the selections will be out of date by the time the guide is published?

The selections are submitted in March each year for publication in September. This can present its challenges, as businesses can come and go, so for this reason, we generally avoid selecting pubs that have been open less than six months, in order to allow for a sustained period of consistent beer quality and to reduce the chance of short-lived ventures being selected that then cease to exist when the guide is published.

What else can affect a pub being selected for the guide?

If the landlord changes then, as with any new premises, there will generally be a six-month “proving” period before the pub is then reconsidered for the guide. The Black Bull in Penwortham is one such example, which was removed from selection following the departure of its long-standing landlord earlier in 2021 despite being a regular in the guide over the last decade.

If a pub has been closed for a significant period during the preceding 12 months, often through no fault of their own this is likely to impact on their chances of selection.

How does the basic selection process work?

By comparing beer scores, compiled from data submitted by members on the National Beer Scoring System (NBSS) this enables us to see readily which pubs are hitting the required target (a score of 3+ out of 5 is considered good). A pub with an average of less than 3 would normally be discounted immediately, as we have more than enough good pubs in our area to fill our quota. Some pubs pretty much select themselves – it is a complete waste of time discussing the merits of pubs that everybody agrees are excellent, so we probably fill half of the spaces very quickly. The remaining spaces are not so easy to agree upon so we draw up a list of pubs requiring further investigation and over a period of a few months committee members visit them all to get as wide a view as we can. Further discussion follows until we have whittled down the list to 34 agreed entries and 3 reserves. Then we go out and resurvey all the pubs to go in the guide to ensure their information is as accurate as possible. There is a lot of work to be done and it takes much of the time and effort of the branch during the Autumn and Winter months.

The GBG is not perfect, but this is not for the want of trying. Across the country, CAMRA members invest huge amounts of time (and money) to make sure that the guide is as accurate as possible and really does showcase the best pubs to drink real ale.

If you are a CAMRA member and want to be involved in the selection process, it is really simple; use WhatPub to score the beer quality in the pubs you visit and contact us (or your local branch) to tell them which pubs should (and should not) be in the guide. You could even come along to a branch meeting and make your representations in person – you would be more than welcome.

Richard Langford (Pubs Officer and GBG Coordinator)