In this new edition there are awards for pubs, landlords, brewers and newcomers as well as wine, whisky, own brew, fish, bargain food and unspoilt pubs of the year. There is a main entry section containing details of pubs that followers of this guide have recommended, and the editor or his assistant has rigorously followed them up. No stone is left unturned to find the finest in the country, though the editor, Alistair Aird, would be the first to admit there are many gems out there that need unearthing, and reckons that it is amazing how a pub can change in just twelve months. There is also a very useful pot luck section at the end of each county that lists possible stars of the future: they are awaiting full assessment and more readers' comments.
This particular guide also addresses relevant issues that may crop up. The main talking point this year is pub food, particularly that there has been a steep hike in food prices, some being five times the retail price index, and that in one in seven pubs the price of food has jumped by 25% or more. Another customer grievance is that readers often feel bulldozed into having and paying for something far fancier than they really want. Typically it may be an expensive sandwich padded out with a few crisps or salad when all they really want is a simple high quality sandwich as they produce at the Queen's Head, Newton.
The guide also discusses smoking in pubs and points out that the majority of us do not smoke, so it is only a matter of time before majority rule dictates the end to this habit. A sizing down of smoking areas is recommended.
Another interesting section is the national survey that shows that the average cheapest pint is, curiously, in Nottinghamshire at £1.84 per pint; London is a whopping 49p more expensive, with our patch not fairing too well at 33p more.
The Good Pub Guide 2004 is published by Ebury Press, sells at £14.99, and is available from pubs and shops everywhere. A great stocking filler from which everyone benefits.
Entries in the branch area: