A friend was recently given a (non-CAMRA) Real Ale guide. There were some quality pubs included, but I was appalled by some of the pubs on our patch that actually were mentioned and those that were missed. Whilst I realise it is difficult to have every great pub in all the guides, the ones that slipped through the net were unbelievable. If this is happening here, it must be the same nationwide. Someone had wasted £12 when they could have given a proper present that is largely factually correct.

It is essential, first of all, that any guide is independent and free of bias by not asking the publicans for money to be included. The CAMRA Good Beer Guide is constructed from contributions by the various branches. It may have the odd fault in selecting the pubs to be included, but by and large, it is a great book telling you where the best real ale can be found. It tells you of the breweries and gives you basic knowledge of the pubs included and is a must for anyone roaming the country.

The other Guide that I consider to be essential to those travelling the land is the Good Pub Guide. This guide has a main entry section where the tried and tested pubs are regularly checked for performance and tells you how good the food and accommodation are. In the last 10 years I have only been disappointed once, and the following year the pub concerned was not included. They also have a pot luck section where recommendations are awaiting upgrading by more positive reports. There is good comment at the front concerning current trends and prices across the country and various sections of particular interest like pubs near water, close to motorways and open all day. There will always be a time when a pub changes hands and can dip in quality, but equally you will find pubs like the Cambridge Blue that has a change of direction but is still a fantastic pub improving the range of ales and being well worth a visit.

Both these guides come out each year and it is often interesting to compare entries from year to year. Brownie Boy will make sure he does not make the same mistake again.

Jerry Brown