A sad sign of the times is that seven of those creme de la creme pubs have since closed. In Cambridge, the Ancient Druids (then only five years old and brewing its own beer on the premises) has become a Chinese restaurant and the Cambridge Arms (the spiritual birthplace of CAMRA in the city) is now D'Arry's, another eatery. Saddest loss of all is my old lunchtime local, the Cow and Calf in St Peter's Street, then in its heyday under the redoubtable Les Shiret and setting Forbes beers from Lowestoft amongst others. In the country, the New Inn at Ickleton was a tiny two-bar pub, which didn't survive the last recession - the village is thankfully still well-served by the excellent Lion. The University Arms Sawston is also much missed; it was a genuine free house offering five or six ever changing ales from across the kingdom. It is now offices. The Hoops Great Eversden has joined the sadly swelling ranks of pubs-converted-to-restaurants. Finally, the Prince Albert Stow-cum-Quy was then one of the most renowned cask ale pubs in the whole country with drinkers visiting from far and wide to see what exotic brews were on that day. After charismatic landlord Ian Henderson left it was never the same and its slow decline culminated in its present "wooden curtained" condition. It could yet return as a pub though its isolated position counts against it.

Others of the 27 have changed almost beyond recognition. Take the Tram Depot Cambridge for instance. Back then it had only recently opened, an imaginative conversion of stables from the old horse-drawn tram system. The work was done by the tiny Earl Soham brewery of Suffolk and used lots of reclaimed materials to create a quirky, atmospheric interior. There was even a mezzanine area reached by the open staircase and the brick floor I remember being especially fine. When Everards subsequently bought the place they stripped out all this characterful stuff to create the smart, pleasant but somewhat anonymous interior you see today. Why?

The Spread Eagle, Lensfield Road, Cambridge has become The Snug. Back then it was essentially a boozer, now it is more of a cafe bar. In Reach, the Dyke's End had been renamed the Kings but was still a good pub. Afterwards it got into the wrong hands, nearly closed for good, was saved by the villagers buying it and is once more the Dyke's End, thriving with its own microbrewery out the back.

Several of the other entries have been through dubious periods but re- emerged as good pubs e.g. the Old Spring and Panton Arms Cambridge and the Plough and Fleece Horningsea. Others (no names, no pack drill) wouldn't now get to first base in a consideration of the area's best pubs. Finally, there are those (few) places, which have been unchangeably excellent over the whole twenty years. The description in the book of the Queens Head Newton, for instance, could almost be used verbatim today. Ditto the Champion of the Thames and Free Press Cambridge. The Live and Let Live had only just become a free house; the guide warned against the high quota of "yuppies" (remember them?) but the plus points, especially the beer selection, remain. The Cambridge Blue, then leased by Banks and Taylor, also had "a high yuppy element" plus a real rarity, a no-smoking bar; again the wide choice of quality ales has been maintained and, indeed, enhanced.

Of course, some of what are our best pubs these days were well dodgy back then. The Carlton Arms for example was a keg-only vomitarium for which armed guard accompaniment was advisable whilst the Elm Tree was a frankly dreary outlet for substandard Wells beers. All goes to show that there's no such thing as an intrinsically bad (or for that matter, good) pub.

A final example of how times change is the book's list of East Anglian breweries. Although the small brewing revival had begun, there were still only ten breweries in the whole region whereas today there are 30 in Norfolk alone.

Are things better now for the real ale drinker than they were in 1989? In terms of choice and quality of beer itself I'd say undoubtably yes. On the minus side we've got significantly fewer pubs to sup our ales in and have lost some real gems. How will it all look in another 20 years?