And that question would be "Can we reduce the size and weight of the Good Beer Guide?" I can hear the dissenting voices from the letters page of "What's Brewing?" already - "we should be tackling beer tax, ACV's, lobbying the government, we don't have time for such irrelevance". But what the humourless, self important campaign chumps need to realise, if CAMRA can't keep it's own book in order, how can it ever hope to influence external sources?
I write this blog fairly tongue-in-cheek but as a pub traveller, being weighed down by this increasingly hefty tome is not appreciated when touring the South West Buckinghamshire countryside on foot, and I'm sure that pub ticking legends like Martin Taylor and Duncan Mackay would sympathise.
Compare the current 2016 GBG to the 1982 one (being a geek, I re-bought it for fun!) and the difference is stark. 235 pages in the 1982 Guide, a whopping 1016 in the current edition. You might argue "well real ale has come along way since then, there are bound to be lots more pubs listed" but this isn't true. 6,000 pubs in the 1982 edition, a more quality controlled 4,500 in the current one.
So why has it burgeoned in size then? It's the almost 300 pages dedicated to breweries that seems most needless. Pub Curmudgeon agrees with this, and so too does an unknown man named Peter. In this day of "social media at the touch of a button", is it really necessary to include such information? If you care enough, Google it. Plus, it is all contained within the excellent Good Beer Guide Smartphone App. Keep that as the place where this additional information is stored.
But I don't want to talk myself out of a paper based GBG altogether, it is my bible at the end of the day....
You could also decrease the number of GBG pubs from 4,500 to say, 4,000, disregarding those pubs which put diners before drinkers, and those clubs which are unwelcoming to CAMRA goers (it rhymes with Pumice Stone). It'd be nice especially if CAMRA took a stand on the former, sadly I fear there's a lot that could be removed as a consequence.
Don't think I'm just trying to make my "pub ticking" life easier, I promise that would merely be a happy by-product of reducing the numbers. Honest!
No, I actually think the main 'trimming' of the GBG could be done in the pub descriptions. Back in 1982, you'd get juicy one line descriptions like "Awesome view of the viaduct from the outdoor gents" (Crown, Stockport) "A gem in an industrial area" (Whalebone, Hull) and "Churchill towers over the customers" (Crown & Kettle, Manchester). Combine that with the symbols, sketchy opening hours, and a vague list of the beers available, what more do you need to know?
Nowadays, you get chapter and verse on every flippin' entry. I recently went to a pub which told me (amongst many other things) that horses get their hay and water for free. But how many people bring horses to the pub? How many horses read the GBG?
So, I propose a 20 word limit on GBG pub descriptions. And an overall page limit of 300. Revert it to the kind of Guide you can slot under your arm and trot down a Shropshire country lane with, in search of a pub with the description "No-one's ever been here, but if you can be arsed, it might be good".
To finish with, a quiz. See if you can match the pub to my revised GBG description (I've chosen pubs I found a bit more traumatic for comedy effect). Good luck.
NEW GBG DESCRIPTIONS
a. Jeremy Kyle themed scroat-hole. Look out for ghost of Jade Goody. Nice breakfasts.
b. You can piss in a store cupboard at this Monday to Wednesday ale free outlet.
c. Self publicising twats run the third best pub in a small town. Ask for Best Bitter.
d. An apt name at £3.60 a pint in overrated tourist village. Don't fall off the roof.
e. Pretentious toss house. Expect hipsters to be given preference. Pomegranate on menu.
f. Quantity trumps quality at this sticky tabled student shite hole. Won an award once.
g. If you are CAMRA scum, don't even try and enter the lounge you worthless loser.
h. Here for a drink? Stand up and make way for imaginary diners. The pub stairs look comfy.
i. Young Mums, twilds and buggies dominate. Beer reassuringly warm like a liquefied human organ.
1. Arden Arms, Stockport
2. Tap on the Line, Kew
3. Royal British Legion Club, Penistone
4. Rook & Gaskill, York
5. Crown & Shuttle, Spitalfields
6. Bear, Maidenhead
7. Butcher's Arms, Sunderland
8. Boltmakers, Keighley
9. Fleece, Haworth
Hope you got them all right, let me know, you might win a prize.