Thursday 12 September 2019

BRAPA - Good Beer Guide 2020 Released Today! What's the Damage?

Happy official Good Beer Guide Day everyone!

Yes, the embargo period is over as the GBG hits the shops today, Thurs 12th Sept.  The cross-ticking is complete, the green highlighters have almost run dry, and I can reveal I've lost 201 pubs from last year's total, which for once, hasn't demoralised me too much......

The Science Bit

I'd 'declared' on 1743 with my last tick being on 24th August in Horwich at the Bank Top Brewery Ale House, a good one to end the 2018/19 season on though the Grim Reaper on the pump clip may have been an omen.

And with the help of 19 new ticks during the embargo period (30th Aug-11th Sept), I find myself starting again on 1542 with a first ever working lunchtime tick a possibility today to make it 1543.

Percentage wise, I've lost more in the previous couple of years and the main thing is I've stayed firmly above that magic 1500 figure which represents one third of the GBG.

So what went right?  Well, it was a particularly good year for preemptives so HUGE thanks to all who contributed to the record breaking 16 (you know who you are!) - some very good stabs in the dark, some random chats with locals, some  'insider knowledge' and the odd bit of WhatPubbing or just walking past a 'promising' looking place on my part.

Those pubs were as follows - Three Guineas, Reading.  Alexandra Arms, Cambridge.  Blisland Inn, Blisland.  Marlpool Ale House, Marlpool.  Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool.  1887 The Brewroom, Blackpool.  Albert's Ale House, Blackpool.  Tap & Vent, Kirkham.  Northumberland Arms, Marple Bridge.  Donkeystone, Greenfield.  Oscar's Inn, Newark.  Rising Sun, Mossley.  Pint Shop, Birmingham.  White Hart, Hull.  Wilson's, Scarborough.  Darton Tap, Darton.

Plenty more I'm kicking myself for missing despite being told to go, Newsroom in Matlock really stands out as FOUR different locals told me to get up there, and I never did!

Another surprising factor is the inclusion of 13 'new' (old) pubs I've visited in the past, but either not associated with BRAPA, or done before BRAPA started in 2014 and not seen in a GBG up until now.  I will write about my distant memories of these in two or three parts in the coming weeks in what I call 'the archives'.  Every year I think 'I won't be having any more of these to do' and then these pubs pop up from nowhere!

Perhaps I should focus on my gross number too, which is now 2758 so 2020 will see me hit the big 3,000 and I'll be very intrigued to see if it is a classic, something terrible, or something in between.

But 201 pubs is still a big chunk to make up, and to put it into context, my 'original' 1542nd pub was achieved on 14th March, so you could say I've lost six months (half a year!) of BRAPA.  Ouch.  King's Arms in Norwich the morning after a Hull City game with Dad & Tom if you wondered.

Whatever, it is a real case of two steps forward, one step back.  I can live with that.  I have to.

Strategy for 2019/20

The coming year will be all about BRAPA's 'Campaign of Northern England' (#CONE as the kids will hopefully be chanting by New Year's Day) so if you are a GBG 2020 pub in Cumbria or County Durham, or even Tyne & Wear or Northumberland, be very afraid!

The aim by next August is to have completed Cumbria, Durham, Tyne & Wear and got a slight foothold in Northumberland.   Very much a blank canvas though so it might be an overly ambitious aim, we'll see.

Associated outliers like Lancaster & Silverdale might also be achievable too.

Not that it'll be all north, Hull City away days will allow me a few varied trips to exciting strongholds.  Luton springs to mind!  And I'm almost not joking.

And I 'need' to have two more trips (at least) to London before 31st Dec as I have train tickets.  This is good as I really am knocking on the door of completing 'North', 'Central' and 'East' regions.  'West' also doing well, 'South' still requires a lot of work.  Yes, I could use them to officially start Essex, but that's more one for 2021.  (Oh look, Andrewsfield Airfield is back for the 500th consecutive year!)

Next summer's trip will continue in the vain of the previous three, with a real push on Cornwall though looking where the new gaps are opening up, not sure I'll be completing it this time.  I'll probably stay in Plymouth this time and focus on East Cornwall, but it'll also mean scope for some Devon, so I might get some valuable rare ticks down there too.

All this sadly means one of my all time faves, Dorset, might have to be put on hold til the 2020/21 season, a bit of shame as all the really awkward ones I didn't manage have been binned off anyway, and replaced with a slightly more achievable selection.  Chaldon Herring has updated its hours though, which I'd like to think is my doing!

So lots to do, but the main thing is, to enjoy each experience however lame, take it for what it is, don't rush that pint of ale, smile at strangers, chat to folk, listen to the 'local knowledge', observe all, don't get caught short (no new ticks at Newark this year thankfully), stay hydrated, stay disciplined, and eat during the day so I can remember those 5th and 6th pubs.

Happy Pubbing for the 2019/20 season folks.  It's gonna be a good year I can tell.



  1. Maybe the reduced rate of churn is due to the wave of micropub openings slowing down. As I said on Twitter, there are four re-entries of proper pubs in Stockport which you have probably done already.

    1. Glad to hear Micropub openings slowing down a bit, it feels like we've reached saturation to me and am sure I've done only a very small percentage compared with my fellow tickers.

      Always delighted to see re-entries, especially those I've done like here in Stockport, but like I say, if you think of a 6th 'non GBG' one for my Oct trip, let me know!

  2. There seems to be a lot more clubs in the new guide....

    1. That is interesting! I didn't notice during cross-ticking, but I don't mind a few clubs to mix things up, apart from the perils of buzzing to get in, possibly signing a book, paying a small fee, you never quite know what you're going to get like you do in a pub.

  3. Plymouth looks a good idea. I can see half a dozen just over the Cornish border, hopefully all walkable from Gunnislake or the Saltash pub.

    While I'm at it, can I thank you for recommending the two in Blackpool, both great as well as being spot-on tips/

    But most importantly,
    "don't rush that pint of ale, smile at strangers, chat to folk"

    1. Yeah, am thinking a few trains and buses down there, might be easier than many West Cornwall ticks I've done, though that Bude area (Morwenstow especially) looks tough. Altarnun of course, one of my main aims, I know you did that one!

      Glad those Blackpool ones made it, did enjoy both, especially Albert's, very quirky.

      And yes, always important in pub ticking despite the enormous challenge we set ourselves, to remember to enjoy it above all else otherwise what's the point :) Think am maturing into a more 'seasoned' ticker after 5 years haha.