Friday 12 November 2021


Laying horizontally across my psychiatrist's sofa the other day, staring up at the giant map of County Devon on the ceiling, she asks "... so Si, what makes you TICK?" 

"The Good Beer Guide and a green Stabilo" I reply.  

She slams shut her notebook in despair and declares there is no hope.  The session is over.

OF COURSE this didn't really happen.  It was just a really brilliant joke by me, just now.

I'd be furious if she gave up that quickly anyway, for my imaginary psychiatrist charges an absolute fortune.  And no 50p off vouchers to soften the blow either.

Where was I?  Oh yes, HAPPY GOOD BEER GUIDE DAY!!

I 'declared' on 2024 net pubs on Saturday 30th October, in the very nice Orange Tree, Baldock.

John Depeche Modem realising he is witnessing a historic tick in the 2021 GBG for the final time

The new GBG arrived Monday 1st November 13:35pm, just when I thought all hope had gone for a last post (even Paisley had it before me, and has a GBG 'Spoons called the Last Post which is kind of meta if you think about it). 

Just in time too as I set off on my Hampshire Holiday the day after.  Cross-ticking has therefore been a sporadic process, often performed on the a bumpy train so requiring a steady hand.

Another one back on the shelf (might need a bigger shelf!)

The Numbers Bit

It soon became apparent that the 'churn' would be less harsh this year, much to my relief.

I finished cross-ticking on Tuesday 9th November 13:00 hrs, on a healthy 1936, a loss of only 88 pubs.  Best ever.  I usually lose approximately 200.  (And yes, I know my 36 pub week in Hants has helped distort the figure in my favour, but I have to say I'm well chuffed!) 

I wasn't even sure if there'd be the full 4,500 pubs in the Guide this year, having heard rumours earlier it'd be around the 3,300 mark, but I'm pretty sure it is business as usual.  

It seems noticeably more 'slimline' too.  By 2020, it was getting a bit too brick-like (hence my controversial 'brewery section removal') but last year, they reduced it to 912 pages, and now this year, 896 pages!  No need to wield that Stanley knife.  Plus one day, you never know, I might want to look up a beer I'm drinking (joking, obvs).  I'm grateful whatever. When trekking down those rural Cornish lanes on foot around Altarnun, you don't want to be too weighed down. 

I tell a lie - me using the brewery section to check on a beer in Cheriton last week (it wasn't listed!)

The lack of churn might be somehow related to the events of the past 18 months, but I was still surprised, hearing from one active CAMRA chum earlier in the year that they'd been "encouraged to think outside the box" in regards to the selection process.  Seeing so many of the lamer pubs I've visited in recent months retaining their place is good news for me, but you know, a bit surprising.

Another reason for the lack of churn might simply be that as my gross number continues to grow (now 3500 GBG pubs), I'm forming a 'base' and more likely to find re-entries appearing which I've already done.  Especially in the counties I get to most regularly.  This was most evident in North Yorkshire where I somehow GAINED six pubs to take my tally there to 127.  (Best since 2017, and I was pretty lax in NY this year).

Winners, Winners, Pre-emptive Dinners

The most pleasing part of the cross-ticking process (apart from finishing it!) is seeing your pre-emptives come good.  Here's a roll of honour of this year's 10 BRAPA heroes.  

1. Indie Craft Bar, Kendal
The first pre-emptive I spotted and the most surprising.  I was staying a few nights in Kendal in Oct '19, saw this in the gloom late on, randomly walked in.  No cask but I get chatting to him, and say "if you get some cask on, you might get in the Beer Guide and I can tick you off!"  He said he wouldn't rule it out for future, but I never honestly believed I'd see it in the GBG so soon.  Great stuff!  

The lovely chap in Indie Craft poses with the late Martin the Owl

2. Railway Arms, Saffron Walden
On a painful bus journey back from the village of Debden to the town I grew up in, two or three different people on my Twitter recommended this one, if I had time before the bus to Cambridge.  Perfectly situated between the two bus stops, I just about did, and with a great local following, guv'nor and top stout, it did feel like a revitalised classic.

3. Ten Tun Tap House, Alton
October 2020, and I can't quite remember how this came about.  Recommended by someone I guess.  The story went that they'd finally been able to open their new pub in the same week lockdown happened back in March, only to immediately have to close again.  So unlucky.  I'm delighted they've made the GBG.  Citra was there drinking murk when I arrived, for an added bonus point. 

4. Three B's Micropub, Bridlington
I think we've got Eddie Fogden to thank for this one, or someone in the tickers Whatsapp group.  I was baking in the heat of the courtyard of the now de-guided Stackhouse, Daddy BRAPA had gone for a coffee, so I googled this little gem and saw it was perfectly situated between current pub and the direction of Dad's cafe, so I swooped in for glory, and what a cracker it was, the 'realness' of Brid folk makes it the perfect town for a Micro like this.

Bloke on Shopmobility Scooter drinking pint - scenes you like to see

5. House of the Trembling Madness, York (Lendal)
Not to be confused with the original Stonegate upstairs poky, creaky quirkfest that has appeared previously in the GBG, I first visited this new one with my pals on a York Dice Night in August '18 and never been too enthused til' my most recent visit when we finally got into a quiet, nicely furnished side room rather than the bright main area and (deliberately) horrifying artwork / decor!  Ale always been decent.  Though having no pump clips on the pumps always confuses me.  

6. Kobenhavn, Halifax
 'Twas a dark wintry night in December '19, and after two much needed West Yorkshire 'ticks' with the lovely Quosh, we were joined by the equally lovely and most knowledgeable Halifax #Pubman ever, Chris Dyson.  He had a couple of pre-emptives in mind, and we marched from Stod Fold to this one.  I really liked the minimal Scandi-feel of it.  I've compared a few other bars to it since, it has definitely stuck in my mind.

Window blokes wish they were as cool as Quosh and Chris Dyson

7. Meandering Bear, Halifax
And then Chris took us to this one, it was a bit too busy and chaotic for me to enjoy as much as Kobenhavn, though the atmosphere was perhaps pubbier and I was introduced to the guv'nor.  A weird lady tried to make us stand somewhere we didn't want to, there was a poem or something about a meandering bear escaping from the local zoo you had to crane your neck to read.  Top stuff from Mr Dyson, my only surprise was that they didn't appear in last year's GBG.

8. Hop Inn, Hornchurch
Another one I was surprised not to see in the 2021 GBG, I am most delighted of all to see this one make it.  Such lovely people, has a pub anywhere in the country ever been such an advocate (not avocado) for Colin the Cauliflower?  His best friend WIM (Wee Irish Man) lives here, and now they have female cauliflower so I'm going to take Colin back to meet her!  They looked after us so well, Alison gives me free crisps and stuff, beer strong and hazy, a lady talked about cider and her dog, top place!

Col, his best mate WIM, and very nice crisps

9. Platform Bar, Hexham
Bit of time to kill before the maniacal train to Newcastle on a Saturday evening in Sept '19, I spy this on the far platform, go to investigate, and there's this intimate little place with zero customers presided over by a lovely couple.  It feels very new.  I think they even poured the rest of my beer in plastic so I could drink it on the train, and not feel too left out, alongside all the other pissheads Toon bound.  Then everyone sang 'Wild Rover' and it was mad, but this was the delightful calm before the storm.

10. Horse & Groom, Chobham
Last but no means least, Andy Collins off of Twitter took me here in October 2020 after helping me tick the glorious Royal Marine in Lyne.  Surprised to see it open, as it often wasn't around this time, he suggests we take full advantage so we go in.  Very tiny, but as the GBG says, 'village pub but smaller' atmosphere rather than your classic Micro.  Guv'nor seemed a nice chap too, well done H&G. 

Awards : Cross-Ticker of the Year / Saddest Pub Loss/Amusing Random Error

Our cross-ticker of the year award goes to RetiredMartin.  A mess up meant he didn't receive his Privileged GBG early.  He may've mentioned it.  But, never let the lack of a GBG stand in the way of a good ticker.  Not only has he acquired the pages / new entries from a variety of helpful pub ticking chums, he's already visited this year's most dubious entry (in terms of opening hours) in a town that rhymes with Few Thrills.  Top work.

Martin "So ..... that's what a physical copy of a GBG looks like"

There's always a pub 'binned off' the current Guide that leaves you totally gobsmacked, because when you went, it seemed to do pretty much everything perfectly, and you could've sworn on your life it'd be nailed on for many years to come.  This year, it goes to George & the Dragon, Gnosall.  He even signed my 2021 GBG.  #JusticeForTheGeorgeAndTheDragon

And finally, the 'Amusing Error I spotted in the GBG which wouldn't be amusing or interesting to anyone else in the world probably not even fellow pub tickers award' is found on Page 468.  East Cowton, such a stalwart of a recent 'twixt Darlington/Northallerton ticking day, has buggered off to the Cumbrian border just for the laugh ...... oh and nearby Dalton-on-Tees has moved close to Thirsk.  Crazy.

What's Next for BRAPA? 

So what does the 2021/22 season bring for BRAPA?

My main focuses (foci?) now are to complete Hertfordshire and Hampshire.  Probably in that order.  And then get into Herefordshire.  Oh, and if I'm doing Hampshire, I may as well get Isle of Wight done once and for all, only eight pubs needed there.

I did vow to get back to Cornwall next summer, I still intend to, but only so much you can do / so many holidays I can take when you have to work, boo.  

'Thirsty Thursdays' (thanks Eddie!) for now will be trying to mop up the new gaps in that have appeared in the Yorkshire area, particularly South and West, though there have never been fewer.  Some of 'North' will be achievable too, but I'm hardly getting to Hawes or Whitby after work am I?  Am I?  Well, it is getting back that is the problem. I only have two pubs to do in East Yorkshire, one easier than the other!

Once I've done what I can in that area, it'll be a toss up between Durham and Greater Manchester.  I keep getting so close to completing County Durham, but have never quite managed it.  Red Lion at Cotherstone is in the GBG yet again, I really gotta just bite the bullet and get there by Hook or by Crook (Crook is probably the better interchange of the two).  Their opening hours kill me!

But I need booing off the pitch and have 'you're not fit to wear the pub ticking shirt' chanted at me for my lack of Greater Manc progress.  As we move into 2022, I'm gonna get on it.  I've been so lax around there, my last GBG pub visited there was December 2019 in this lively shed called Pilcrow.  

I hope to have an announcement in the early New Year that'll help revolutionise midweek ticking, he says cryptically.

Well, thanks for reading this waffle.  Happy GBG day.  2564 pubs still to do, what am I waiting for?  




  1. I don't know if this is a representative example, but my branch really struggled to conduct meaningful surveys for this edition. We did some early work before everything went to pot in March 2020, then after that surveying was sporadic and not comprehensive. We ended up taking a position that, rather than scoring from scratch as usual, we took the GBG 2021 entries as a start point and asked "should any of these be removed, does anything else demand entry" and only made one change. We were a bit fortunate in that none of the branch's flagship pubs closed or obviously deteriorated, and nothing big and new opened.

    If other branches have taken a similar position to us then it's fair to think there might be a fair bit of churn in the 2023 edition, and there might well be stuff by next summer that ends up going "how did this place get in?"

    1. It would have been more sensible for CAMRA to fund Simon to visit all the pubs in the UK between 12 April and 30 August this year, drinking a pint in each, and then let him choose the 4,500 best entries for the Guide.

      Reading Discourse I sense a lot of elderly(50+) CAMRA members understandably weren't ready to visit pubs because of fear of Covid, and therefore surveys and beer scores weren't really a core feature of the GBG22 selection process.

      Whether that is now changing is hard to call; I still find a lot of cask focused pubs painfully quiet, particularly midweek.

  2. I also thought that the plan was to reduce the number of entries by 20%, but apparently this was shelved when some branches kicked up a fuss, saying "well, that's OK in other parts of the country, but WE should keep our allocation because our pubs are so good." Obviously I'm not following Discourse closely enough.

    Not much change in Stockport & South Manchester - I assume you've already visited Project 53 in Stockport.

    The paper feels thinner than in previous editions. Plus dropping opening hours will save a few pages over the full guide.

    1. some branch areas could well do with trimming entries by 20%, I never know how they dont get challenged more often on the numbers they submit, but 20% reduction across all branches doesnt feel a fair solution either.

      But for instance somehow my branch seems to have lost at least 2 pubs from its main local allocation and I can only see 1 of those spots seems to have ended up being used elsewhere in the region, though maybe if they were following some kind of 20% reduction it might explain it.

      But according to the local paper there are only 11 new entries for all of Suffolk, but one of those was already in the guide, so thats only really 10 new pubs.

      All a bit confusing really :) anyway I didnt vote in this years guide as I didnt think it was fair having not visited any pubs in the qualifying period.

    2. Simon and Martin will be well aware from their travels that the average quality of entries is much higher in some areas than others, but in practice it's hard to see how anything can be done about that as it involves making a subjective and inevitably controversial judgment.

  3. Happy Good Beer Guide day to you too! Let me know when you're back in Hertfordshire as I'd love to join you for a few pubs and pints and maybe we can make a feature of it for the GBG pages on the website. Cheers!

  4. Well done, Simon, great pre-emptive work. Good result too, great to be above 2,000 for the first time after cross-checking.

    I've just added up the number of entries by counties (I do that before inserting the numbers already visited and it's 4,509, which is par. Of course, having 111 (or is it 11 ?) in Harrogate this year helps.

    Thanks for the award, it means so much to me (and you know I mean it). Did you see Sheff's Ale House got kicked out after all that trouble you and I took to get to it ?