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07-10-2010, 17:00
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Today the Morning Advertiser landed on the bar amongst the post. Normally, after a quick scan confirming that most of the stories are about the beer tie, I file it. This time, however, I saw the Good Pub Guide had a 2 page spread celebrating it's new edition, complete with the headline that I'm foolhardy for increasing my prices.

I don't get on with the GPG. Whilst I was happy enough to be in it, when I started looking through it a bit closer I was surprised at what I found. Most noticably a pub that had been shut for a while before being re-opened 2 years ago as a antiques shop was in it - picked up by the local CAMRA branch. Something else made me email the editors of it though. A local pub - very good pub, food led, with 2 good beers well kept (no guests) had earned the badge signalling an award for excellent real ale. I have no qualms with this whatsoever - I've enjoyed the ale there many times.

We didn't have this badge of honour, and whilst not over the moon that I didn't have it, my first thought was to email the publication and ask what the criteria was for these awards. Whilst I can't find the reply in my email, it was what you expected - well kept ale, a good selection etc etc.

I replied, enquiring if there was any reason I hadn't got it as I offered 5 ales, including guests, all of which had recently passed the cask marque assessment for the second year running. The reply to this was that the person reviewing the pub hadn't been impressed enough to warrant the reward. Needless to say this is where I fell out with them. And I wasn't surprised to find out the following year we were now a 'lucky dip' pub.

Fast forward 2 years, and we're still 'lucky dip' material. The same basic mistakes are still there - this time another pub in the town apparently has new owners. This was news to me, and it turns out, to the owners, who have been there longer than the four years we've been in Hay. Our page (all the current information I've found from their website) only had a couple of minor errors on it - we have 8 handpumps, not 5, and dogs are allowed on the patio out the back, just not on the lawn.

But it got me thinking - this book is basically an out-of-date version of tripadvisor, or beerintheevening (I would include pubsgalore (http://pubsgalore.co.uk/) but this seems to be a good site, sensibly moderated) - opinionated reviews putting things out of proportion. Reviews are sent in by members of the public. Yet the editorial team seem to enjoy slagging off pubs as a whole - The piece in the MA focused on 'foolhardy' licensees who put their prices up. Same as last year - when no mention was made that duty went up to cover the reduction VAT would have made.

I've found a category for this type of literature. From now on, I'll hold it in the same regard as the Daily Mail.*

Some people may think this is because we're not a full feature in it. It's not - I don't want to be. What upsets me is guides like this can help make or break some pubs. With such basic mistakes on pubs details (you really should check with the pub before going to print stating the ownership has changed) and an editorial team that neither know or care about the finer points of the pub trade, what else have they got wrong? For some pubs, it could be the straw that breaks them.

* I apologise in full for naming this paper and therefore in some small way advertising it. It won't happen again.

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