I'll have no weirdy beardies in here, thank you!
I was recently rather tickled by Simon Everitt’s account of the less than fulsome welcome he received from the Good Beer Guide-listed Royal British Legion in Penistone, Yorkshire. The inclusion of clubs and off-licences in the Guide has been a perennial source of debate, so I thought I would run a poll on the subject.
The results show strong support for off-licences with a small bar section, with brewery taps and members’ clubs not far behind. Pure off-licences, which were common in the early years of the Guide, were less favoured, and very few people thought that establishments where you have to either stay overnight or eat a meal to have a drink should be featured. Only 20% of respondents went for “none of the above”.
I suppose it depends whether you see primary purpose of the Guide as being to lead you to good real ale wherever found, or whether it should concentrate on pubs where there is a more conventional all-round welcome. To be honest, I incline to the latter view, and regard clubs and off-licences as something of a waste of page space.
As Simon found, almost by definition, clubs do not set out to appeal to casual customers, and are often places where the one-off visitor does not feel at home. “Whatever the attitude,” he writes, “you can rarely be as anonymous in a club as you can in a pub.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but they’re a fundamentally different beast from pubs.
I could also have gone on to question whether self-consciously unpubby modern bars should be included, but that’s a whole different can of worms.