Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Good Spoons Guide

In the recent discussion about Good Beer Guide selections in Falmouth, the point came up as to whether there was any point in putting Wetherspoon’s pubs in the book, so I thought I would ask people the question. As can be seen from the poll on the right, the answer was a clear “Yes”, with 72% saying they should be treated just the same as any other pub.

However, personally I have to say I have some sympathy for the bottom two options, as Wetherspoon’s pubs are so homogenous in terms of menu, general ambiance and even the sort of beer range that is offered, that it’s a case of “seen one, seen them all”. This is not to say I wouldn’t use them, but I doubt that many people would go out of their way to visit one rather than another, as they might with an individually-run pub of character. And does the presence of a Spoons pub in the Guide indicate more the lack of local competition than the fact that it actually keeps its beer better than those that aren’t included?


  1. Given that wetherspoons are all pretty similar across the country it does serve as a kind of beer barometer for the quality of pubs in that area. If your local spoons makes it in as one of the best pubs, you've got to have serious concerns.

    Perhaps there should just be one generic entry for wetherspoons pubs, and all other references can just say "see appendix A: wetherspoons pubs".

  2. All depends what question this beer book of yours is seeking to answer. If it is "which pub round here fits all my CAMRA prejudices for wanting overpriced vinegary piss in shit holes" then you are quite correct to exclude the spoons.

    If however the question is "where around here is a decent pub with a decent pint I don't need a second mortgage to drink in", the answer will quite often be the local spoons.

  3. Yes, if you have been in one then you know what will probably be in the others but this can be the same for some other pub chains namely those owned by one brewery. Ok I admit the food varies, but alot of them, maybe most will only have their own beer on with no guests.

  4. @py0 - it might be an idea to list all the Spoons pubs in a separate sponsored appendix and exclude them from the main body of the guide.

    To me, part of the point of the Guide is leading me to places I would not otherwise find or visit, and including Spoons pubs does not achieve that.

  5. That's where you are going wrong, Mudge and with that attitude you'll always be disappointed by piss poor expensive Ploughmans lunches. Get down the Spoons for one and you know what you are getting.

    I saw on special offer in Tesco's a "Ploughmans Scotch Egg", differing from a regular one by the addition of cheese and pickle. Is this officially allowed in a Ploughmans Lunch?

  6. A couple of years since Spoons have done a Ploughman's, Cookie. And even then it had an excess of pork pie vis-a-vis cheese, as Tyson will confirm.

  7. Methinks you're getting a bit confused...the title of the book is Good BEER Guide, not Good PUB Guide!

    I personally don't like Wetherspoons pubs, but sometimes, they are the best available (a saviour in Ellesmere Port one lunchtime!). However, they should never get in a good pub guide, but if the beer is good and meets the criteria set down then they should be in the good beer guide!

  8. I stand corrected, Mudge, but pork pie is an acceptable adjunct in my view.

    But it does boil down to what you think the point of the beer book is. I suspect the first few editions offered the curious drinker information on where you could actually find real ale and what it was. I suspect it was bought by members of the general public who had heard something about it and were curious enough to want to know where in their own locale they could find it.

    These days it looks to me like little more than a money making exercise. It tries and fails to pick the better pubs of any given area. Some of those will be Spoons if only because everywhere else is more of a dump.

    If they wanted to reach as many young curious tech savvy drinkers as possible it would be a free iphone app and not something bought only by the faithful.

    If it is to be as you suggest a tourist guide for people on holiday who don't want the same menu as you get everywhere then you would remove stuckpits entry entirely. No one visits stuckpit through choice and those forced to are too afraid of the locals to leave the hotel.

    You would only have entries from nice bits of countryside or the coast.

  9. It's a Good Beer Guide.
    Spoons sell good beer so why shouldn't they be included ?

  10. It's a Good Beer Guide, not an Exciting Pub Guide.

    That said, there is a problem in listing Spoons' pubs on the basis of their beer. A single visit is going to establish nothing more than that they serve Ruddles County, GK IPA and various guests, all in good nick and relatively cheap. Whether the beer in a particular Spoons' is such as to merit inclusion in the guide is something you'll only find out by repeated visits, or by asking a local. I could name you a Spoons whose usual range is up there with the craft beer bars, and one where the range was more like a bog-standard chain pub (although admittedly I've only been there once - it may have been an off week).

    I vote[d] for "only if they do significantly more than the norm" (as judged by local nominations) - the rest should be listed in the back of the book, under the heading of "Mostly harmless".

  11. I assume that branches including Spoons pubs make sure they accumulate enough good NBSS scores to merit inclusion and don't just put them in on the grounds of variety.

    Actually over the years in S&SM branch I would say that when the membership vote on the list of eligible pubs the Spoons perhaps tend to get fewer votes than their scores might suggest, which indicates that some element of adjustment factor is being applied.

  12. The style of Wetherspoon's pubs tends to be very similar, but the quality can vary a great deal, both in terms of choice and the condition of the beer. I can remember in the glory days of Boddington's, every pub exterior and interior was made to look identical, even to the false ceilings and the tiles they used on them. No one suggested then that Boddie's pubs be excluded from the GBG because they all looked much the same.

  13. You've made that point before, but to be honest I don't really remember any degree of homogeneity about Boddington's pubs beyond the usual corporate identity of signage, colour scheme, beermats, ashtrays etc. There were quite a few in and around Stockport and they were very different from one another. Plus they certainly didn't all serve the same menu!

  14. aiui (because the new android version isnt ready yet) the new GBG app is free, for the curious tech savvy,its a basic version that lets you search on a limited local basis, theres then a subscription you can buy which unlocks the full listings + ticking capabilities the old app had.

    for the record I dont mind spoons in the guide as long as they are there on merit, and I believe them to be, I know the spoons in our area is there on merit as its head & shoulders in beer quality terms above alot of its local competitors which include other spoons in the area. and I think anyone who avoided spoons mentioned in the guide is doing themselves a disservice.

  15. If I had a Good Beer Guide in the glove box of my car as I motored towards an unfamiliar town or village I'd expect the Guide to list for me every pub which provided good ale.
    That,after all, is presumably why I have the guide in my glove box.
    Whether it's a Spoons or The Whippet's Arse And Ale Farts Arms is immaterial.
    I want a pint of good beer, irrespective of the ceiling tiles or decor.
    Of course the real fact is that guides like this are mostly purchased as Christmas presents every year by long-suffering partners of bum-sniffing beer tickers.
    And actually I suspect Weatherspoons couldn't give a toss whether their pubs are included or not.
    Tim has been successfully blazing his own trail across the pub landscape of Britain for too long to worry about it.
    Fact is, Weatherspoons have been more instrumental in the revival of real ale in Britain than anyone else, including CAMRA.
    I have drank in dozens of Spoons all over this fine land and never once not found at least one really good pint.

  16. Because the GBG is a Good Beer Guide and not a Good Pub Guide, my brain tells me that I have to agree with those commentators who state that so long as their beer quality is up to scratch, 'spoons should be included.

    My heart tells me otherwise. If I am in a strange area and want to find a 'spoons then I will go online and look for one. I would, however far rather be directed to a pleasant local pub, or bar, full of character, serving decent ale that is representive of the area I am visiting. I really do not need to buy the GBG to direct me to the nearest 'spoons!

    CAMRA are unlikely to do this, seeing as the Guide is such a money-spinner for them, but I seriously believe that a total review and revamp of the Good Beer Guide is long overdue. The format is tired and the conceot out-dated. Something along the lines of Des de Moor's excellent "CAMRA Guide to London's Best Beer, Pubs & Bars" is much more contemporary and up to date for today's sophisticated beer and pub connoiseurs.

    How about it CAMRA?

  17. Your not remembering, Curmudgeon, doesn't mean I'm wrong; I didn't imagine this. It was rolling programme to give all their pubs the distinctive Boddington's stamp, inside and out: wallpaper, furniture, carpets, ceiling tiles, signs, as well as glasses, beermats, etc. The big boys, like Tetley and Whitbread were all doing it, and I expect - as was common with regionals in the 1970s - Boddie's just decided to follow suit. I remember thinking at the time what a pity it was that pubs selling such good beer were having all their individuality squeezed out of them in favour of unimaginitive corporate uniformity.

  18. Martin, Cambridge2 October 2012 at 22:30

    "Wetherspoon’s pubs are so homogenous in terms of menu, general ambiance and even the sort of beer range that is offered, that it’s a case of “seen one, seen them all”.

    Visit a Spoons in Cricklewood (75% wet) and then the new one in Dereham (90% food) and wonder if you're on the same planet. A lot of people would think the Holts estate much more homogenous in terms of beer, layout and customers.

    Beer quality is the only criteria for inclusion in GBG.

  19. I avoid Wetherspoons for one reason. The service is crap because they don't have enough staff serving drinks.


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