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Good Beer Guide 2020 or the Good Pub Guide 2020?

Since I’ve been asked about this….

There are two books published every year which both recommend pubs which should be visited, the Good Beer Guide and the Good Pub Guide.

I’ve had a browse through the Good Pub Guide and, although I appreciate everyone has different views, there are some really surprising and generic choices in there. Without denigrating any particular location, there are some listed pubs which are bland and lacking in any depth of beer options. And very many interesting pubs in areas that I know, which have a really good atmosphere, excellent craft beer choice, innovative real ale and engaging staff are all missed out.

The Good Pub Guide also claims it’s independent, which I don’t deny, but then takes advertising from breweries and pubs. And then, the book admits, “the pubs featured as main entries do pay a fee”. So, for me, it’s meaningless, however well intentioned that is. They then claim that they’re “the only truly independent guide of its kind”, but I’m not sure how the Good Beer Guide is somehow in hock to anyone.

The Good Pub Guide seems to really focus on mid to high end pubs which serve food, with few exceptions. If it was rebranded as the good pub food guide, then it might perhaps make more sense. But how they’ve managed to miss nearly every micro-pub, community pub, craft beer pub and quirky pub is surprising for a guide that has been published for so long. In some relatively large towns and even some cities, the Good Pub Guide has nothing to offer at all. The emphasis on country pubs is heavy, and there are a few areas which seem to have several pubs all clustered near together which doesn’t fit right with me.

Whereas, the Good Beer Guide has rarely failed to let me down, indeed, not one choice has ever felt inappropriate. And some pubs in there have been real finds, with some fantastic craft beer and real ales, but also historic buildings and perhaps most importantly of all, a great atmosphere and service. The Good Beer Guide is up-to-date, they don’t sneer at pubs that might be cheaper and I like their often humorously pithy comments and summaries of the locations they’ve recommended. Indeed, the Good Pub Guide gives similar space to every entry, without really sometimes having much to say, whereas the Good Beer Guide does feel that it speaks its mind.

By a country mile, I’d recommend the Good Beer Guide for anyone who wants pubs with character.