Last night Gloucester CAMRA presented their City Pub of the Year award to The Pig Inn the City, Westgate Street, who retain it for the third consecutive year. The Gloucester Country Pub of the Year was also retained by last year’s winner, the Tudor Arms in Slimbridge.
The Pubs of the Year are picked from those appearing in the current Good Beer Guide. In 2011, Gloucester’s Good Beer Guide Pubs are: The Pig Inn the City, The Fountain, The Cross Keys, The Water Poet, The Linden Tree and The Greyhound in Longlevens.
CAMRA’s choice of pubs is sometimes subject to criticism, but this is generally because people don’t understand it. The selection of entries for the Good Beer Guide is different from other guides in two ways. Firstly, the selection is made not by an editor or by unverified submissions from the public, but by CAMRA members (or at least the active ones). In Gloucester this means the 30 or so people out of the membership of over 350 who regularly turn up at meetings.
The second, and perhaps most important difference, is the criteria. The most important thing is the beer, not “roses around the pub lintel, Turkish carpets, sun dried tomatoes, drizzled olive oil and the temperature of the oak-aged Chardonnay.” In short, then, the guide is designed for beer drinkers.
In selecting pubs the first criteria is beer quality – and landlords have to have been in place for at least a year to qualify so that there is some degree of stability and proof of consistency. Next, consideration is given to the range and variety of beers. Ambience and hospitality of the pub is definitely a factor in how favourably the pub is perceived, but other factors such as décor tend to be very much down the list of qualifying criteria. Food isn’t really a factor at all.
What this means is that CAMRA’s favourite pubs are sometimes a bit on the shabby side. The Pig In the City is certainly a bit rough around the edges, but it has a thriving community of regulars, the landlord and staff are friendly and welcoming and, above all, the wide range of interesting beers are consistently excellent.
Although there are a number of pubs in the city that I really like, on these criteria there has been no-one to match the Pig in recent years. Things might be about to change, however.
The New Inn in Northgate Street will qualify next year as managers Mark and Samantha have been there since February 2010, and their range of beers is excellent. Although not a factor for the Guide, Mark also deserves credit for trying to make the New Inn more than just a pub, arranging events from beer festivals to live music to Victorian fayres in the courtyard. The carvery is also excellent and great value. It is, of course, also an incredibly impressive, historic building. All in all a top pub.
The second contender for the crown is just a short distance from the Pig and a past CAMRA favourite: The Dick Whittington. It has had a bit of a turbulent recent history, but current landlord Alec has turned it around and it again now provides a wide range of excellent and interesting beers. Although Alec hadn’t been there long enough to qualify for consideration in the 2011 guide, the Dick Whittington was last night awarded a commendation in recognition of his efforts. This is also another superb Grade 1 listed building.
I think the selection for Gloucester City Pub of the Year might be more interesting this year than it has been for quite a while.
If you are inspired to join in the debate, check out the newly revamped Gloucester CAMRA website, join up and come along to the meetings.