This subject raises its ugly head in the beer blogosphere every now and again. I’m well aware of the arguments and reasons why things happen the way they do. I’ve sat in on pub selection meetings and I know the fears about not nominating the full allocation of pubs, but surely in this electronic age of automated compilation, editing and publishing a bit more flexibility on the number of entries that branches can submit from year to year could prevail. Couldn’t it?
It was my birthday recently and we had a night away close to the North Norfolk coast in a pub called the Lifeboat Inn at a village called Thornham. Several people had said how good the food was and it is in the current issue of the Good Beer Guide. It had also featured in previous issues. On paper it seemed like a good place for a birthday treat. In reality it was a tad disappointing. Our room, whilst clean, was a bit tired around the edges. It was comfortable in an old pair of slippers sort of way. With the merest hint of an effluvia to match. The staff were on the aloof or disinterested side of surly. But the food was indeed very good. None of these things of course are really the focus of the Good Beer Guide. Soon after arriving we decided to head for the bar for a pre-dinner aperitif. Half of this establishment is a dedicated restaurant with table service and the other half is a tradition pub with plenty of tables and chairs. The Pub Curmudgeon amongst others would hate this pub as there were a couple of bar stools and a couple of small tables in a snug close to the bar but on closer inspection the lounge beyond was full of empty tables, all with reserved signs on them. I didn’t like this either. We sat in the garden for a while but retreated to our room as it started to feel chilly. My pre-dinner pint of Woodfordes Wherry was equally disappointing. It wasn’t off; it hadn’t been hanging around for a long time. In fact I suspect they sell loads of Wherry. Really, it wasn’t bad, but it most certainly wasn’t good either. I think I would describe it as outstandingly underwhelming. It just was, "like Mount Everest is and Marilyn Monroe isn’t”. It was beer in a vacuum, without emotion. Now not everybody gets it right all of the time and so I approached a pint of Nethergate Suffolk County with hope and anticipation, only to be dashed again. Again the beer wasn’t off or old it was just okay. I’m not versed in the mystic arts of cellarmanship so I’m not equipped with the necessary technical vocabulary to explain its mediocrity. I’m also not steeped in the language of Protzian beer philosophy used by guilded* beer writers. I’m just an ordinary bloke what knows a good pint when he’s served one. It was beer without love. Beer ‘cared for’ by an automaton. Beer for eunuchs. I don’t know if it says in the cellar-man’s bible, “thought shall't love thy beer with all thy heart”, but it bloody well should. I bet the standard I experienced that night was how it always is. The food is good and they clearly care about that. It just a shame the same care isn’t taken over their beer. I bet The Lifeboat is in the Good Beer Guide just to make up the numbers.