CAMRA v Yorkshire: The Myth Of The Local
On 12 July 2011 the winner of a Yorkshire Post/Welcome To Yorkshire vote to name “Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub” was announced at The Great Yorkshire Show. The winner, by public vote, was The Shibden Mill Inn, near Halifax.
The shortlist of 12 was as follows: “The Adelphi, Leeds; The Angel Inn, Hetton; near Skipton: The Anvil Inn, Sawdon, near Scarborough; the Black Swan Inn, York; The Black Swan, Driffield; Durham Ox, York; Farmers Arms, Upper Swaledale; George and Dragon, Hudswell, near Richmond; The Milestone, Sheffield; One-Eyed Rat, Ripon; Shibden Mill Inn; Shoulder of Mutton, Harrogate.”
What I find interesting is that, unlike a lot of the other entries, the Shibden Mill isn’t actually in the current edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, according to my iPhone app. I wonder what it was that meant that a public vote for a favourite pub selected a Cask Marque pub which serves real ale (“a wonderful selection of cask ales”) and yet has been overlooked by CAMRA?
The thing that sticks out to me from the website, having not actually visited, is that it looks like a very nice place to go for dinner, or to stay in one of the rooms. Basically it sells itself more as a venue for eating than for drinking, and perhaps this is the reason that it’s not included in the Good Beer Guide, with the Halifax/Huddersfield area offering quite a few excellent pubs that are obviously pubs. I would assume that most of the other finalists have a good bar menu as well.
This might be indicative of a general disconnect between the general public (or perhaps casual pub-goers) and CAMRA/beer geeks. Many of the casual pub-goers go to the pub once a week for a hearty weekend meal and one or two pints of a beer at a sensible ABV, perhaps before driving home. By contrast, I imagine most of the latter group (whether at the CAMRA or bloggerati end of the spectrum) would view The Grove in Huddersfield as close to a Platonic ideal: a huge, ever-changing selection of good beer, some bar snacks and staff who know their stuff. Essentially, we want Dave and Barbara to refer us to the blackboard.
I may be reading too much into it, and it’s simply that the average Yorkshire Post reader wants different things from the pub than an average active CAMRA member. Another illustration might be my reaction to the recent Leeds Bar & Club Awards 2011, where my favourite Leeds pubs were largely overlooked in favour of what I would class as weekend music venues. It’s probably just the case that the people who voted (including Leeds Guide readers), unlike myself, view a Saturday night on Call Lane as something other than the third circle of hell.
I think my conclusion is the rather mundane one that different groups of people frequent different types of pub. Our idealised view of the pub as a place where the whole community comes together, the ultimate “Third Place“, is probably a fallacy. There have always been different drinking venues for different people: working men’s clubs, political clubs, gentleman’s clubs, student’s unions. The “local” wasn’t always welcoming for all and many people would never have been seen dead in one.
Basically, what makes a good pub for me is probably not to a lot of other people’s tastes. When people talk about “the pub” they can mean vastly different things. I’m fortunate that, at the moment, there appear to be enough like-minded people who are interested in variety and what I regard as good beer to keep the places I love going, and that these pubs in turn support a thriving craft brewing industry.