Home > Beer > CAMRA v Yorkshire: The Myth Of The Local

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.

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  1. July 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Perhaps the logical conclusion is not to read too much into awards?! 😉 I doubt Blackwell & co did or ever will.

    Although nice to see Halifax on the beer radar, once with a vast amount of pubs per person so my Dad reckons (much like it’s Canadian namesake n that respect!)

    • July 29, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Yes, well there is that. 3,000 people voted for the finalists, so not exactly all of Yorkshire. Would be interested to know if the “judging panel” who selected the final 12 included active CAMRA members.

  2. July 28, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    bear in mind good beer guide pubs are selected the April before the guide is published (October) so a pub could have improved vastly in that time. You’d need to check this year’s good beer guide for a more accurate reflection.

    • July 29, 2011 at 9:02 am

      Good point Steve, they do talk about having turned the pub around.

  3. July 29, 2011 at 12:21 am

    All too often CAMRA ignores the “local” in favour of the “pub with lots of interesting beers”. That is why there are so few Sam Smith’s pubs in the Good Beer Guide, despite the vast majority of them being “proper pubs”.

    • July 29, 2011 at 9:10 am

      Yes, I like some Sam Smiths pubs and have ended up in quite a few of them on walks around Yorkshire. Even when they don’t have anything interesting on cask (or sometimes anything on cask) I usually go for a bottle of their Old Brewery Pale Ale.

      They vary massively though. The Sam Smiths pubs in Leeds (naming no names) do range from terrifying (the archetypal rough pub) to very pleasant.

  4. Josh
    July 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Also to remember each branch gets a maximum they can put up for the guide and is drawn not only from the beer selection but it’s condition. I would also assume they membership varies from branch to branch, I’m lucky to be in a branch with mixed ages and inclinations, so our pubs chosen are usually a fairly good mix, from independent and edgy to the most traditional city and country pubs.

  5. July 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    ….Yeaaaaah. It’s a funny one Nick, nice roundup. I do agree with Mark’s intial comment, which is not to read too much into awards. Especially with ones with such broad terms as ‘Yorkshire’s Favourite’. It’s just Pr, basically. I don’t even know how you could measure it – footfall would be skewed due to ‘regulars’ – or would that be an accurate parameter? When I look at the list – and I did when I considered voting – it is eclectic, but as you say, with a lean towards Gastro and ‘Roomy’ pubs. Yorkshire’s Favourite? Well, yeah, maybe…For this vote, at least. The best? Up to you and your taste. A puzzler though, and I enjoyed reading the post, dude….!

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