Good Beer Guide 2012: The Complete Guide to the UK's Best Pubs

Good Beer Guide 2012: The Complete Guide to the UK's Best Pubs

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by Roger Protz

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Now in its 39th year, this guide is fully revised and updated with details of more than 4,500 locations across the UK serving the best real ale—from country inns to urban-style bars and backstreet boozers


More than just a pub guide, this is a complete book for beer lovers. Completely independent, with no entry fees


Now in its 39th year, this guide is fully revised and updated with details of more than 4,500 locations across the UK serving the best real ale—from country inns to urban-style bars and backstreet boozers


More than just a pub guide, this is a complete book for beer lovers. Completely independent, with no entry fees for listings, it is revised and updated yearly by CAMRA's 110,000 members. Along with pub reviews and information, the guide has a unique Breweries Section which lists over 600 breweries—micro, regional, and national—that produce real ale in the UK, and the beers they brew. Pub entries give details of the beers served, food, pub history, architecture, transportation links, beer gardens, accommodation, disabled access, and facilities for families. Tasting notes for the beers, compiled by CAMRA-trained tasting teams, are also included. A full-color, 36-page features section at the front contains informative and interesting articles relating to beer, pubs, and brewing.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The definitive rundown of the best places in the UK to get a pint of real ale, from cosy country inns to upmarket style bars."  —Time Out Magazine

"Indispensible."  —Independent

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CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2012

By Roger Protz

Poetry Wales Press Ltd

Copyright © 2015 Poetry Wales Press Ltd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-85249-297-7


London Pub Marathon

Champion beer for the 2012 Olympic Games

Roger Protz goes back to his East End roots to search for the best pubs near Stratford's Olympic Park.

You don't have to talk Cockney rhyming slang if you're in striking distance of the Olympic Park but a passing knowledge won't go amiss. If, for example, a friendly local suggests visiting a rub-a-dub for a pig's ear, you'll know you're in good company, for that's an invitation to visit a pub for a beer.

The first rub-a-dub on this tour of hostelries near Stratford is remarkable in many ways. The Black Lion at 59 High Street, Plaistow, E13 (see entry), dates from the 15th century and was rebuilt as a coaching inn in 1875. With heavily beamed ceilings and half-panelled walls, it's the last trace of a once rural area where Henry VIII had a hunting lodge. Today, the pub is surrounded by high-rise council flats but, in common with Mile End and Bethnal Green, is likely to be 'gentrified' in the wake of the Olympics.

The Black Lion has several claims to fame. Dick Turpin stabled Black Bess in the cobbled yard and more recently the legendary footballer Bobby Moore was a regular: West Ham United's Boleyn Ground is just 10-minutes walk away. The equally legendary West Ham Boys' Boxing Club, which has produced such famous pugilists as Terry Spinks, Nigel Benn and Billy Walker, is next door.

If you believe in stereotypes then you would expect the Black Lion to be a lager-only pub. But leave your stereotypes on the pavement. The pub is a regular in the Good Beer Guide and on match days is packed to bursting with thirsty football fans drinking an amazing range of cask ales. The beers are chalked on boards in the main bar, with its low ceiling, beams and posts, and in a comfortable snug with wooden settles. There's a large garden to the rear, between pub and boxing club, which provides a vital overspill area on busy days.

Courage Best is a permanent beer and the guest list is ever-changing but you are likely to find the full Adnams' portfolio, including the rare Extra. There are always ales from Essex and East Anglia, including Mauldon's, while Cottage, St Austell, Sharp's, Taylor's Landlord and Young's come from further afield.

The Black Lion offers good, no-nonsense pub grub and history by the yard. The cellar was used as an air-raid shelter during World War Two and there are smugglers' tunnels running as far as Upton Park. The pub clearly has a hold on people because a barmaid called Milly Morris worked there from 1929 to 1997.

It's just a couple of minutes from Plaistow – pronounced Plarstow – Undergound station while a bus to Stratford takes around 10 minutes and you can catch one outside the station.

You can also hop on a train from Plaistow to Mile End for our next pub. The Palm Tree, 127 Grove Road, E3 (see entry), is just over the road from the station and stands in a surprisingly sylvan area, Mile End Park, alongside the Regent's Canal, where brightly-coloured canal boats are moored. The park is courtesy of the Blitz: German planes destroyed the area and the housing, apart from the pub, has never returned. It's also a part of London that had a different kind of Blitz in the 1960s and 70s: takeovers and mergers that destroyed such famous East End breweries as Charrington, Manns, Taylor Walker and Truman. The Palm has the Truman eagle logo on the cream and green facade, and inside there's a mirror advertising 'Truman's London & Burton', marking the time when London brewers rushed to Burton-on-Trent in the 19th century to brew the new style of pale ale, made possible by the salty waters of the Trent Valley.

Alf the landlord is a former dock worker and he and his family have run the Palm for 34 years. He's not sure of the precise year the pub was built but the Art Deco touches suggest it was remodelled in the 1920s. The impressive gold leaf wallpaper was chosen by Alf's wife when they took over at the pub, which has a large front room with a massive curved bar and a space for jazz and pop groups to perform live music. Above the bar there's a collection of photos of local performers and, somewhat surprisingly, one of Frank Sinatra. According to Alf, Ol' Blue Eyes dropped in with his minders one evening following a concert at the now-defunct Mile End Arena.

The smaller back bar has a fascinating collection of pre-war photos of the area along with caricatures of old sporting heroes, including boxers, golfers and footballers. This bar also has a rare example of an East End 'Fives' dartboard, with a nine-foot oche. Alf usually serves two cask beers, including Sambrook's Wandle Ale from a brewery plugging part of the gap left by Young's of Wandsworth. Guest beers come from many parts of the country. Sandwiches are served at lunchtime: see the main entry for opening hours and restrictions.

If your feet are up to a short walk you can reach the next pub via the pleasant park alongside the Palm, then pick up Grove Road again and continue along it until you reach a T-junction at Victoria Park. Turn right and after a few minutes you'll come to the Eleanor Arms, 460 Old Ford Road, E3 (see entry). Before you enter the pub, look further along the road and you'll see the Olympic Stadium looming over the chimney pots. The Eleanor is the closest watering hole to the games and there will eventually be a bridge from Old Ford Road to the stadium.

The pub is named after Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of Henry II: she funded a ford over the River Lea, hence the name of the road. The pub was a Fuller's house in 1879 but has been in the hands of Shepherd Neame of Kent for 30 years and is thought to be the most easterly of Shep's houses. The Eleanor is run by Frankie and Lesley Colclough and there's another Sinatra connection, as Frankie owns every track that Francis Albert recorded, though cool jazz was being played on my visit. The building stopped serving alcohol for a time when suffragettes took it over during World War One and ran it as a crèche, helping mothers improve the health of their children when infant mortality was an epidemic.

The pub has an intriguing design: the front bar is like a private living room, with wood-panelled walls, comfortable seating – including a Chesterfield donated by a local company – and a vast collection of old music hall, rock and film memorabilia. There's also a striking Watney Combe Reid brewery mirror over the brick fireplace. Small though the pub is, it has a central atrium that divided front and back bars, though a narrow passage now connects the two. The back room is bigger and has a pool table and another example of a Fives dartboard.

Frankie and Lesley serve the full range of Shep's beers and the brewery allows Frankie to add additional hops to Early Bird, which is rebadged as Early Bird Special. A fair amount of whisky is sunk in the Eleanor, as is testified by the gallon bottle of Famous Grouse with its own house label: the Famous Eleanor Arms. Filled baguettes are available at lunchtime and there are regular quizzes, jazz nights and live music. When the Olympic Park is finished it will be possible to access the Eleanor from Stratford's stations.

You can walk to the next pub, taking in the delightful greensward of Victoria Park, but it's a fair step and you can get to the Camel, 277 Globe Road, E2 (see entry), more easily from Bethnal Green Underground station. Save for weekends, the Camel only opens in the evening (see main entry for times). The pub, with a striking brown and cream exterior and large carriage lamp, is different in style to the previous ones visited and indicates the changing nature of the East End. The pavement tables and the stripped boards inside with more tables set aside for eating suggest this is the new, upwardly mobile East London.

The Camel specialises in the Cockney staple of pie and mash but it's not pie and mash as my parents would recognise it: steak and chorizo or wild mushroom and asparagus, for example, along with Thai green curry. But the pub is saved from the horror of being 'a gastro' by the excellent range of cask beers: usually Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Harveys' Sussex Best and Sambrooks' Wandle. There are good bottled imports, too, including the divine Sierra Nevada Pale Ale from California. Owners Matt Keniston and Joe Hill saved the once derelict pub from demolition. They have revived it with a bright and airy interior dominated by a long, sweeping mahogany bar, bright floral wallpaper and a snug at one end. Once again, there's wartime history in the Camel: it was used as a refuge for children who weren't evacuated from London and were left to survive the Blitz. Fittingly, the pub is close to the Museum of Childhood.

With the Dove, 24-28 Broadway Market, E8 (see entry), you are well into the new, gentrified East End where some people actually pronounce 'Ackney with an H. The bar – this is definitively not a pub – is in a revived and uplifted area that includes a street market and shops proffering organic food and designer label clothes. The Dove was once a pub called the Goring Arms but now it's a bar specialising in Belgian beer and food. There are benches and seats on the pavement and the main, spacious room at the front has ample seating, mirrors, plants and a ceiling painting based on Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam that, on closer inspection, is an advertisement for the Belgian beer Leffe. With such an introduction, Leffe Blond and Brown are naturally on tap along with such other Belgian worthies as Boon Gueuze, De Koninck, Duvel, Palm and most of the Trappist ales, including Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort and Westmalle. See the bar's website for the full list.

But there is also a good range of British cask beers, including Black Hole Cosmic, Crouch Vale Brewers Gold, Grantham Gold, a rare sighting of Flowers IPA, Tim Taylor Landlord and Whitstable East India Pale Ale. If you stroll further into the Dove you'll find a warren of smaller rooms where subdued lighting, comfortable seating and wall panelling are reminiscent of bars in Bruges or Ghent. A corridor takes you to further rooms set aside for dining. One is decorated with Japanese beer prints, a second has photos of old Thailand. The food, however, offers such Belgian staples as carbonade flamande, fish soup and mussels and chips, plus vegetable cassoulet for non-flesh eaters. You can reach this imaginative addition to the drinking scene in East London from Hackney Central rail station, just three stops from Stratford.

The last pub on the crawl could hardly be more different from the Dove. The Olde Rose & Crown, 53-55 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 (see entry), is a no-nonsense, East London boozer. No one builds pubs today like this grand three-storey, brown-brick Victorian hostelry created in 1881 that stands on a street corner and dominates the area. It's another ex-Truman house, now owned by Enterprise Inns, and has a vigorous real ale policy. Jo, who runs the pub with Panikos, is a welcoming host and is proud of her cask beer portfolio: as well as the pumps on the bar, she points to a vast display of badges on a wall beyond the bar showing the impressive number of beers she has sold in recent years, sourced from Enterprise and the Flying Firkin wholesaler.

The bar, lit by a phalanx of hanging gas lamps, performs a dog leg and groans with handpumps and keg founts. The cask ales constantly rotate but you may find Adnams Broadside and Woodforde's Wherry from East Anglia – 'they can go in a day,' Jo says – along with beers from Dark Star, Fuller's, Kelham Island and Redemption. There are also several proper ciders and perries. Partitions fence off a raised area at the front of the pub where you can enjoy a quiet pint, with a sandwich or jacket potato. A second raised area to the right is used for live music while to the left and up stairs there's a small theatre: see the website for details of performances. Beyond the bar, a large back section has the ubiquitous pool table.

The Olde Rose & Crown is just a few minutes from Walthamstow Central rail, Undergrond (Victoria Line) and bus stations. The 257 bus will take you swiftly to Stratford ... but you may decide to stay in the pub.


CAMRA's Pub of the Year

London pub takes gold

The Harp in central London was named CAMRA's 2011 National Pub of the Year – a notable award for a flag-bearer for beer from smaller breweries.

This year's Pub of the Year winner comes from London – the first time one of the capital's pubs had won the award. Despite its location in busy central London, the Harp, in Chandos Place, Covent Garden (see entry), retains its appeal as a true local and welcomes both regulars and first-time customers alike. The pub excelled in all the criteria for winning the award and, above all, with the quality of its beer.

Veteran publican Bridget Walsh serves eight cask beers, from such independent brewers as Dark Star, Harvey's and Sambrooks, along with real ciders and perries in a small, intimate pub festooned with mirrors, portraits and theatrical memorabilia: many of London's major theatres are close by in Charing Cross Road, Leicester Square and St Martin's Lane. The Harp has an upstairs room that is handy when the pub is packed.

Described as 'a real ale pioneer', Bridget took over the Harp as a tenanted pub in 1995 but has since bought it outright. She has more than 40 years' experience in the pub trade and won CAMRA West London's Pub of the Year award in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Under her guidance, the pub has become a haven for good beer. Kimberly Martin, CAMRA's London regional director, commented: 'I never cease to be impressed or surprised by the continuing success of a pub staffed by people so passionate about real ale. The Harp's award shows how the London cask beer scene is reaching out to new drinkers.'

CAMRA's Pub of the Year competition analyses all the criteria that make a good pub, including the quality and choice of real ale, atmosphere, decor, customer service and value. The competition is judged by CAMRA's 125,000 members in regional competitions. Sixteen winners then battle it out to reach the final stages. Look out for the [??] symbol against pub entries in the Guide and see 'Award winning pubs' (here).

The runners-up were:

Salutation, Ham, Gloucestershire (see entry)

Rural free house situated in the Severn Valley, popular with walkers and cyclists. The pub has two cosy bars, with a log fire and a skittle alley in front of the pub.

Beacon Hotel, Sedgley, West Midlands (see entry)

Beautifully-restored Victorian tap house and tower brewery, home of Sarah Hughes ales. There is a small island servery with hatches serving the central corridor, a small cosy snug and large main room. There is also a tap room and a family room.

Taps, Lytham St Annes, Lancashire (see entry)

Multi award-winning, one-roomed pub offering six guest ales, including a cask mild, plus a real cider. There is a plethora of memorabilia on display and the landlord has won CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year in two different pubs.


Brewing Success

Real ale is on the move ...

The growing demand for real ale is forcing many brewers to move to bigger premises to increase their production.

In south-east London, Sambrook's Brewery is filling part of the enormous gap left by Young's of Wandsworth. Duncan Sambrook worked as an accountant in the City of London where his role included helping new businesses get investment – useful experience when you're planning a brewery in difficult economic times.


Excerpted from CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2012 by Roger Protz. Copyright © 2015 Poetry Wales Press Ltd. Excerpted by permission of Poetry Wales Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Roger Protz is a journalist, broadcaster, campaigner, and the author of more than 15 books about beer and brewing, including 300 Beers to Try Before You Die. Twice a winner of the Glenfiddich Drink Writer of the Year Award, he also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Guild of Beer Writers.

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Good Beer Guide 2012: The Complete Guide to the UK's Best Pubs 2.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a CAMRA book: CAMRA's Good Beer guide 2012 published by CAMRA. The two other reviewers don't know what they are talking about, probably underage kids trying to be foolish. This is an excellent guide to pubs if you're visiting England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its not even a camra its not worth ur 11$.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What the heck is beer?????