Travelling With The Good Beer Guide

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Travelling with The Good Beer Guide

Sometimes books other than travel books guide us in trip planning

I recently wrote about how my use of guidebooks has changed over the years as the Internet has blossomed. Guidebooks, travel articles, and Internet information are generally primary resources for trip planning. But sometimes resources are little less orthodox. Think of people who follow the footsteps of fictional characters when visiting the setting of a favourite novel.

As I plan my upcoming trip to England, I am reminded of a resource that served me well on the trips my family and I made to England in the late 1980s and early 1990s: The Good Beer Guide. The guide is published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). CAMRA was founded in 1971 by four men who were disillusioned by the domination of the United Kingdom beer market by a handful of companies they felt were pushing low quality products of little flavour. In the 1960s and early 1970s, many brewers moved away from traditional methods. “Real ale”, a term coined by CAMRA, is defined as “a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process of secondary fermentation.” CAMRA campaigns to promote real ale and pubs. Ale includes several beer styles: bitters, milds, stouts, porters, barley wines, golden ales, and old ales.

Although I appreciate finding a good English bitter I’ve not tried before, it wasn’t the beer that made the book so useful. It was the character pubs and historic villages we discovered via the book.

On visits where we stayed with friends, we explored the area around them during the day while our friends were at work. We often sought out one of the pubs in the book for a lunch stop. On trips touring the country, we turned to the books to locate pubs near us as possible lunch or dinner destinations. Because we had young children, we looked for pubs with a garden (if the weather permitted) or a family room. Through the process, we discovered scenic and historic places.

We visited the Prince of Wales pub in the picturesque village of Shere, Surrey. The Church of St. James in that village is believed to date from 1190. It has a Norman tower. Our hunt for one 14th century pub led us to the village of Wylye, which we learned had been featured in the Doomsday Book. (The Doomsday Book was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. The first draft was completed in 1086 and contained records for 13, 418 settlements in English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees.) We ate a delicious curry while looking out over the shoreline of the English Channel in Seatown, Dorset.

travelling with The Good Beer Guide - English pubs and villages

We found an ivy-clad 18th century freehouse on country crossroads. We ate at an old mill converted to a pub and restaurant. The mill’s water wheel was a focal point at the centre of the pub. The children loved the family room at a more modern pub in a suburban area with its Lego tables and supply of Lego building blocks.

It was fun to discover the pubs and the areas they were situated in. But I did feel a little embarrassed back home in Canada when my daughter’s teacher asked her what she liked best about England and my daughter, aged six or seven at the time, replied, “the pubs.”

The Good Beer Guide was not the only guide I used to explore England. Other guides helped me find other historical sites, castles, museums, gardens, parks, and scenic drives. But it was a trusty enough companion that now, as we prepare for a trip to England to reconnect with old friends, visit some familiar places, and explore new territory, I have the latest edition of The Good Beer Guide to take with me.

Note: If you prefer to access information online, CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide app and The Good Pub Guide are great resources for finding interesting pubs.

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  1. This is so charming! I have to admit, I love all thngs English and have made many trips there. But that is really creative…the pub guide as a resource for so much more than pubs! Very cool!

    1. Deb, someone unfamiliar with English pubs might have wondered what kind of parents my daughter had. We’re back in England now and have already visited several wonderful pubs thanks to firends who live here acting as our guides. Sadly, they say many traditional pub are closing and many are being redone in sleek, minimalist styles, but we’ve still found some great ones.

  2. We’ve had several “quests” during our travels where we’ve tried to find various types of plaques (Merida, Mexico), gold museums (Central America) and anything about the pirates of old. When we visit England I think a pub quest would be a great idea and it will be fun to check out this respectable English tradition! Anita

  3. Wow, this is a great idea! That guide is quite a treasure. English pubs should persevere as an institution. It is so much fun being in one, being like locals even for a short time. Hope you are having a grand time in England now. I will be in London in a week and I also can’t wait to visit a pub again, even if I don’t drink beer!

  4. Loved this! Super idea – my husband would think I was a genius if I came home with a pub guide. That trip to England might come sooner than he expects.

    1. Noel, it did serve as a unique guidebook. It took us a bit out of our way at times, but that proved interesting and scenice.

  5. Your daughter’s comment about the pubs is just great! I can’t say I’ve used any particularly off the wall travel planning resource, but do enjoy exploring the variety of apps now available. I did like a book I picked up in Rothenberg, Germany because it was all about the medieval wall around the town and described everything in detail for the walking tour.

    1. Jeri, I love finding a book with things described in detail for a walking tour. It’s a great way to explore on foot with a “personal guide”.

    1. Patti, you don’t need to drink beer to appreciate these pubs, but the book would be a great gift for a beer lover visiting (or living in) England.

    1. The guide book has information about different types of beer as well as the pubs, so it would be very useful in sampling the local brews.