The Good Beer Guide 2018 is celebrating its 45th edition by reflecting on the massive changes to the beer industry since it started in 1974.
This milestone edition provides an opportunity to take stock and marvel at the changes that have transformed the pleasure of beer drinking over this period – most significantly the explosion in the brewing industry and range of beers now available.
It also recognises just how well represented we are in Wrexham and Flintshire with 16 pubs making it into this year’s guide including such popular haunts as the Offa’s Dyke in Broughton, the White Horse in Cilcain, the Colomendy Arms in Cadole, the Griffin Inn in Gresford, the Glasfryn in Mold and the Bridge End Inn in Ruabon.
The first edition of the Good Beer Guide was just 96 pages in length and listed a 1,500 pubs. Its brewery section listed just 105 brewing companies. Today, this number tops 1,700.
The beer range available in 1974 was primarily composed of milds and bitters, with a smattering of winter and Christmas ales. The contrast with today could not be sharper, with the latest Guide listing 1,704 breweries, producing more than 7,500 beers in more than 14 styles.
In 1974 pubs serving real ale were thin on the ground. Leeds had just five pubs that served real ale, Liverpool and Manchester had nine and 13 respectively. The entire county of Norfolk had just eight.
The Guide explores the contrast to today’s beer scene, in which a growing number of pubs vie to offer the best possible range of beers.
Many pubs present these with social events, such as mini beer festivals, beer tastings and matching food with beer. Initiatives such as Cask Ale Week (September 21 to October 1), which encourages pubs to celebrate cask ale, helps to drive this trend.
Paul Nunny, instigator of Cask Ale Week says: “There’s plenty to celebrate.
“There are now 1,700 breweries across the country, nearly all producing natural, cask-conditioned ale.
“With brewers becoming more and more adventurous in the style and flavour of beers they produce, choice has never been better.
“With more than 10,000 different real ales produced each year, there is a beer to suit every palate. Cask Ale Week reminds people to go to the pub and try some of them!”
One newcomer in this latest edition is Mold’s Alehouse, which was established in 2016 as one of North Wales’ first micropubs by husband and wife team Gareth and Rebecca Jones.
Gareth, left who his job with Royal Mail after 21 years to open the pub on Earl Road, said: “To find out that we are in the 2018 Good Beer Guide following being named North Wales CAMRA Pub of the Year and third best in Wales has topped what has been an incredible first 18 months in business for Rebecca and I.”
The Guide reports that breweries are continuing to open to meet the insatiable demand for real ale, with 261 new breweries in the latest edition including a growing number of breweries in North East Wales, with new names like Black Brook in Mold joining already popular brands like Wrexham’s Big Hand and Flint’s Facer’s.
Roger Protz, Editor of the Good Beer Guide says: “The first edition of the Good Beer Guide was a call to arms for beer lovers at a time when the brewing industry was in dire trouble after a frenzy of mergers which created six large national brewing groups.
“These breweries owned more than half of the country’s pubs and flooded them with pressurised keg beer which was of a quality that would be laughable today.
“How the beer world has changed! Today, in spite of closures, a growing number of pubs clamber to offer the best possible range of real ales and we are still seeing remarkable growth in the brewing sector.”
For Gareth, supporting local breweries on the doorstep like Hafod and Black Brook is all part of his job.
“In my opinion there’s never been a better time to be a beer drinker and hopefully the march of the micropub and micro brewery continues,” he says.
“However, the national and international breweries are fighting back by acquiring some of the small breweries and also attempting to make their own ‘craft beer’.
“I really don’t know if the number of micro breweries can continue to rise at its current rate but I do believe that the ones that have the best product will survive if saturation point is reached.
“There’s one thing for certain, at Mold Alehouse we will continue to promote micro breweries and give our customers the opportunity to taste the excellent beers that they are producing.”
l The Good Beer Guide is now on
sale and available
to purchase for £12.99 at https://shop.camra.