The Oscar For Best Pub Goes To… (CAMRA Branch Meeting #2)

The purpose for this meeting was very specific: select the 17 pubs that will represent our branch in the 2013 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, and to choose our Pub of the Year.

The meeting took place at The Grapes Hotel. It’s not a renowned real ale pub, but from what I was told at the previous meeting, they treat us very well and, perhaps more importantly, they have a free meeting room. In the summer of 2011 the then landlord decided that Punch’s terms and conditions meant that he could no longer make a remotely decent living and the pub was closed down. It lay empty for a few months before it was reopened in mid November.

I arrived a few minutes before 8pm and the bar was fairly bustling for a Monday evening. There was a strange mix of clientele: those who I recognised as CAMRA from the previous meeting, those who I guessed were CAMRA due to their age and fashion sense, and a load of local scallys who I assume must have been carrying ID as I certainly wouldn’t give them WKD if they failed to produce some form of official documentation. There were 2 ales on offer: Timothy Taylor’s Golden Best and Fuller’s ESB. The Best went off almost straight away and shortly after (and before I got served) the ESB was down. The barrel was changed but the barmaid couldn’t get it do anything other than spew out foam – she was clearly getting stressed by the situation and announced to nobody in particular but to all present that she was ‘well pissed off’. Time was ticking on so a few of us took the noble decision to enter the meeting room sans ale.

Coincidentally, 17 people were in attendance – including one female member and a few who were yet to experience their 40th birthday. The chairman told us that the initial long list of 50 pubs had been whittled down to 40 as some had shut and a few more had had a very recent change of landlord and as such their future affiliation to ale could not be fully guaranteed. We were treated to a quick run through of the pubs then the voting slips were handed out. We all ticked the 17 pubs that we felt were worthy of a place in the guide and then added an extra tick for the 1 pub that was our Pub of the Year. The slips were handed back and the chairman and secretary retired to a corner of the room to tot up the scores. I (and a few others) took this as an opportunity to discover if the barmaid was still well pissed off or if she’d managed to persuade the ESB to behave. It was now coming out us a liquid, a very cloudy looking liquid but it tasted fine so hey ho, let’s drink. Back in the room several people were holding up their pint glass and staring at in serene befuddlement.

The vote counting was completed and the results announced.  In the battle for Pub of the Year there was a clear winner. The first 15 pubs into the guide was straightforward enough but the final 2 places had 5 pubs on the same number of votes, so a quick show of hands was required – 2 of the 5 emerged as clear winners and the other 3 now find themselves on the reserve list which means they’ll make it into the guide if any of others unfortunately close. As I am a man of immense integrity I won’t break the embargo but I will say that I am happy with the Pub of the Year winner and also with the 17 pubs selected for the guide – thankfully, there were no pubs whose inclusion had me thinking WTF!!

With the formalities over it was time to finish our cloudy beers and have a general chat – there was an interesting debate about Wetherspoons. I think it was safe to say that an enjoyable evening was had by all despite the relative beer disaster. It was a good process to be part of and it’ll be all the more so when the 2013 Good Beer Guide is launched and I can physically witness the results of my labour (saddo ego maniac that I am).

The next meeting is 12 March – I’ll be there.

Welcome to Swindon & North Wiltshire


In the area covered by the Swindon & North Wiltshire CAMRA Branch, there are 188 ‘real ale’ pubs but no BrewDog bar.


~ by landells on February 28, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Oscar For Best Pub Goes To… (CAMRA Branch Meeting #2)”

  1. I was annoyed that I couldn’t make it but given the beer situation I’m now glad! I’m tempted to bring a few cans of Punk to the next meeting as a substitute, just in case.

  2. Well, we’re all very excited about the plans for BrewDog Pewsey.

    • You jest but a few years back some bloke from Pewsey was on the local news moaning about the woeful state of the UK rail system and he was so pissed off that he claimed he was gonna build a railroad from Pewsey to London… admittedly, it’s all gone a bit quiet on that front but once the railroad is complete I’m sure the bustling metropolis of Pewsey will soon be home to a BrewDog bar.

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