How CAMRA works
- to find our Pub of the Year
- to allocate Good Beer Guide entries
Information for pub-owners, licensees and CAMRA members
This is intended to clarify how CAMRA works in the above ways and what members, pub owners and licensees can expect from their local branch. Three issues are covered:
- CAMRA’s beer scoring system and how it is used
- How a Pub of the Year (PotY) candidate is found and judged
- How does this CAMRA Branch decide what pubs get into the Good Beer Guide (GBG)?
Conversely; why are most pubs excluded from the guide?
Outside of CAMRA HQ every active member is an unpaid volunteer who gives up some of their free time to survey pubs for the Good Beer Guide and Pub of the Year, run beer festivals and campaign to protect pubs from closure. Even at HQ there are only a small number of paid employees.
CAMRA is run by the National Executive (NE). Again; these are all volunteers who are voted in (and out) of office by the members. Nationally; CAMRA is split into regions such as “West Midlands”. A region is managed by a Regional Director (RD). RDs are also unpaid volunteers. Each region comprises a number of branches. A branch is semi-autonomous, managing its own area via a branch committee. A branch is semi-autonomous, managing its own pubs via a branch committee.
Only the local branch members can nominate pubs/clubs for the GBG/PotY. These selections are managed by the branch committee – their contact details are on our website.
Our branch is Shrewsbury & West Shropshire (SAWS) and is part of the West Midlands CAMRA region.
The whole of West Shropshire from Whitchurch and Oswestry in the North to Ludlow in the South including most of the area West of the A49 to the Welsh border. See map.
WhatPub is an important and useful CAMRA tool. It is freely available without advertising or subscription. WhatPub is accessed via the web or smart-phone. It is the most popular source of on-line pub data in the UK.
Just enter ‘whatpub’ into any browser and you get there. To find your own pub enter the name and location, without ‘the’ before the name eg. Red Lion . Case and punctuation are not required. You can see all the 250-plus premises in our branch area by entering ‘Shrewsbury & West Shropshire’ in the search box. (Note: the default is for all open real ale pubs, filters are available to widen or restrict the search.)
Updating my pub
Whilst CAMRA members regularly update WhatPub we strongly recommend licensees to do this; it’s in your best interests to keep licensing hours, food times and so on up to date. You do NOT need to be a CAMRA member to do this. Just find your pub on WhatPub.
Towards the bottom of the page is a link: ‘Send an email to the branch’. Click there and enter any amendments to the WhatPub entry. If you are a CAMRA member and logged in, the link is: ‘Fill in the feedback form’. In both cases an email will be sent to one of our members who will make the changes for you.
Pub of the Year (PotY) selection
We award certificates for ‘Shrewsbury’, ‘Market Town’ and ‘Rural’ categories.
A Pub of the Year automatically qualifies for the next stage of a multi-stage contest.
The first stage is to solicit suggestions from a shortlist of the NBSS highest scoring pubs from the branch members. We would counsel against licensees and/or their staff nominating their own premises.
The second stage inspections are where judges visit the pubs on the short-list and fill in an inspection report. Whilst beer quality is the most important criterion it is far from the only one. The following shows the inspection criteria.
Quality of Beer
Obviously the most important. Choice of ale is not a factor; a pub offering only one real ale is equal to one with twelve handpulls on the bar.
It is possible to have a community pub in the city and town centres just as much as out in the urban areas. Notice boards feature highly listing local events etc, sports teams linked with the pub, a sense of pub belonging to the people and the local community. When you go in do you feel comfortable, do the people there also feel comfortable and is there a pleasant feel about the place. If a pub, intentionally or unintentionally, operates in such a way as to exclude some sectors of the community then that counts against it for this competition. That’s not to say that pubs which target a particular type of clientele cannot be excellent in their own right – but a CAMRA Pub of the Year does need to be inclusive.
This is partly about the “feel” of the interior – is it a nice place to be? It’s also about the extent to which the most has been made of the actual building. Is the décor appropriate to the type of pub it is? Does the style show respect for the building? Factors like imagination, taste and restraint all come into play. Pubs certainly don’t have to be picture-postcard, unspoilt rural gems to score highly here. Estate pubs, modern city centre bars, back street boozers – all can be excellent in their own terms. It’s the clichéd approach, the lack of imagination, the identikit and the formulaic that tend score low.
Service & Welcome
Pretty self-evident this one. Is the service prompt, efficient and friendly? Do you get a full measure or at least a top up without having to ask? Does the person serving you seem to regard you as a human being rather than just a source of revenue?
Sympathy with CAMRAs aims
Does the pub espouse and promote our values? Is cask beer given a positive push here? Is information offered about the ales sold? Does the pub try to stimulate interest in the sorts of issues we’re concerned about?
Value for Money
This is about value for money, but in the widest sense of the term i.e. not just how cheap the ale is. The questions to ask revolve around – having made the effort to come here, having devoted some of my valuable time to the journey, having spent my hard-earned cash, how good a pub experience have I had?
The three winners of our branch PotY in each category are then put against each other with the highest scoring becoming our branch area Pub of the Year.
The winner is automatically entered into the West Midlands regional PotY round. Judges visit the county champions in each of the six regional counties (Staffordshire, Shropshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire). This round takes place in June/July. The winner is awarded West Midlands PotY and is automatically entered into the UK national competition.
The UK judging takes place from August onwards and the winner becomes CAMRA’s UK Pub of the Year.
Good Beer Guide (GBG) selection
The over-riding qualification to get into the GBG is beer quality with beer choice being secondary. We do not apply the judging criteria used for selecting a PotY – the GBG is about beer. PotY etc. are about pubs.
• GBG branch allocation
A branch has a set number of pubs that are allowed to enter into the GBG. A small branch may have as few as eight, a large branch forty or more. It is important to note that only the local branch (ie the branch in which a pub is sited) can nominate a pub for the GBG. Our Branch currently has an allocation of about 25.
CAMRA has a National Beer Scoring System (NBSS) and this is the basis upon which the branch selects pubs for the GBG. Members are encouraged to use NBSS to score the quality of beer they find in a pub or club. It is considered inappropriate for licensees, or their staff, to score their own pub. (We would also counsel against licensees and staff scoring beer in pubs in their immediate vicinity.)
• Criteria used to get pubs onto the branch short-list
We use NBSS as the main criterion for deciding on a short-list, which consists of about 40 pubs (this is about 50% more than the GBG allocation). The criteria used are based on a minimum average score for the year, and a minimum number of scoring members. Inclusion in the GBG is judged solely on beer quality. No pub ever has an automatic entry into the GBG; selection starts from scratch every year.
• How the final selection is made
The branch takes the shortlist and these pubs are then voted on by the branch in a secret vote that takes place by email, snail mail or on paper at a special branch meeting.
We will also retain two or three reserves. These are used prior to publication if a pub on the final list becomes disqualified – the pub at the top of the standby list is bumped up onto the final list. If a disqualification happens too late to alter the publication, a branch makes a formal request to delete a pub from the GBG and this is published in CAMRA’s membership newspaper “What’s Brewing”
The GBG for a given year is published in September of the previous year, eg. GBG for 2018 is published in Sep 2017. There is a six-month lead time between when branches have all submitted their entries, to the actual publication date. This means that we usually make our GBG selection in February.
• Criteria that disqualify pubs
– fails to meet NBSS criteria. Only the top scoring pubs will get onto the shortlist.
– change of licensee within last six months. Even if a pub has spent years in the GBG a change of management will usually disqualify a pub until the branch is able to judge its continuing performance under the new regime.
– Pub up for sale. This is obviously the same as the ‘change of management’ rule. If the pub is likely to be sold then the branch holds that the licensee is going to change. Note that we monitor pubs-for-sale in our branch area.
– knowledge that either of the above could occur during the year of publication
– cask ale not or not always available
Note: because of the GBG schedule, a disqualification in, for example, 2016 will usually exclude a pub from the 2018 GBG
• How do licensees know whether their pub has made it into the GBG ?
The simple answer is: “when the GBG is published”. CAMRA has very strict rules about this, branches and members are not permitted to tell licensees what the final list is, nor are individuals permitted to debate inclusion or exclusion.
(Page last updated: 1 Dec 2016)