Tuesday, 28 February 2012

CAMRA and coupons

Ahead of a pub crawl around Manchester tonight with Ron from Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, I was looking at the Good Beer Guide's section on the city centre.

Two of Manchester city centre's Wetherspoons are in the GBG.  I'm not against Wetherspoons pubs being in the GBG if they are the only places in a town with cheap and well-kept beer but neither of those things is the case in Manchester.  I'm not even sure Wetherspoons really qualify as pubs - they normally have the size and atmosphere of an aircraft hangar.  I also object to their inclusion at the expense of gems such as the Briton's Protection, Hare and Hounds, Lass O'Gowrie, Peveril of the Peak and Unicorn. 

There has been criticism of the commercial relationship between CAMRA and Wetherspoons whereby the former send out discount coupons to their members on behalf of the latter.  Given that entries in the GBG are decided by CAMRA members at local level, I don't think it's a case of Wetherspoons directly buying influence but rather that CAMRA members with vouchers are more likely to frequent their pubs for the discounts on already cheap beer and then vote for them.  Traditional working-class pubs that sell well-kept cask beer in Manchester seem to fall under the GBG radar, presumably because the percentage of CAMRA members among their regulars is much smaller.


  1. That's two pubs out of a total allocation of 20 listed for Manchester City Centre in the GBG, and the Peveril is in the 2012 edition. Quite a few CAMRA members don't use the tokens (I usually end up throwing most away), but even if they do, the tokens amount to 50p off a pint for a maximum of 10 pints in a 3-month period. That's one pint every 9 days, hardly enough to entice you to make Spoons your local.

    Because of the misunderstanding about the nature of the relationship between Spoons and CAMRA that the tokens cause, it wouldn't bother me if Spoons stopped issuing them, but as CAMRA says, if any other pub company wants to make similar special offers to members, they'll accept them. So far, none has done so.

  2. Nice conspiracy theory Matt - but that's all it is. The reality is rather more mundane and is due to the fact that three CAMRA branches cover Manchester City Centre (I won't bore you with details). I would however say that pubs like the Hare & Hounds and the Unicorn may be "gems" but in my reasonably extensive experience of drinking in both pubs their beer is nowwhere near Good Beer Guide quality. It doesn't matter how good the pub is, if the beer isn't good enough it doesn't belong in the GBG.