When it comes to books on beer and pubs it is fair to say I have sometimes been a little less than kind. I mean what is the point? A guide book to pubs and/or beer? Wondering what a beer is like? Buy one and drink it. You don’t need a book. Decide for yourself whether it is any good or not by way of your own personal opinion after you’ve had a swig. Same goes with pub guides. Good god, what is the point? See a pub and unsure whether you like it or not? Walk in, if you like it stay, if you don’t walk out. Job’s a good ‘un. Who on gods earth needs a guide? Doesn’t seem to stop people knocking them out though.
Occasionally a beer book comes your way, changes your opinion and knocks your socks off and “The Rough Pub Guide” does that in spades.
A call to arms to save the great British boozer and a celebration of all that is true about pubs. Namely that pubs are dumpy shit holes full of reprobates and criminals getting pissed and having fights. A true honest to goodness celebration of pubs without crap about “responsible controlled environments”. I love it to bits.
The book is a few years old and looking on Amazon appears to be out of print. I found this one in a charity shop where I was looking for a dead man’s suit. A bit of googling and by all accounts the author had a blog going regarding his book but again that does not appear to have been updated in a while. Pity, as both the book and blog are a decent read. One can only assume there will not be another edition as I suspect the dumpy pubs detailed in the book are gone now, never to return. If they are not they ought to be.
I’ve never really got the maudlin sadness at the decline of the pub industry, but the sheer joy of this book is infectious. To read through it is to get a real taste of boozers I suspect you really wouldn’t wish to go in unless you were happy to risk life and limb, a trip to A&E, the loss of ears, permanent disfigurement and loss of either sight or hearing.
But even so the book communicates a joy of pubs I’ve not encountered elsewhere. Not for this book a list of crappy pubs selected on criteria of the pongyness of the ale and joyless lack of a football on TV or music and aimed at middle class, middle aged tosspots. Not for this book a list of crappy gentrified pubs known more for pretentious posh nosh that fighting in the car park. Nope a list of pubs you suspect you’d quite enjoy if you survived unscathed. This book distils the essence of a true pub, how awful they are; why you are wise to avoid them and at the same time instils sadness in their passing.
Arguably if this type of rhetoric were more common rather than the bollocks of “responsible and controlled environments” I would be more inclined to support a “save our pubs” campaign, though no more inclined to visit one. I would want them saved for the reprobates that use them by way of ensuring such types were off the street and away from decent law abiding folk.
I love this book; it almost makes me wish to walk into a pub, and then scares me slightly off doing so.