CAMRA Durham launched the Good Beer Guide, CAMRA’s annual publication of pubs selected by members for consistently serving good beer, at Ye Olde Elm Tree on Crossgate in the city centre.
Guests were welcomed by the owner of Ye Olde Elm Tree & The John Duck, Andy Hughes, who offered each member two complimentary pints of real ale. On the bar were local favourites Sonnet 43 Brewhouse’s Steam Beer, Durham Brewery’s Magus, Wylam Brewery’s Collingwood Ale, Hill Island’s IPA turned “up to 11” (celebrating 11 years of brewing in Durham City Centre) & their award-winning Thai Red, which took Beer of the Festival at CAMRA Durham’s recent beer festival held in Durham Students’ Union last month. They were joined by some national brews, including Hambleton’s Stud, Wychwood’s Hobgoblin and Cumberland’s Corby Blonde.
Branch Secretary John Collinson noted Durham Branch’s commitment to going out & seeking the best pubs in all parts of the county. The Branch has been surveying pubs, thanks to the efforts of members going out to promote real ale & drive standards, and have “found gems and some pubs stuck in time”.
Collinson then introduced a special guest, former landlord of The Half Moon, Keith Draper, who spoke of his years running pubs under different companies, and the foundation of a good beer being the work that the bar staff do in the cellar. Both experience & enthusiasm to good service & quality are vital in running a pub. Under Keith, The Half Moon had been in The Good Beer Guide for a considerable 30 years. Ye Olde Elm Tree landlord Andy also spoke, thanking his enthusiastic bar team for putting together the event, and their efforts in securing the pub’s entry in this year’s guide.Ode to a Licensee (Keith Draper)
A licensee must be a democrat, an autocrat, an acrobat, a door-mat. He must be able to entertain Prime Ministers, pickpockets, pirates, philanthropists and police, and be on both sides of the political fence – a footballer, a cricketer, rugby player, tennis player, darts champion and pigeon fancier.
He has to settle arguments and fights; he must be a boxer, wrestler, weight lifter, sprinter and peace maker. He must always look immaculate when drinking with bankers, swankers, commercial travellers and company representatives even though he has just stopped a beer throwing contest in the public bar.
To be successful he must keep the bars full, the house full, the tanks full, the store-room full – NOT get himself full. He must have barmen who are clean, honest, quick workers and thinkers, non drinkers, mathematicians, technicians and who are at all times on the boss’s side, the customer’s side, and stay on the bar’s side.
To sum up – he must be outside, inside, offside, glorified, sanctified, crucified, stupefied, cross-eyed, and if he’s not the strong silent type… THERE’S ALWAYS SUICIDE.
CAMRA NorthEast Regional Director David Brazier spoke last, thanking all 150,000 volunteers whose feedback is important in maintaining the quality of the guide before officially launching the publication, copies of which were provided to all speakers.
Not in this year’s guide
The event started at midday, with the Guide officially being launched at 1pm. Guests were then offered a selection of buffet food, prepared by Hughes, which included a chicken curry pie. Though the event officially finished at 2pm, many chose to stay for at least another hour, sampling the fine beverages before dispersing across the city. For those who stayed beyond 4pm, and old 1980s guide to North East Pubs was found on the pub’s bookshelf, and a game of “guess the pub” caused several to cast their minds back to a time when not many places sold real ale, and there were only a handful of local breweries.
Those interested in purchasing either a physical or ebook copy of the guide can do so from www.camra.org.uk/gbg or there is a redesigned mobile application available for android and iOS devices. The guide is sponsored this year by both SIBA and It’s Better Down The Pub, whilst the launch event itself was supported by Waterstones and The Northern Echo.