Good Beer Guide selection meeting, I thought it was worth taking a closer look at one of the issues which came up on the day. This issue was a major one, and more than anything else, had the potential to derail the whole selection process. This fly in the ointment/spanner in the works, was the fact there was insufficient information available on many prospective GBG entries, to make a properly informed choice.
We are probably in a better position than many branches in that we make every effort to get round as many of the pubs in our area as possible. The rural ones are the most difficult, for obvious reasons, but a combination of rural bus routes and the odd country walk does mean it is possible to get round more of our country pubs than you might think.
Despite what might be considered a firm base, there's only so much a handful of us can achieve, and it's on occasions like selecting entries for the Good Beer Guide that the full effects of a lack of active members really comes to the fore. The crazy thing is that a ready made solution is available, but like anything worth doing in life, it does require a little effort, especially at the start.
CAMRA's Whatpub data base not only provides the ideal means for members to enter NBSS scores, but also allows them to amended out of date information. The former acts as an indicator to the quality of the beer in a particular pub; although in order to provide a true picture scores need to be submitted over a lengthy period and by as many people as possible.
The latter helps the branch form an up to date picture of what the pub is really like, and whether it is worthy of a second look and a possible guide entry. Last weekend although we did have NBSS scores to go by, more often than not, they were from just a handful of members.
This is a pretty poor show, given that we have over 600 members in the branch, but the sad truth seems to be most of them can't be bothered to submit scores. Surely these inactive, "armchair" members go to the pub, even if it's only occasionally? If not, why are they members of an organisation like CAMRA?
If there's one thing they could do for CAMRA and their local branch then it's submitting NBSS scores for the pubs they visit. Just think how up to date our branch pub database could be if these people just went online from time to time and submitted the occasional score?
Persuading "armchair" members to get into the NBSS habit is probably easier said than done, so perhaps branches need a strategy where they can put this into practice. So whilst I am not particularly involved with the GBG selection process these days, I would still be interested from members of other CAMRA branches to learn what they do.
The bottom line though, is every time you visit a pub, especially if it is one you don't normally go to, then use Whatpub and submit your NBSS scores. The more data the Campaign can amass, the more accurate CAMRA's flagship publication becomes. The more accurate the Guide is, then the more it is likely to appeal to both new buyers and seasoned users. This can surely, only be a good thing.