The 1974 Good Beer Guide: those weren’t the days
I was 18 in 1974 and North London being what it was in those days was already quite familiar with pubs and beer (the beard probably helped).
Reading Boak and Bailey’s interviews about the first 1974 Good Beer Guide in the May edition of Beer stirs a few thoughts, mainly of the ‘what progress has been made’ type.
As the interviews note the coverage of pubs was far from comprehensive geographically. That was partly because CAMRA was still in the process of building a national structure in every area. It was almost certainly also because in some areas- Watney’s domination of Norfolk is noted- it was very difficult to find a pub with drinkable beer.
Living then, as I do now, (I have been away in the meantime!) in Haringey North London, the number of pubs selling real ale through a handpump was certainly down to single figures. There was the John Baird in Muswell Hill (Courage Best and Directors- through an unmarked pump) the Railway Tavern in Crouch End (Bass and Charrington IPA) and the ever reliable Volunteer at Tottenham Hale.
You really had to seek a real ale pub out in those days, special journeys often being required. The alternative was not the craft keg of 2017, it was Watney’s Red Barrel, John Courage, Whitbread Tankard etc etc. These were cold, fizzy beers which certainly to me were undrinkable.
The two London brewers, Fullers and Youngs, were hardly present in North London. Occasional pilgrimages would be made to the Anchor and Hope, a Fuller’s pub on the River Lea at Clapton to drink the extremely strong (in those days) 5.5% ESB.
The idea of a beer brewed outside of London making it to the bar was unheard of.
Fortunately within 5 years the work of CAMRA had begun to turn matters around