One thing that has struck me about the comparison between the 1978 and 2018 Good Beer Guides is how much more homogenous pubs were back then. Yes, of course there were smart pubs and rough pubs, mature pubs and youngsters’ pubs, foody pubs and staunchly wet-only pubs, but the vast majority were owned by brewers and had a vested interest in selling their beer. There were very few pubs that you really didn’t feel at ease with just going in for a pint of bitter. People would often go for a wander round various local pubs in a way they rarely do now.
But now, with the breakdown of the tied house system and the rise of alternative formats, the pub scene has become much more diverse and fragmented. There are many pubs that the customers of another one wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. How many people in the average upmarket country dining pub, urban “old man” boozer or trendy craft bar would ever cross the threshold of the other two? If just wanting to “go out for a drink”, I find the range of options open to me is a lot less than it once was, even discounting the large-scale pub closures, most markedly because so many pubs are now entirely food-led. And, if they fancied a drink in Stockport Market Place, how many people would genuinely consider the Boar’s Head, and the Baker’s Vaults or Remedy Bar to be potential alternatives?