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Britain's 500 Best Pubs

September 2002

By Gary Monterosso

When I decided to write about beer, a decade ago, I had become familiar with the works of some of the top journalists in the industry; people such as Michael Jackson, Fred Eckhardt, Stan Hieronymus, and Roger Protz. I considered all four to be prolific and, above all else, candid in their reviews. Whenever one of these gentlemen would release a new book, I'd be certain to read it from cover to cover.

Not long ago, I completed Protz' work, World Beer Guide, when his latest effort, Britain's 500 Best Pubs, became available. Upon receiving my copy, I did what I always do, I read the Table of Contents in order to get a snapshot of the book's layout. Don't let the title of the book confuse you. Britain's 500 Best Pubs is not an alphabetical inventory of the finest taverns in the nation; rather, it is divided by sections such as "Pubs near beaches," "Pubs for cheeses," and "Pubs for bird-watchers." Very unique, indeed!

There are no pictures in Mr. Protz' book, although illustrations by Louise Wilde are sprinkled throughout, making for a welcome addition. Photographs, however, really aren't crucial, as Protz prudently weaves a story around each of the places he has surveyed. In many ways, I found Britain's 500 Best Pubs to be as much of a diary as an effort on beer. The section called "Pubs associated with famous people" shows why Protz is one of the most respected writers in the business. Referring to a pub in East Sussex called "Bell," noteworthy because of its proximity to Rudyard Kipling's home, the narration reads: "The Bell is a quintessential English village local opposite the church and a blaze of colour in season with hanging baskets and tubs full of flowers. Rudyard Kipling's last home, Bateman's, is close by; a name with a pleasing bibulous ring, for Bateman's is a renowned family-owned brewery in Lincolnshire. Kipling (1865-1936), who was born in India, has recovered in recent years from a reputation of being either a cheap jingoist or a writer of whimsical stories for children. After all, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907."

Later, he writes, "The cheery main bar has high-backed stools and pews, and a vast range of bells, barometers and metal work decorating the dark ceiling and walls. There's a welcoming log for cold days. It's a real locals' pub with a tremendous range of traditional games, including bar billiards, shove-ha'penny and dominoes." With every establishment cited, you'll feel as though you are walking through the door, knowing the history, physical appearance, recommendations of what to eat and drink, and the finer points making each one of Britain's 500 best pubs.

Britain's 500 Best Pubs is written by Roger Protz and is published by Carlton Books Limited.

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