North Hertfordshire CAMRA committee members are drinking beer just the same as you, all across North Hertfordshire. But with over 200 pubs to keep tabs on, we really need many more of our members helping out! The core group (it fluctuates, but there are about 10 of us) simply cannot make it to all the pubs often enough to give them a fair go. To help us decide which pubs in our patch are worth considering for the CAMRA Good Beer Guide we utilise the CAMRA National Beer Scoring System (NBSS) – importantly ALL CAMRA members are eligible to submit scores for any pubs they visit (across the whole of the UK).
This system consists of a 6-point scale that rates a beer on quality. The emphasis on “quality” is important, this the most challenging thing about the system. You need to judge whether the beer is in good form, not whether or not you happen to like the beer (in fact a beer worthy of a 5 could very well be one that you are not personally a huge fan of). You need to consider whether or not the pub has kept and served this ale in good condition: is it clear (unless marked otherwise for unfined beers), does it taste and smell fresh, does it have an appropriate level of carbonation? Sometimes cask ale can taste and smell vinegary (acetobacter infected – common of beer left on too long) or taste like “wet cardboard” (oxidation – which dulls the flavour), if it is particularly bad you should let the bar staff know!
Please note that NBSS scores do not form a “linear” scale. Anything over 2 is good beer, just degrees of ‘goodness’. The CAMRA HQ website has some additional information on the NBSS here.
Finally please keep in mind that we are scoring only the beer itself, not any other aspect of the pub. Please try to be as objective as you can when rating a beer.
Please note we do scrutinise the entries on the database, so don’t try entering a load of 5s for your favourite pub, or 0s for one you’ve been barred from. We will notice!
You can now enter your scores online using CAMRA’s WhatPub website. (This replaces our previous branch-managed system with one run by CAMRA HQ).
Log in to WhatPub using your CAMRA membership id and main CAMRA password. Search for a pub, view its details page, there is a beer-scoring form at the top-right side of the page. Click here to find more instructions on the WhatPub website. (You need to be logged in to be able to see the beer scoring instructions, when logged into the website there is a “Beer Scoring” link at the bottom of the page. This site also works very well on all modern mobile phones with an Internet connection (hint: many pubs have wifi on offer these days). On the mobile version there is a link for scoring beer in the horizontal menu bar at the top of the page – under the pub photo if there is one.
For reference, here’s our description on how to judge beer for NBSS scoring – remember it is about the keeping & quality, not you personal flavour preferences.
|0:||Undrinkable. No cask ale available or so poor you have to take it back or can’t finish it. If the beer is undrinkable please tell the staff – in a good pub they should be able to recognise that the beer should not have been served and they may replace your pint. In this case our advice is to not rate the bad ale. (Note that a ‘0’ for “no cask ale” and a ‘0’ for “undrinkable” are two different things and are recognised as such in the scoring. We do not count ‘0’ for “no cask ale” towards a pub’s score.)|
|1:||Poor. Beer that is anything from barely drinkable to drinkable with considerable resentment. As with a score of 0, if a beer is actually this bad it is really worth having a chat with the staff. Sometimes it might be reaching the end of the barrel, or the staff may have forgotten to pull the line through for the first pint of the day. Give them the benefit of the doubt and the chance to make ammends!|
|2:||Average. Competently kept, drinkable pint but doesn’t inspire in any way, not worth moving to another pub but you drink the beer without really noticing.|
|3:||Good. Good beer in good form. You may cancel plans to move to the next pub. You want to stay for another pint and may seek out the beer again.|
|4:||Very Good. Excellent beer in excellent condition.|
|5:||Perfect. Probably the best you are ever likely to find. A seasoned drinker will award this score very rarely.|
In all of this it is always worth talking to the staff about beer quality, especially the landlord if around. Without direct feedback how can they improve? Complement them on a great pint, certainly – but if you think things aren’t up to scratch it is worth talking about that too. Sometimes bar staff will take it badly and be confrontational about your opinions, grin and bear it. Of course, if the landlord or landlady looks like he or she is in a bad mood, it might not be a good idea to start telling them their beer isn’t good enough! Use your judgement and offer feedback when you feel it may help. Be prepared to be told you’re wrong – and sometimes even learn that you are wrong! (Some unfined and specialty beers may be cloudy, for example.) Always be polite!