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Reviewed by Barrie Pepper

I wonder sometimes how Roger Protz finds time to do all the writing he does. He is not only prolific in producing books but he provides regular articles for several newspapers and magazines both here and in the States, he is a regular broadcaster and on top of all that is in much demand to lead tutored tastings of beers world wide. So really his latest book, Britainís 500 Best Pubs, comes as no surprise. I suppose he just jots another one down between closing time and opening time. The Lord knows what heíll do when 24-hour opening comes along.

Of course I believe him when he says that it is a myth that most beer writers spend their days sitting in good pubs drinking good ale and tripping off their latest articles on the corner of a beer mat. Protz declares he spends more of his time before a computer screen than in the pub. I know how he feels. I had similar treatment from the news media when I brought out two books about Yorkshire pubs within a month of one another.

Of course it is necessary to visit a pub or two occasionally to write a book about them and the truth is that this book is a gathering together of articles written for The Observer over the past two years or so. I have spent enough time in his company to know that not only does Roger like pubs and regularly visit them but that he also has great respect for them, particularly those that deserve it. Traditional pubs, quiet pubs, village pubs, and some. His categorising in the book is fascinating: pubs for cyclists, pubs with literary associations, pubs for vegetarian food, pubs near cricket grounds, organic pubs. And then there are pubs in a number of cities: Glasgow, Newcastle, Chester (even Dublin and Lille which are hardly Britain but whoís counting?) pub walks around Upper Wharfedale, by the Thames, in the Lake District. There are sixty-odd groupings - theme pubs in the very best sense of the phrase.

Yorkshire gets its fair share of entries: such classics as Nellieís in Beverley, the Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole, the George at Hubberholme (which gets two entries), the Fat Cat in Sheffield and the Ferry Inn at Cawood. And then there are Godís own countryís claims for the oldest pub, the Bingley Arms at Bardsey, and the highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn.

T he selection will not be approved by everyone but they do reflect the fascination of the pub and the sort of place we ought to be fighting hard to protect. This book is a manifesto for putting right all that is wrong with our pubs. It does not proclaim the massive, noisy beer barracks of our city centres but its does stand up for pubs that deserve a better innings than they appear to be getting. There are no photographs but some splendid illustrations by Louise Wilde and excellent maps by Moraig Terrot. Itís a handsome book and would make a great present. If your birthday is coming up then get it on your list; otherwise curb your patience and wait until Christmas. Britainís 500 Best Pubs by Roger Protz is published by Carlton at £16.99

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