St Albans beer guru quits Good Beer Guide after 24 editions

Roger Protz with the many editions of the Good Beer Guide he has edited over the years.

Roger Protz with the many editions of the Good Beer Guide he has edited over the years. - Credit: Archant

St Albans ale aficionado Roger Protz is going back to his first love, writing about beer, after stepping down from the Good Beer Guide.

The cover of IPA: A Legend in Our Time by Roger Protz. Photo supplied by the author.

The cover of IPA: A Legend in Our Time by Roger Protz. Photo supplied by the author. - Credit: Archant

Mr Protz has edited 24 editions of the famous guide, which includes recommendations for over 4,500 real ale pubs in the UK.

Following the publication of the 2018 Guide, the Herts Advertiser asked him about St Albans pubs and what’s changed about beer.

“Beer used to be brewed at the Abbey. The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is the oldest pub in England, and started at the Abbey.

“In the first Good Beer Guide, there was one pub in St Albans listed. Real ale was very hard to find here, as most pubs were owned by companies which did not sell real ale.

“Shortly afterwards, the Jolly Sailor was sold to Charles Wells, and started to sell real ale, and that took off.”

He started working for the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA), which organises the Guide, in 1976.

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In his interview for the role with the then-editor Michael Hardman, he was hired because he used to work for the London Evening Standard, like Hardman.

Mr Protz began helping on the book in 1978, when five St Albans pubs were listed.

“There are now nine St Albans pubs in the Good Beer Guide, and we would include a lot more of them if we had the space.”

Which ones make it in next year won’t be up to him though, as he is leaving to spend more time writing.

“When I was asked back to do the 2000 edition, I did not expect to do it for the best part of 17 years.

“The Guide has become almost too big. I spend most of my time proofreading, when I would rather be writing. So I will devote my time now to journalism, getting back to what I wanted to do.

“I wish the Guide every possible success. But I think as CAMRA is having a big look at itself, as to where it goes in the future, it would be good to have a younger editor.”

On what he thinks will be the next big change for beer, Roger said: “The big buzz beer of the moment is extremely hoppy and bitter pale ales and IPAs.

“In the US brewers are now developing session beers that are more moderate in both hop bitterness and alcohol.

“I think British brewers will follow this trend, realising that drinkers would prefer to sup a few pints of well-balanced beer than be blown away by one very strong and bitter one.”

Asked for his favourite beer, he said laughingly: “The choice is quite astonishing so to say what my favourite is difficult.

“I might go out and come across something I have never tried before.

“There are some wonderful beers around. The big change I’ve noticed is the enormous range now.

“Most brewers did mild and bitter, but now there are proper porters, stouts, IPAs and beers ageing in barrels, and they are putting all sorts of strange things in now, like chocolate.

“One of the big reasons for that, in St Albans at least, is the beer festival - people come and want beers from other parts of the country, and that put pressure on publicans.”

As part of the St Albans beer festival, Roger is hosting ‘An Evening with Roger Protz’, with a talk and a tasting of India Pale Ale to coincide with his new book IPA: A Legend in Our Time.

There will be six beers on parade, including Fuller’s Bengal Lancer, a rare draught version of Worthington’s White Shield and beers from Farr Brew, Tring and XT.

The event is at 7.30pm on Tuesday, September 26, at the Alban Arena.

Tickets are £12, and are available from Robin Hood and The Mermaid, or on the door on the evening.