Four pubs are vying for national glory
Added: Tuesday, November 7th 2017
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the best four pubs in the country as part of its Pub of the Year 2017 competition, one of the leading pub awards in the UK.
Among the finalists is the Weavers Real Ale House in Kidderminster (below), a relatively new one-room micropub.It serves eight real ales and four ciders and perries on handpump and has six craft beers on tap. A short walk from the railway station, it's the perfect place for a pint and a chat on the way into town.
Also in the running for the second year in a row is the Stanford Arms in Lowestoft, East Anglia. A thriving traditional back-street pub, the Stanford Arms serves mainly local beers and ciders, and boasts live music at the weekends. Above: Samantha and David Burd in the Stanford Arms.
Finally two rival pubs from the North-west have made the list this year -- Wigan Central in Wigan and the Cricketers in St Helens, Merseyside. Wigan Central boasts a unique railway-themed interior and sources real ale from all over, with continental bottled beers displayed in a "beer library". The Cricketers in St Helens is a friendly local community pub saved from closure just four years ago that boasts 13 handpumps on the bar and runs beer festivals and jam nights throughout the year.
All of the pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, value for money, customer mix and most importantly – quality of beer. The four finalists will now have a chance to win the National Pub of the Year title for 2017, which will be announced in February 2018.
National Pub of the Year Co-ordinator Andrea Briers says: “All of these pubs should be very proud of themselves for reaching this stage in the competition. It is a huge honour to be considered one of the top four pubs across the country. While each of these pubs offers something unique to their visitors, they all share the foundation of what makes a great pub -- a warm and welcoming atmosphere, excellent service and a fantastic range of beers.”
The four finalists will be presented with their super regional award at local events over the coming weeks.
Weavers Real Ale House, Kidderminster
Presentation date: Thursday 7 December at 7 pm
This micropub is deceptively spacious inside, with bench seating along the sides, plenty of tables and a conversational atmosphere. Light and airy, the walls display pictures of old Kidderminster and beer memorabilia. It serves eight beers, four ciders and a perry on handpump. Cobs are always available. Just a short walk from the railway station, this is a convenient stop-off for a pint and a chat on the way into town. Public parking is a short distance away.
Dean Cartwright, owner of the Weavers Real Ale House, says: “We took over the running of the pub just two years ago and are over the moon to be in the final four! While we’ve slightly modernised it and extended the beer range, we’ve also retained the quirky ‘front-room’ feel to the pub. We have a small team of incredibly enthusiastic and friendly staff who love to talk about real ale in a welcoming and conversational atmosphere. It’s just amazing to be this far in the competition out of thousands of pubs across the country -- it means a lot to know how much some people care about the pub.”
Gary Timmins, CAMRA Regional Director for the West Midlands says: “The Weavers Real Ale House was the first micropub to open in Kidderminster and has helped spur a real ale revival in pubs across the town. The friendly welcome, convivial atmosphere for a chat and consistently excellent quality wide range of ales and ciders quickly developed a following and also made it into a must-visit venue for visitors to the town. Above all, the greatest credit is due to the bar team whose friendliness, knowledge and enthusiasm shine through whenever anybody enters, and help to make it into an outstanding pub. Well done to them all for being recognised in the National Final!”
Stanford Arms, Lowestoft
Presentation date: Saturday 25 November 2017 at 1 pm
This quality free house is a short walk from Lowestoft train and bus stations. Nicely refurbished, the open-plan, L-shaped bar has a large array of handpumps serving mainly local ales, with a fine collection of beer trays adorning the walls. To the rear is a courtyard garden with an aviary and a wood-fired pizza oven (Friday is pizza night). Wednesday is usually speciality food night (booking required) and there is live music on Sunday afternoon. CAMRA National Pub of the Year finalist 2016.
Owner David Burd said: “We are delighted to be selected in the final four -- last year was a shock and we didn’t think we’d get there again! We strive to constantly improve and are currently moving it towards a good conversation pub by removing the jukebox and pool table. We’re also trying to support local breweries by sourcing an even larger range of beer styles. Being in the final four last year has really put us on the map -- it's fantastic to get the recognition from CAMRA and a huge nudge in the right direction.”
Andrea Briers, who is also the local CAMRA Regional Director for East Anglia, adds: “This back-street local pub has up to 12 real ales and ciders available and is well worth a visit. Well done to David and Samantha on their success!”
Wigan Central, Wigan
Presentation date: 23 November 2017 at 6:30 pm
A two-roomed pub with a railway-themed interior and a live screen displaying arrival and departure times from the two rail stations. The pub is owned by the nearby Prospect Brewery but sources real ales from all over, alongside continental bottled beers displayed in the "beer library". Regular beer club and beer matching events are held. Live music plays in the Platform Room on Sundays and bar snacks are available. Wigan CAMRA Pub of the Year and Cider Pub of the Year 2015 and 2016.
Patsy Slevin, co-owner of Prospect Brewery and Wigan Central, says: “We are very humbled and frankly ecstatic to have been chosen for the top 16 pubs in the competition -- never mind making it to the final four! Wigan Central only opened three years ago so to be this far along in the competition is beyond our wildest dreams. I’d like to massively thank Jo Whalley the manager and our fantastic staff who bring such a positive atmosphere to the pub and our customers who regularly provide us with good and honest feedback and beer suggestions.”
Graham Donning, CAMRA’s Regional Director for Greater Manchester, adds: “Wigan Central is a wonderful take on a modern bar nestling in a 19th century railway arch. It signals that imagination and attention to detail can make a themed pub a winner. Our judges gave points for the friendly service, condition of real ales and ciders, and the unique use of railway arrival and departure screens to give clear information about the beers on tap and in the cellar. Plus, for those travellers awaiting trains, it also gives the live departure and arrivals at both Wigan Wallgate and Wigan North Western. As the Super Regional award winner, it will now line up against the best of the rest of the country for the national title. I was confident it would make it to the final four."
Cricketers, St Helens, Merseyside
Presentation date: Saturday 18 November 2017 at 3 pm
The Cricketers has established itself as an excellent cask ale pub, with 13 handpumps on the bar. Beers come from newer regional brewers and local microbreweries. There is also an excellent selection of real ciders. This is a friendly local community pub on the edge of the town centre, hosting darts and pool teams, and entertainment at the weekend. Beer festivals are staged several times a year. It was 2014-17 local CAMRA and 2015 and 2016 regional CAMRA Pub of the Year.
Owner Andy Evans says: “We are absolutely ecstatic to be named one of the top four pubs in the Pub of the Year competition! When we bought the pub over four years ago it was boarded up and hadn’t actually sold cask ale since the 1980s. Since taking it over we’ve done everything we can to make it a good community pub, with 13 cask ales on and regular jam nights, pub quizzes and charity events. We’ve also got some big plans for installing a microbrewery next year. We are really proud to be part of the cask ale scene and would like to congratulate all the other pubs in the running -- including our local rivals the Wigan Central! We hope to bring the accolade home to Merseyside this year.”
Nick Bosley, CAMRA’s Regional Director for Merseyside and Cheshire, adds: “After winning the regional award in both 2015 and 2016 it's a well deserved third time lucky for the Cricketers on reaching the final. In less than five years, Andy and Denise have converted this former keg-only pub to a destination pub offering 13 cask beers of all styles (both local and from further afield) and over 10 ciders and perries. On the principle that a pub is always a 'work in progress' they continue to make small changes to improve the pub. As a strong Rugby League pub they also look forward to a final against local rivals Wigan.”