The best pubs in Britain as judged by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, have been released to mark the launch of the Good Beer Guide 2015, which publishes today.
The 16 regional finalists of CAMRA’s Pub of the
Year competition will go forward and have a chance to win the National Pub of the Year competition,
won last year by The Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton.
Pubs are judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, value for money, customer mix, but most importantly – quality of beer.
The Good Beer Guide’s Editor, Roger Protz, commended the top 16 pubs set to feature in the guide: “Being named as one the top 16 pubs in the UK is a huge honour that each of these pubs should be hugely proud of. These pubs have won their branch’s Pub of the Year, then gone on to win the regional competition, and now have a chance of being crowned National Pub of the Year – making every one of them a winner in their own right.”
The top 16 pubs in the UK as selected by CAMRA
Southern Region Central
THE FIVE BELLS, Baydon Road, Wickham, Berkshire, RG20 8HH – www.fivebellswickham.co.uk
This thatched village pub, now established as a real ale haven, has nine regularly changing real ales including at least one LocAle. Mark Genders, who has owned this free house since 2012, also keeps four ciders on draught, including some from local producers, and an extensive range of Belgian beers. Fortnightly brewing at weekends is planned for the new microbrewery, housed in a garden building, using the original Two Cocks Brewery brew-plant.
East Anglia Region
THE VICTORIA INN, 10N Station Road, Colchester, CO1 1RB – www.victoriainncolchester.co.uk
A warm welcome awaits at this 17th century, Grade-II-listed inn. Five real ales are on handpump, from both local and smaller brewers around the country, one usually being a dark ale, plus up to nine real ciders. A large courtyard caters for the alfresco drinking and also hosts an annual beer festival.
East Midlands Region
THE DOG AND BONE, 10 John Street, Lincoln, LN2 5BH www.dogandbonelincoln.co.uk
A warm and welcoming community pub with a traditional character, the bar counter is in the centre of the pub with the main bar area to one side and a slightly smaller lounge opposite. Books and art grace the walls and add to the surroundings. Outside to the rear is a charming garden which is a delightful place to drink in the warmer months.
THE WINDMILL, 1 Windmill Road, Sevenoaks Weald, Sevenoaks, TN14 6PN
Following a recent chequered history, the Windmill, now under welcome new ownership, offers an excellent selection of five to six top-notch ales, three Kentish ciders, and continental draught lagers, together with a comprehensive menu and basket meals (no food Sun eve). The homely interior features wooden settles, a log-burning stove, etched windows, porcelain and pub memorabilia, while a quiet, colourful garden is available for warmer times.
Merseyside & Cheshire Region
THE FRESHFIELD, 1a Massams Lane, Freshfield, Formby, L37 7EU
A great example of community local where the emphasis is on beer quality. A Greene King pub, it offers up to 14 ales including 10 guests. The pub also has a growing reputation for good food served in the restaurant. Following a successful CAMRA-led campaign, the stone floored area has been retained. Families are welcome and an enlightened management with engaging staff help to ensure a welcoming experience.
Scotland / Northern Ireland
THE STEAM PACKET INN, Harbour Row, Isle of Whithorn, Scotland, DG8 8LL
This traditional and historic family-run hotel overlooks the harbour, welcoming to locals and visitors alike including families and pets. The public bar has stone walls and a multi-fuel stove, and there are pictures of the village and maritime events throughout. Four guest ales from a wide variety of breweries are available on both bars.
PRINCE OF WALES, Foxfield, Cumbria, LA20 6BX www.princeofwalesfoxfield.co.uk Honoured among CAMRA’s Top 40 campaigners, Stuart and Lynda Johnson are testament to what is achievable through passion and hard work at this splendid pub. The guest ales come from the pub’s two house breweries – Foxfield and Tigertops – plus others nationwide. The range will always include a mild. Beer and cider festivals throughout the year are an added bonus.
North East Region
THE JOHN BULL, 12 Howick Street, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1UY www.john-bull-inn.co.uk
Many time local CAMRA pub of the year winner, this 180-year-old inn thrives on its reputation as a back-street ale house. The landlord offers a wide range of cask-conditioned ales at varying ABV’s, real cider, over 120 single malt whiskies and the widest range of bottled Belgian beers in the country. Darts teams compete in the local league and the pub upholds the North East tradition of an annual leek show.
Greater London Region
THE DOOR HINGE, 11 Welling High Street, Welling, DA16 1TR www.thedoorhinge.co.uk
Opened in 2013 in part of a former electrical wholesalers, London’s first permanent micropub is a welcome breath of fresh air on the local pub scene, stocking over 300 real ales in its first year. Normally at least three beers are on, dispensed from within a glass fronted cold-room. The cosy bar seats 22 patrons, encouraging conversation among strangers.
Greater Manchester Region
THE HAREWOOD ARMS, 2 Market Street, Broadbottom, SK14 6AX
Taken over in 2013, the Green Mill brewery has moved from Rochdale to the cellar of The Harewood Arms and the pub is now essentially a brewery tap. A range of continental bottled beers and a guest handpull cider complement the Green Mill beers. This large open-plan community pub is warmed by open fires, helping to create a friendly atmosphere. There is a pool table and elevated darts area to the rear.
THE KELHAM ISLAND TAVERN, 62 Russell Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S3 8RW www.kelhamtavern.co.uk
Former CAMRA national Pub of the Year, this small gem was rescued from dereliction in 2002. Twelve handpumps dispense an impressive range of beers, always including a mild, porter and stout. In the warmer months you can relax in the pub’s multi-award-winning beer garden.
Surrey & Sussex Region
SURREY OAK, Parkgate Road, Parkgate, Newdigate, RH5 5DZ www.surreyoaks.co.uk
An attractive 16th century inn renowned for its commitment to real ale. Hoppy beers are particularly popular and third-of-a-pint glasses are available. The pub features low beams, flagstones and an inglenook fireplace. Outside there are two boules pistes in the large garden and a skittles alley in the barn.
THE PILOT, 726 Mumbles Road, Mumbles, Swansea, SA3 4EL
A welcoming and friendly local on the Mumbles’ seafront, also home to Mumbles Brewing Company. Six ales are always available, including three or four from the pub brewery. A wide range of bottled ciders are also stocked and hot drinks are served too. This historic pub, built in 1849, is next to the coastal path and is popular with lifeboatmen, locals, real ale fans, walkers and cyclists.
West Midlands Region
THE BEACON HOTEL, 129 Bilston Street, Sedgley, Dudley, West Midlands, DY3 1JE
In the shadow of Sedgley beacon, this hotel has sat virtually unchanged for decades. It is a Grade II listed building, with a nationally important historic pub interior, where time has stood still. At its heart is a central servery with snob screens. There are four rooms, including one for families. The Sarah Hughes brewery lives in a tower at the back and supplies the pub. The Beacon lives up to its name – it shines.
THE LAMPLIGHTER, 9 Mulcaster Street, St Helier, JE2 3NJ
The gas lamps that gave the pub its name remain, as does the original antique pewter bar top. An excellent range of up to eight real ales are available, including one from Skinner’s. A recent refurbishment means all ales are now served direct from the cellar. Real cider is also sometimes on offer.
THE SALUTATION INN, Ham, Berkley, Gloucestershire, GL13 9QH
Local CAMRA Pub of the Year, this rural gem is in the Severn Valley, within walking distance of the Jenner Museum, Berkley Castle and Deer Park. The enthusiastic landlord keeps an inspired selection of ales and eight real ciders and perries. The pub has two cosy bars with a log fire and a skittles alley.
The National Pub of the Year for 2014 (chosen from the above finalists) will be announced in February 2015.
The InnSpectre reviews…
There’s a fine selection of books available at the King Lud on the Isle of Wight, although it’s going to take a certain kind of pubgoer to thumb through the weighty tome that is Active Server Pages 3.0. For those looking for a more free-flowing read there’s the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
The barmaid at the Railway in Cheam stared right through me as I ordered a pint then looked away when handing over my change with an expression of total and utter disgust.She looked hot, but I felt hideous. It was as if Kim Kardashian was pulling pints for the Elephant Man.
I risked life and limb by going for a wee at the Nell Gwynne, Covent Garden. The descent down the stairs to the toilets is akin to walking down a lift shaft. Bow your head and hold on tight to the handrails as you prepare for a journey to the centre of the pub.
I edged towards the bar at the Zetland Arms in South Kensington, bumping my cheap old man-bag into posh people who I suspect have names such as Tarquin, Octavia, Marmaduke and Cressida, all of whom had the obligatory quiff and smug smile you’d expect from polo-loving members of the aristocracy.