As its launches the latest edition of its Good Beer Guide, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the top 16 pubs in the country as part of its nationwide search for the National Pub of the Year.
The top 16 features a wide range of different types of pubs, from community owned, to pubs which have been in the same family for centuries, to micropubs.
The 16 regional winners have been selected as the best pubs in their areas by CAMRA volunteers as part of the prestigious competition, which culminates in the announcement of the National Pub of the Year in early 2017.
Each of the regional finalists will now compete in the next round of the competition, hoping to be named one of the four super-regional finalists – and stay in with a chance of becoming the overall winner.
All of the regional finalists are celebrating being featured in the new edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, published on 15 September – which lists thousands more of the top pubs across the country, as well as giving full listings of all breweries in each county.
National Pub of the Year Co-ordinator Andrea Briers said: “You have to be a great pub to get featured in the Good Beer Guide and an absolutely fantastic pub to be named a Regional Pub of the Year – so whatever happens all the pubs should be extremely proud of themselves.
“The competition really gets difficult now, with the best 16 pubs in the country up against one another to whittle it down to the best in each “super-region” and then the CAMRA judges have the hardest job of all – deciding which of those four will be named the CAMRA National Pub of the Year.”
Cross Keys, Thame: Home of the Thame Brewery. Transformed from a failing keg only pub, this fantastic pub serves plentiful ales to a discerning drinker. Usually busy, the bar will see at least two beers change every day over the weekend, and more during the week. Keep a close eye on Twitter for unusual beers, but be warned, they will go quickly! With cribbage, and other bar games available, you can easily wend an afternoon and evening away. Branch Pub of the year as well as Branch cider Pub of the Year 2016.
Stanford Arms, Lowestoft: A free house offering a wide range of beers (up to 12 on handpump) in a large single, “L” shaped bar. The single traditional bar has been nicely refurbished with a new tiled floor, wooden tables & a wide range of breweriana decorating the walls. To the rear is a large courtyard garden with its own wood-fired pizza oven (Friday evening is pizza night). A dish of the day is often available late Saturday afternoon. Quiz and food nights are held on Wednesday evenings with live music at weekends.
Old Oak Inn, Horsley Woodhouse: 2016 Amber Valley CAMRA Pub of The Year and taphouse for the Leadmill Brewery, The Old Oak features an extensive variety of Leadmill beers, plus a couple of guests. This traditional pub boasts four rooms of differing character, some with open fires. At weekends drinkers can enjoy a mini beer festival offering gravity dispensed ales from craft brewers near and far alongside the more local Leadmill and Bottle Brook beers. Homely, welcoming, and excellent value for money.
Hope, Carshalton: Owned by 46 of the customers and totally free of tie, this community pub is ‘by beer enthusiasts for beer enthusiasts’. Five rapidly changing guest beers are supplemented by three key keg ales. There are no fruit machines, TV or ‘muzak’.
Baum, Rochdale: A former National Pub of the Year winner. A hidden gem within a conservation area, the Baum occupies part of the Rochdale Pioneer Museum building on an isolated part of Toad Lane, just south of the by-pass. A split level inn with old world charm, the conservatory at the rear overlooks a large beer garden. Friendly staff serve seven real ales, a cider, a large selection of worldwide bottled beers and continental lagers on draught. CAMRA Branch pub of the year 2015 and 2016
Rifle Volunteers, Maidstone: A stone-built, single-bar, street-corner pub located only a short walk away from Maidstone’s main shopping area. It is one of only two Goacher’s tied houses and has new licensees since March 2015. The interior, which retains many of its original features, is perhaps somewhat spartan in appearance but is comfortable enough. Cider, perry and snacks are also available. A place for a quiet drink or conversation as the pub has no fruit machines, jukebox or piped music. Local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year 2016.
Merseyside and Cheshire
Cricketers, St Helens: The Cricketers has established itself as an excellent cask ale pub. Now with 13 handpumps on the bar the beers come from newer regional brewers and local microbreweries. This is a very friendly local community pub on the edge of the town centre which hosts darts and pool teams. Entertainment is offered on the weekend and regular social events are held including ones for various local charities. St Helens CAMRA pub of the year in 2014,15 and 16 St Helens Cider Pub of year 2015 and previously top 16 Regional Pub of the Year 2015
Steamboat, South Shields: Offering an impressive range of beers from independent and microbrewers on eight handpumps plus a real cider, the Steamboat is a regular local CAMRA Pub of the Year winner. A pub full of character and atmosphere, run by friendly staff, it has a large bar with a raised seating area and a small lounge. The South Shields ferry and Custom House theatre are nearby. Beer festivals, cheese and ale and Meet the Brewer nights are arranged on a regular basis.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
Volunteer Arms (Staggs), Musselburgh: Superb pub run by the same family since 1858. The bar and snug are traditional with a wooden floor, wood panelling and mirrors from defunct local breweries. The attractive gantry is topped with old casks. The more modern lounge opens at the weekend. Up to nine guest beers, mostly pale and hoppy, change very regularly. CAMRA Edinburgh & SE Scotland Pub of the Year 2016 and winner of many previous awards including CAMRA Pub of the Year 1997.
Salutation, Ham: An attractive, welcoming country pub situated in the Severn Valley within walking distance of the Jenner Museum, Berkeley Castle and Deer Park. Two guest ales sourced from micro-breweries and two ciders from Gwatkin along with the occasional perry. The two cosy bar areas include an eating room where traditional home-cooked food can be enjoyed, along with a skittle alley/function room. The pub is popular with walkers and cyclists. There is a child-safe front garden with a children’s play area. Closed Monday lunchtime. Recent winner of several CAMRA awards and CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2015.
Surrey & Sussex
Brooksteed Alehouse, Worthing: Worthing’s second micro-pub opened on 5th September 2014. It is named after the former name for South Farm Road. There are up to five ever-changing ales and three ciders/perry from far and wide. They are served direct from the cask in a purpose-built cool room. Also on sale is an extensive range of bottled beers from around the world, plus wines. The décor is colourful, bright and airy and in keeping with its previous usage as a hairdressing salon, there are some unusual innovative features. Traditional snacks include a cheese board plus pies and savouries from The Pantry next door.
Arvon Ale House, Llandrindod Wells: Arvon Ale House opened in November 2014, the first micropub in this part of Wales. Sensibly priced beers are sourced from Wales, the borders and the Midlands and two real ciders are offered. This is a welcome addition to the Llandrindod pub scene. Formed out of former shop premises, the pub is small and perfectly formed. It’s a proper alehouse for the quiet enjoyment of beer with no extraneous attractions. Bottle conditioned beers from Waen Brewery available. Snacks are available. Every month ‘All comers’ folk music session on the second and fourth Sunday.
The Bottle Inn, Marshwood, Dorset: Idyllic pub situated on the Dorset/Devon border with a single bar serving two small rooms. Family room and skittle alley at the rear. leading to a large garden overlooking Marshwood Vale. Apart from pork pies no regular meals are served except on Fridays which is Curry Night. Up to six changing ales, sourced locally and nationally are served plus six ciders. Nettle eating contest in July. Sports TV, but in separate back bar.
Earl Grey, Leek: Recently re-opened Free House on the road out of town; the new landlord says that he wants to specialise in beers that are unusual for the area. The house beer, Earl Grey Bitter, is brewed by Whim of Hartington, and real cider is available. Very much smartened and brightened up from its previous incarnation, the pub now consists of three areas: a lounge that greets the visitor on entry, a small, raised area where the bar is located, and a corridor with a sofa in. Watch out for the pub dog, a bundle of furry effusion. Note that in addition to the five cask beers two guest beers are served by key keg dispense.
Swan with Two Necks, Pendleton: CAMRA National Pub of the Year 2014 and recipient of many other local and national awards. This is an outstanding and recently renovated traditional pub set in a pretty Pendleside village that’s deservedly popular with locals and visitors alike. Five constantly changing ales and one real cider are served and discounts are available for CAMRA members. Delicious home-cooked food is also served with many high quality specialised local dishes. There’s plenty of outdoor seating so you can watch the world go by in summer plus lovely open fires when the weather grows colder. The pub has a large car park and dogs on leads are welcome in the beer garden.
George and Dragon, Hudswell: At the heart of the village, this homely multi-roomed country inn has a large beer terrace offering fantastic panoramic views over the Swale valley. Rescued and refurbished in 2010 after a successful community buy-out (including local resident William Hague), it now offers its own library, shop, allotments and various other community facilities as well as food and drink. Either Rudgate Ruby Mild or Wall’s Northallerton Dark are always available, with other beers mostly from Yorkshire breweries.