Drum-roll please. CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) has revealed the four finalists for its Pub of the Year competition.
The list of nominees provides some uplifting tales of pubs that have battled back from the brink to garner well-earned praise from both punters and judges. With 21 pubs closing every week, these shortlisted venues highlight just what can be achieved when communities pull together to save a much-loved local.
Among the finalists for the first time is the George & Dragon in Hudswell, a previously closed Yorkshire pub which has been reopened by the local community.
The Stanford Arms in Lowestoft is also among the finalists for the first time after significant improvements to the free house once returned to local ownership. Other finalists include two previous CAMRA National Pub of the Year winners. The Salutation Inn in Ham and the Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton are now in the running to join the few pubs which have taken the award more than once.
Andrea Briers, CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year coordinator, praised the top four pubs, all of which featured in the Good Beer Guide 2017. “To finish in the top four is a fantastic achievement. Each of these pubs serves as an example of the best of what British pubs have to offer – a warm and welcoming atmosphere, excellent service and a fantastic range of beers.
“Pubs play a huge role in local communities and can help people make friends and build networks. The fact that two new entrants have made it into the final round this year following a change in ownership shows that in the right hands, many pubs can thrive. We need to see even greater protection afforded to pubs so that our locals cannot just be demolished or redeveloped without a say from the local community.”
Each of the four finalists will be presented with their Super Regional award at local events. The National Pub of the Year will be announced in February 2017.
George & 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 buyout, it now offers its own library, shop, allotments and various other community facilities, as well as food and drink. Either Rudgate Ruby Mild (4.4% ABV) or Wall’s Northallerton Dark (4.5% ABV) are always available, with other beers mostly from Yorkshire breweries.
Landlord Stuart Miller said: “To be recognised as one of the top four real ale pubs in the UK by CAMRA is an extremely proud achievement for all of us at The George & Dragon and shows how far our little village pub has come in the two and a half years since we took over. I’m especially proud of our team of staff who have embraced my ideas and shared my passion for good beer. We wanted the George & Dragon to be the sort of pub that we wanted to go to – a friendly pub with good beer, good people, and good grub. It’s great to know that CAMRA supports our ideas of what a good pub should be.
“When we won our NW Yorkshire CAMRA branch Pub of the Year award, I couldn’t have been happier. We never expected to progress any further against all the other great pubs in Yorkshire, and then to win the regional award… we really are over the moon.”
Salutation Inn, Ham: CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year again and former national Pub of the Year 2014, this cracking rural freehouse/ brewpub is within walking distance of the Jenner Museum and Berkeley Castle. The enthusiastic landlord has turned brewer (Tiley’s), keeping an inspired selection of ales and eight real ciders and perries. The pub has two cosy bars, a lovely woodburner and a skittles alley/ function room. Food is served lunchtimes and occasional evenings only. Live folk music and piano sing alongs occur fairly regularly.
Landlord Peter Tiley said: “We’re immensely proud that the Sally has made it into the top four pubs in the UK. We thought we had more than ridden our luck in 2014 so we’re completely shocked to find ourselves as finalists once again. We’ve all worked incredibly hard this year, what with brewing beer, keeping pigs and chickens, making Sally Cider and all the other events so it’s amazing to have that hard work acknowledged in this way. Reaching the top four is a huge credit to the staff and the wonderful community of locals who have supported and given so much to this tiny little pub.”
Stanford Arms, Lowestoft: The spacious open-plan bar has a large array of handpumps serving mainly local beers – it is a rare outlet for Redwell brewery. A fine collection of beer trays adorns the walls. To the rear is a courtyard garden with its own wood-fired pizza oven (Friday is pizza night) and a small aviary. A food night is held most Wednesdays (booking required) and a dish of the day is available late Saturday afternoons. Live music features on most Saturday evenings and on Sunday afternoons.
Landlords David and Samantha Burd said: “We are absolutely amazed and delighted to have reached the final four in the competition. It is a confirmation for us that our decision to go “cask only” was the right one. We’ll celebrate with our 1000th guest ale on the presentation day!”
Swan with Two Necks, Pendleton: Dating from 1772 as a licensed farm, the pub sits beside the stream in the heart of the village. The landlords have been in charge for 30 years and are renowned for their welcome and hospitality. National CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2013, you will find five beers here (including a mild) and a changing cider on the bar. CAMRA members receive a discount. Home-cooked, locally sourced food, is served daily; booking is essential at weekends, especially for the Sunday roast.
Landlord Steve Dilworth said: “We are absolutely delighted to have reached the final four of the CAMRA National Pub of the Year award. We will be celebrating our 30th year at The Swan With Two Necks in 2017, so to be nominated is a fantastic achievement not only for ourselves but our long-serving staff. May we continue to promoting real ale for many more years to come. Cheers!”