Revellers around the country will be heading to the pub this weekend to enjoy a drink in the sunshine…but who is the best in the UK?
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has whittled down its shortlist for Pub of the Year to just 16, dividing them up into regional winners ranging from microbreweries to traditional coaching inns.
The unveiling of the shortlist marks the end of CAMRA’s Summer of Pub campaign to encourage more people to visit their watering holes during the warmer months.
Ben Wilkinson, CAMRA’s National Director said: “The top 16 contenders boast the perfect mix of the essential characteristics which make a great pub – great service, a welcoming atmosphere, fantastic decor, great value for money and most importantly, quality real ale.
“As our Summer of Pub initiative comes to a close, we’d like to encourage the nation’s beer drinkers to seek out these extraordinary pubs this weekend, which have been individually judged by our volunteers, ensuring a high degree of impartiality and integrity in their nomination.
“These pubs 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. I wish them all the very best of luck!”
The announcement comes just one week ahead of the publication of CAMRA’s annual Good Beer Guide, which lists the best pubs serving real ale across the country.
The regional winners will now battle for the prestigious National Pub of the Year prize, with the overall champion named in February 2020.
Here is a look at the regional winners across the country:
The Smithfield Pub in Derby won the award for best pub in the East Midlands partly down to its large outdoor terrace overlooking the River Derwent. It is also the second year in a row that The Smithfield has won the East Midlands award. CAMRA praised its beer range as varied with a ‘strong emphasis on new breweries’ and a ‘good selection of craft keg beer’. Built in 1840, the pub is family and dog-friendly with wifi, live music and traditional pub games on offer.
The Grey Horse in Consett is another pub with plenty of history and has been in the area since 1848. It picked up the North East award and was lauded for its interior, which comprises of a lounge and L-shaped bar as well as a traditional wood-beamed ceiling. The pub also houses Consett Ale Works Brewery at the rear and beer festivals are held twice a year on the premises. It is also very popular with cyclists due to a coast-to-coast route being nearby, while it also brings in punters with live entertainment and a quiz night
The Bell Inn in Aldworth, Berkshire is no surprise to the list, having featured in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide on several previous occasions. A former national Pub of the Year winner, the name of the Grade-II listed building refers to bells which were part of the coat of arms of the traditional landowners in the area, with the pub believed to be a manor when it was first built in the 15th Century. CAMRA also praised The Bell for its large open garden and ‘excellent beer’ which makes it a popular destination for people before and after country walks. The Bell won for the Central Southern region.
The Red Lion in Preston, Hertfordshire is the first community-owned pub in Britain and is very popular due to its location next to a village green. It won for the East Anglia region and CAMRA said one of the reasons for its success is an ‘ever-changing list of beers’ including many from small breweries. The pub, which frequently stages events for charity and is a popular haunt for local cricket teams, was also praised for offering fresh home-made food using locally-sourced ingredients.
The winner for the Wessex region was The Firkin Shed in Bournemouth, pictured, which is already the reigning CAMRA National Cider Pub of the Year. The Shed is known as a ‘quirky, friendly, family-run micropub’ and special mention was made of its interior, which is decorated with flags, musical instruments, puppets and skulls. Fittingly, a shed is used as the bar with ten constantly changing ales, and fourteen plus ciders sourced from around the country. Beers are served straight from the cellar viewable through the window in the corridor.
Another former CAMRA Pub of the Year, the Tom Cobley Tavern in Spreyton, Devon, won the South West regional prize and could well take the top award once again. The 16th Century watering hole has won a multitude of CAMRA awards previously and features up to 10 West Country ales, some straight from the cask, plus 12 real ciders and perries. The pub also doubles as an inn, with five en suite guest rooms on offer, and hosts regular darts and quiz nights.
The Bridge Inn in Peebles won the regional award for Scotland & Northern Ireland with its eye-catching exterior one of the reasons for its success. CAMRA describes it as a ‘cheerful and welcoming, town-centre local which is also known as ‘the Trust’ among locals due to its slogan ‘In Bridge we Trust’. The building also boasts a mosaic entrance floor which reveals its previous life as the Tweedside Inn. It is decorated with jugs, bottles, pictures of old Peebles and displays relating to outdoor activities. The pub also does not admit children because they are viewed as a ‘distraction’ to drinking.
The 18th Century former coaching inn The Mansel Arms in Porthyrhyd, Carmarthenshire scooped the prize for Wales. It was praised for its ‘friendly and welcoming atmosphere’ which is helped by wood fires in both of its bars. CAMRA also highlighted its efforts to promote real ales, including tasting boards with 1/3 pints of each beer. The Mansel Arms also has an in-house cask ale members’ club encouraging beer-lovers to go on regular brewery visits and attend brewers’ speaker/taster events.
The George & Dragon in Hudswell won the regional award for Yorkshire and is found at the heart of the village. It is another frontrunner for the overall prize having been named CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2016 while it has won the regional prize on several occasions. CAMRA said one of its best features is a large beer terrace that offers panoramic views of the Swale valley. The pub was saved from closure by the Hudswell community in 2010 and was refurbished, now boasting allotments and a library as part of its services.
It may not look much from the outside, but micropub The Admiral’s Arm in Queenborough, did enough to impress judges to be named the best pub in Kent. It has just two rooms and serves only four real ales, but is very popular for its large range of ciders, perries and gins. CAMRA also lauded its snack menu which includes beer-infused pork pies and scotch eggs. Aptly for its name, the decor is a nautical theme, featuring hand-crafted wooden benches and tables.
The Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire was CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year in 2014 and has scooped another regional award for the West Pennines area. CAMRA called it an ‘outstanding traditional pub’ that has recently been renovated and is ‘popular with locals and visitors alike’. Five constantly changing ales and one real cider are served and discounts are available for CAMRA members. Home-cooked food is also served while there is plenty of outdoor seating for the summer and open fires indoors when the weather gets colder.
The Flying Horse in Rochdale is one of the quirkiest pubs on the list. It won the prize for the Greater Manchester area and offers plenty of history, having been built in 1691 and then rebuilt in 1926, keeping many of its original architectural features. But despite the history there are plenty of modern touches and it made the news in 2016 after landlord Ben Boothman renamed items on the menu after the death of musical icon Prince. The hotel offers 10 cask ales and two traditional ciders alongside live sports and music.
London’s regional prize was won by The Hope in Carshalton, built in 1757. CAMRA said it recognised the pub because it is ‘run by beer enthusiasts, for beer enthusiasts’, and is owned by 46 of the customers. There are no fruit machines, TV or ‘muzak’, but there are five regularly changing guest beers supplemented by three regular cask ales. It also has a popular Twitter account named after the pub’s cat, a stray animal that was adopted several years ago and has since become a huge attraction.
The Hornet Alehouse in Chichester was named best pub in the Surrey/Sussex area. It is a split-level micropub with the upstairs area hosting frequent board games evenings and quizzes, plus ‘meet the brewer’ events for punters to learn more about the product. CAMRA praised The Hornet for its ‘friendly, knowledgeable staff’, adding it was a ‘wonderful addition to the city’ and a ‘mecca’ for an ever-changing range of cask ales.
The winner for the West Midlands region is The Prince of Wales in Shrewsbury, a ‘welcoming two-roomed back street local’ facing out over the bowling green. The pub is popular with darts, dominoes and bowls teams and hosts two beer festivals each year, while it also pays tribute to nearby Shrewsbury Town Football Club with memorabilia adorning the building inside and out. Some of the seating from the club’s former ground Gay Meadow is even dotted about the green .