No-gimmick outlet wins Camra Pub of Year title

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Related tags: Beer, Public house

by Claire Hu A small town pub which bans "gimmicks, intrusive music and games machines" in favour of a quality beer offering and traditional...

by Claire Hu A small town pub which bans "gimmicks, intrusive music and games machines" in favour of a quality beer offering and traditional atmosphere has been named the Campaign for Real Ale British Pub of the Year. The Crown and Thistle, a freehouse in Gravesend, Kent, beat off competition from the nation's 60,000 pubs to be awarded the title, which is worth thousands in free marketing for the winner. The riverside pub was bought and refurbished with a £10,000 budget (and help from friends in the building trade) in 2000 by Philip Rush who, as managing director of real ale and wine distributor AVS, wanted to create an outlet where the focus was on beer quality. "It had been run into the ground and was shut when I saw it was for sale," he said. "It looked like an old British Rail waiting room which hadn't been touched for 30 years. We did all the renovations ourselves and put a board outside saying there wouldn't be any juke boxes or gaming mach-ines. People walking past laughed and said it wouldn't work." Rush financed the renovation through a loan from Everards Brewery, which offered a deal against AVS, rather than the Crown and Thistle leaving it free of tie. The pub now does 300-plus barrels a year, with beer accounting for 80% of wet sales. It offers a constantly-changing range of six real ales and four lagers, including Budvar on draught, and a house beer which is made by Daleside Brewery in Harrogate. It does not have a kitchen, but offers a delivery service from local curry houses and Chinese restaurants, and customers are allowed to eat in the pub. Rush, who founded the Kent-ish Heritage Pub Company with his partner Warwick Gordon to buy the Crown and Thistle, said the pub now attracted a large range of customers and the aim was to recruit more real-ale drinkers through high standards of dispense and friendly service. He said: "We won't sell a pint if it's not right. There are so many quality producers out there and I firmly believe that the way smaller brewers will compete is not on price but on quality." Camra pubs director Bob Stu-kins, one of the judges, said: "The Crown and Thistle is a superb pub that excelled in all of the areas that Camra take into consideration when judging this award." The announcement was timed to coincide with National Pubs Week, which ends this week.

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