Over the few weeks on The Morning Advertiser we’ll be profiling finalists across the entire 17 categories in the run-up to the awards night in central London on 7 September – a glittering black-tie affair at the Hilton on Park Lane.
We begin our annual coverage of this premier event with insightful profiles of each of the finalists, starting with the Best Beer Bar/Pub category.
The Caley Sample Room, Edinburgh
This business is already an award-winning operation having been declared the best craft beer bar in Scotland, so it’ll be one for fellow finalists to watch. As the name of the pub suggests, an emphasis on sampling beers has helped build a strong demand for a diverse and exciting range of craft beers along with nine real-ale lines which change on a daily basis and a broad portfolio of more than 30 world beers.
Tap takeovers are a regular feature, allowing operator Nick Madigan to engage with local brewery operations as well as those from further afield, and introducing a sense of theatre around such events.
And it’s not just about the product being served over the bar, beer features heavily on the menu as well, with the outlet using beers extensively in the cooking process, from pies to beer-battered fish and chips.
The Drawing Board, Leamington Spa
This independent, passionate freehouse has made a real name for itself in the town of Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
The Drawing Board sources its beer from near and far, with local brews from operators like Purity Brewing in Stratford and Church Farm in Warwick through to Rothaus Pilsner from the Black Forest in Germany – this is a business that aims to have an eclectic and exciting range of products to entice customers.
The pub is also investing in producing its own craft beer glassware and its own beer with a local brewery,the Old Pie Factory, which it says will be hitting the bar later in the year.
This is a great, quirky retro bar that as well offering great products, does so in a comfortable and stylish environment that has proven a hit with customers.
Foleys Tap House, Leeds
Featuring an engaged and passionate team, beer is a strong part of the offer for this Leeds-based operator.
Previously a winner in the cider category from last year’s Great British Pub Awards, this business is now focusing its attention on beer and doing a great job, with all the team having a real love of beer, even down to pub dog Molly!
With a huge range of 22 beers, which are constantly rotating, Foley’s Tap House is certain to have something to appeal to beer lovers of all stripes.
Local brewers and beers from further afield are also featured on the bar, providing a great choice. Added excitement is brought into the mix with a full schedule of beer festivals, tap takeovers and collaboration projects throughout the year, making this a strong and dynamic finalist for the category.
The Sun Hotel & Bar, Lancaster
With the self-confessed aim of getting guests out of their comfort zone, the Sun goes all out to introduce customers to higher-priced, better-tasting craft cask beers, draught beers, and beers in bottles and cans. And, by suggesting tasty food items with the ideal drink pairing, the proprietors say their enthusiasm and obsession for high quality comes through as a higher customer spend.
Deliberately stocking brews other pubs in the locality don’t have, staff work to build anticipation for new beers with their ‘What’s in the cellar?’ showcase and beer backstories. Recent unconventional choices have included Singularity by Atom, and thirst-quencher Snowdonia Ale by Purple Moose Brewery. The pub is also known for encouraging its ‘beer scout’ customers to contact staff on social media about beers they have discovered.
The Wenlock Arms, London
Having already taken the title of Wine Pub of the Year in 2016 for sister site the Red Lion & Sun, operator Heath Ball is hoping to bring his second operation into the mix by taking home the beer title as well.
The Wenlock Arms focuses heavily on training both staff and customers with regular tasting sessions, bringing brewers in to enhance the experience even further, which helps to feed into successful tap takeovers.
Its emphasis on providing a good strong range of beer has already received recognition, with CAMRA members voting the Wenlock Arms its North London Pub of the Year, and Heath is now hoping to add a national title to his haul.
Solid relationships with brewery suppliers helps underpin its success and Heath is also working hand in hand with Dark Star Brewery to help grow its own pub estate.
Temple Brew House, London
With an emphasis on providing fun and engaging with customers, Temple Brew House is certainly hitting the mark. A strong emphasis on staff training is helping to engage customers and create a real buzz and interest in the beers on offer, which are wide in range and sourced from around the world.
Currently, members of staff are training for accreditation as beer sommeliers to further enhance the customer experience – a significant investment from the business as training can take up to two years to complete. Regular brewer visits from the likes of Beavertown help to further the sense of excitement.
The pub has recently launched a home-brew competition. Customers can bring in their own beers which will then be tasted and tested by leading industry experts, with the winner having the opportunity to see their recipe end up on the bar!
Tickets for The Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the event, visit its dedicated website.