Meet the GBPA nominees: Best Freehouse

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September
Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September

Related tags Pub Great british pub Beer

Our round-up of the finalists in this year’s John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards is back. Today we are taking a look at the nominees in the Best Freehouse category. 

This category seeks to recognise the freeholders that have best developed their pub's business in the past year.

The Crown Inn, Woolhope, Hereford

With a strong emphasis on cider, even producing its own products, this is a fantastic example of a great pub operation at the top of its game.

A close relationship with the community sees the pub running a vibrant events programme and enjoying a close relationship with a number of local groups, particularly the local cricket team – which is no surprise given the landlord is a huge cricket fan.

Recent investments have seen a brand new, super-sized barbecue for the garden, which is already in use, and the introduction of the Tipsy Truck, a mobile bar in a small van that allows the operators to take the pub out to the community, whether that’s to a local private garden party or a village fete.

Apples are at the heart of this business, producing its own cider, running food-matching events and hosting events around cider production.

Murderers/Gardeners Arms, Norwich

A pub so good, they named it twice! The Gardeners Arms, which is also known as the Murderers due to its grisly history is something of a Norwich institution.

While licensee Phil Cutter has being working in the business for 30 years, and the history stretches back into the distant past, there’s nothing old-fashioned about this freehouse.

Strong, regular and solid investment and innovation has seen the pub evolve over the years and is one of the best venues in the area for both its beer range and it’s sport offer. A recent introduction of live music following a £25,000 investment has given the business a further string to its bow and has helped boost its fortunes even further. It has even attracted celebrity talent with Loyd Grossman using the bar as a warm-up act before going on tour with his band.

The Nags Head, Great Missenden

With a head chef trained under a three-michelin-starred legend, food is a big draw to visitors to the Nags Head in Buckinghamshire. With an Anglo-French fusion menu seeing local fresh produce combined with specialist ingredients from France, the food has certainly proven a hit. Regular connoisseur nights every three to four months allow the pub to showcase its food offering, carefully paired with specially selected wines.

While food is a major focus for this business, drinks are not ignored, and a great range of craft beers and real ales are all sourced locally. A constant rolling programme of guest beers means interest remains high throughout the year, with customers looking to sample the latest arrivals.

With such a top-notch food offer, wine is vitally important, the pub has invested well to ensure it has a comprehensive wine list to match.

The Red Lion Inn, Wales

Based off the beaten track at the top of a long and winding narrow lane, this is a pub that is a treat for those that make the trek. Based in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, Wales, this is an ancient drovers’ inn, which is enjoying a new lease of life under Richard and Nat Noble, who after taking on the pub from Nat’s parents, have injected fresh capital to create an outstanding food operation.

With a new restaurant and kitchen, the pub is in growth – with great real ale and its new excellent food offer, the pub is attracting customers from far and wide to the area.

Plans are now in place to open up outdoor space to increase dining capacity and develop outbuildings to create a microbrewery. Longer term ambitions are to add an accommodation offer to tap into the tourist opportunities the National Park offers.

We Three Loggerheads, Wales

Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this pub certainly knows how to make the most of the hordes of visitors flocking to its north Wales location on the edge of the Loggerheads Country Park, Denbighshire.

With great quality, home-cooked food available between 12noon and 9pm, the pub has proven a big hit with walkers, and a strong accommodation offer tempts them to stay over and enjoy a great choice of beers and wines on top.

Events are a big part of the pub, from the small, such as murder mystery nights, through to the large, which has seen the pub create its own Oktoberfest-style event – Loggfest.

Starting from a small idea six years ago, this event has grown from a barbecue and a few bands to encompass outside bars, marquees, Ceilidh dancing, bouncy castles, birds of prey and hog roasts.

Roebuck Inn, laughton

Based in the sleepy hamlet of Laughton, East Sussex, the Roebuck Inn does not conform to the normal expectations of a traditional village freehouse.

With a steam-punk theme running throughout, this is a pub that challenges perceptions across the board, eschewing the mainstream with a cracking selection of interesting and unusual drinks, and a food offer that pulls plenty of people in.

Local sourcing is key for this business whether that’s beer from local breweries like Burning Sky, or meat from the farm down the road. In fact during the season, the pub is able to offer a fully Sussex sourced breakfast.

High art is also a feature, which taps into the nearby Glydebourne Opera season with guests staying at the pub’s comfortable rooms, and touring theatre productions are regularly hosted in the spacious Romeo room.

Tickets for the Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the event visit its dedicated website.

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