As part of its 2017 Pub of the Year competition, The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the best four pubs in the country.
The pubs are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on décor, atmosphere, customer service, value for money, customer mix – and crucially, the quality of its beer. The finalists will each be presented with regional awards at local events before the end of the year.
The four finalists
Weavers Real Ale House, Kidderminster
A deceptively spacious micro pub adorned with pictures of old Kidderminster and beer memorabilia, Weavers Real Ale House serves eight real ales, four ciders, and perries on handpump as well as six craft beers on tap.
Owner Dean Cartwright commented: “We took over the running of the pub just two years ago and are over the moon to be in the final four! While we’ve slightly modernised it and extended the beer range, we’ve also retained the quirky ‘front-room’ feel to the pub.
“We have a small team of incredibly enthusiastic and friendly staff who love to talk about real ale in a welcoming and conversational atmosphere. It’s just amazing to be this far in the competition out of thousands of pubs across the country – it means a lot to know how much some people care about the pub.”
Stanford Arms, Lowestoft
A lively yet traditional back-street pub, Lowestoft’s Stanford Arms, a 2016 National Pub of the Year finalist, boasts a broad collection of local ales and events – from Friday pizza nights, Wednesday speciality food nights, and live music on Saturdays.
David Burd, owner of the Stanford Arms said: “We are delighted to be selected in the final four – last year was a shock and we didn’t think we’d get there again!
“We strive to constantly improve and are currently moving towards a good conversation pub by removing the jukebox and pool table. We’re also trying to support local breweries by sourcing an even larger range of beer styles. Being in the final four last year has really put us on the map – it's fantastic to get the recognition from CAMRA and a huge nudge in the right direction.”
Wigan Central, Wigan
A railway themed pub with a built in 'beer library', Prospect Brewery’s Wigan Central was Wigan’s CAMRA Pub of the Year and Cider Pub of the Year in 2015 and 2016.
Patsy Slevin, co-owner of Prospect Brewery and Wigan Central said: “We are very humbled and frankly ecstatic to have been chosen for the top 16 pubs in the competition – never mind making it to the final four!
Wigan Central only opened three years ago so to be this far along in the competition is beyond our wildest dreams. I’d like to massively thank Jo Whalley the manager and our fantastic staff who bring such a positive atmosphere to the pub and our customers who regularly provide us with good and honest feedback and beer suggestions.”
Cricketers, St Helens, Merseyside
The second of two pubs from the north-west to make the final four, the Cricketers was 2014–17 local CAMRA and 2015 and 2016 regional CAMRA Pub of the Year. Home to darts and pool teams, as well as several beer festivals throughout the year, the Cricketers has established itself as a lynchpin of its local community and an excellent cask ale pub.
Owner Andy Evans said: “We are absolutely ecstatic to be named one of the top four pubs in the Pub of the Year competition! When we bought the pub over four years ago it was boarded up and hadn’t actually sold cask ale since the 1980s. Since taking it over we’ve done everything we can to make it a good community pub, with 13 cask ales on and regular jam nights, pub quizzes and charity events.
We’ve also got some big plans for installing a microbrewery next year. We are really proud to be part of the cask ale scene and would like to congratulate all the other pubs in the running – including our local rivals Wigan Central! We hope to bring the accolade home to Merseyside this year.”
National Pub of the Year Co-ordinator Andrea Briers said: “All of these pubs should be very proud of themselves for reaching this stage in the competition.
“It is a huge honour to be considered one of the top four pubs across the country. While each of these pubs offers something unique to their visitors, they all share the foundation of what makes a great pub – a warm and welcoming atmosphere, excellent service and a fantastic range of beers.”