Herefordshire CAMRA

HEREFORDSHIRE PUBS OF THE YEAR 2015

Chase Inn, Upper Colwall

IT’S ALL IN THE FUN OF THE CHASE

Colwall’s Chase Inn named Pub of the Year for 2015

Not many Hopvine readers will have visited the Chase Inn at Upper Colwall; many probably aren’t quite sure where it is, and dare say quite a few will have never heard of it. Perhaps that isn’t surprising, as it’s a quiet and understated place secreted away down a narrow lane high up on the wooded western slopes of the Malvern Hills. However, now crowned Herefordshire CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2015, all that is surely going to change.

There certainly won’t be a big hullabaloo at the Chase Inn when they learn the good news. It’s not the sort of place that does shouting from the roof tops. The pleasures at Chase Inn are much more considered - restrained even. The diminutive two-bar pub has always been a freehouse, selling interesting and tasty beers, right back to the days when you didn’t need to provide a large plain brown envelope to “win” the right to host football’s World Cup.

The Chase Inn is today in the capable hands of manager, Charlotte Davies and her team, and is owned by Duncan Ironmonger, who also owns the popular Nag’s Head and Swan Inn pubs in Malvern, as well as St Georges Brewery at Callow End near Worcester. Therefore, it comes as little surprise to learn that the pub stocks St Georges’ beers, but it also finds space on the bar to stock other local and regional beers, including always Bathams Bitter form Brierley Hill – one of the very few outlets in this part of the world to do so. The Chase doesn’t do ordinary it would appear.

This is a place to savour quietly at your leisure over a pint. The small and nooky public bar, crammed full of various curios is simple, cosy and welcoming - reminiscent of the archetypical English country inn as portrayed in Ealing comedies. The atmosphere is decidedly at the genteel end of the spectrum, as one might expect for a pub near to Malvern, but don’t mistake this for being either elitist or oppressive. Conversation for all is encouraged at this truly charming and timeless watering hole.

A more conventional lounge bar caters for diners, who never impinge on the serious pursuit of drinking and conversation in the bar next door. A pub for both winter and summer (the garden is a wonder with views westwards to the Welsh Hills), the Chase Inn has always been popular with locals and walkers, the more discerning of whom find their way there down off the hills from above. The garden also hosts an annual beer and cider festival, further cementing the pub’s cask beer and cider credentials.

In making this award, the CAMRA judges were very impressed with the whole package at the Chase Inn: the quality of the beer; the atmosphere, and the welcome. Well done to Duncan and his team, but now it’s your turn to cast your critical eye. Why not give it a try?

 The Chase Inn, Chase Road, Upper Colwall, WR13 6DJ. Telephone (01684) 540276 www.thechaseinnuppercolwall.co.uk Opening Hours 12-3, 5-11; 12-11 Sat; 12-10.30 Sun. Getting there: Colwall Station 25 mins walk; Malvern-Ledbury bus 675 (daytimes only), ask for Good Shepherd (from Ledbury), Chase Rd (from Malvern).

 

PRINCE OF PUBS

Popular Ledbury pub named Runner-up and Town Pub of the Year for 2015

Prince of Wales, Ledbury

Ledbury’s Prince of Wales features most years in the final cut of our Pub of the Year competition: it was named Pub of the Year Runner-up & Best Town Pub for 2010, and has now won that very same accolade again for 2015. In between, it took the biggest prize, being named overall Herefordshire Pub of the Year for 2013.

This will be no surprise to those who are familiar with the Prince of Wales. A delightful 16th Century black and white, half-timbered pub, its scenic setting in a cobbled alley in the shadow of Ledbury’s imposing parish church is a sight for sore eyes. Yet the Prince has always managed to keep both its feet firmly on the ground, providing refreshment and food to visiting tourists without turning its back on the local community who enjoy its genuinely friendly atmosphere. That’s no mean feat.

Above all, the Prince of Wales is undoubtedly the pub in Ledbury for drinkers. Not only does the bar muster a range of seven cask beers that wouldn’t look out of place at a beer festival, the range of style and strength (including darker beers), ensures no pub-goer is ever likely to be disappointed. And, if that wasn’t enough, it offers a range of foreign beers (both in bottles and on draught) that would happily grace any bar in central Brussels. This place is the real deal for the beer connoisseur.

However, the Prince is more than just beer and cider. Whilst the excellent value food is discreetly marshalled to a bar area at the rear, the front two bar areas are where conversation, regular live music and a friendly atmosphere prevail under the benign eye by of father-and-son hosts, Les and Russell Smith.

This third award for the Prince of Wales recognises all the hard work put in by the Smith clan over the years. Long may their deserved success continue.

The Prince of Wales, Church Lane, Ledbury, HR8 1DL. Telephone: (01531) 632250 Website: www.powledbury.com. Open 11am-11pm (10.30pm Sun), Food served daily 12-2.30pm; 6.30-8pm

Beer in Hand, Hereford

CIDER IN HAND

Beer in Hand voted Herefordshire CAMRA’s Cider Pub of the Year 2015

Winning this prestigious award for the second time in three years, is Hereford’s leading real ale and cider pub - the Beer In Hand.

Opened in 2013 by Mitchell and Alison Evans, this independent free house has gone from strength-to-strength, and now boasts a large crowd of loyal regulars. “It’s great to receive this award,” commented Alison, “and it’s always good to have recognition for all of the hard work we put in.” Mitchell added that “hopefully the publicity will bring more people to the pub, and that this will increase the demand for traditional ciders.”

The Beer In Hand offers ten traditional ciders and perries at any one time – the largest range in the county. Seven of these rotate, and could include offerings from regional cidermakers such as Olivers, Gwynt-y-Ddraig, Apple County and Skyborry - amongst others. The other three are regulars, and number Henney’s Medium Cider, Abrahalls Fruit Cider and a collaboration cider from Olivers & Beer in Hand called Showdown at a moderate 5% ABV.

“We went to see Tom Oliver,” said Alison, explaining how the collaboration cider came about, “and described the kind of cider that sold well for us - sweeter and of a lower strength than he would usually produce. We tasted some of his blends, and together we came up with Showdown.” As well as the ciders, the Beer in Hand offers up to twelve cask ales - all served direct from the cask, housed in a bespoke array of chilled cabinets. These will always include one or more from Odyssey Brewery. Pizzas and snacks are available Thursday to Saturday evenings.

 Beer in Hand, Eignbrook House, 136 Eign Street, Hereford, HR4 0AP. 5-10.30 Mon; 4-11 Tue - Thu; 12-11 Fri & Sat; 12-10.30 Sun; fully accessible; 10p/pint discount for CAMRA members website: www.beerinhand.co.uk; twitter: @bihhereford

 

PUB OF THE SEASON

Talbot, Ledbury

TALBOT AUTUMN CELEBRATION

Autumn 2016 Pub of the Season is the Talbot Inn, Ledbury.

Even with its long history, it might still come as a surprise to some that Ledbury’s Talbot Inn once hosted a gun battle – when in 1645 the opposing belligerents in the English Civil War exchanged musket fire in, what is today, the main restaurant (there are still musket-ball holes in the walls as proof). And in more recent times the listed 16th Century black and white half-timbered hotel and bar experienced (and survived) a catastrophic fire.

However, the exchanges made on a Friday evening back in August were of a much more friendly and convivial nature, when a certificate was presented to licensees Andy and Maria Ward on the occasion of the New Street pub being named Herefordshire CAMRA’s Autumn Pub of the Season. Andy and Maria have been running the Talbot for over 21 years now, and in that time a lot of people have become acquainted with the famously warm welcome that is always on offer there. What takes place on an average evening at the Talbot can probably be considered a master class in how to treat your customers. No wonder so many people keep coming back – if only more places were run with the same level of professionalism and enthusiasm we might not be seeing so many other pubs struggling.

The Talbot is one of only two Wadworths houses in Herefordshire from an overall estate of 240 stretching across south west England and down to the south coast. Andy and Maria were delighted to receive the award, and it was nice to see a representative of Wadworths there too, in the shape of Su Stafford, their Beer Quality Control manager. Not that she would expect to have anything to worry about regarding the quality of the beers at the Talbot that evening!

And as to the pub? Well, when you walk through the doors you soon come across a most delightful bar that probably hasn’t really changed much in a hundred years or so. A round bar-servery; fine original fireplace; old photos and just the general feel of the place screams history at you. Yet the bathroom facilities are modern and clean, and a coffee machine on the far side of the bar is a good giveaway as any that you’re still in the 21st Century.

Yet, despite these unspoiled and historic trappings, it is good to see that the pub has a strong community feel – with a good following of loyal regular customers to match. This is only appropriate, as Andy is very much Mr. Ledbury: there’s hardly an event or occasion that doesn’t take place in the town without either his support or involvement. He has also put a lifetime’s work into pushing the town as a tourist destination, which has been rightly recognised by him being awarded Citizen of the Year and Distinguished Citizen of the Year by two local voluntary organisations.

With good food, a great welcome and an atmosphere to match the beer, the Talbot is a worthy holder of this award. Long may Andy and Maria continue their sterling work.

Talbot Hotel, 14 New Street, Ledbury, HR8 2DX Telephone: (01531) 632963 Website: talbotledbury.co.uk. Opening Times: 11-11 Mon-Thu; 11-Midnight Fri & Sat; 11-11 Sun Meal Times: 12-3, 5.30-9; 12-3, 5-8 Sun utumn 2016 Pub of the Season is the Talbot Inn, Ledbury.


Recent Pubs of the Season

Alma, Linton
Summer 2016: Alma Inn, Linton
Spring 2016: Oak Wigmore
Winter 2015: Queen’s Arms, Bromyard
Autumn 2015: Red Lion, Stiffords Bridge
Summer 2015: Carpenters Arms, Walterstone
Spring 2015: New Inn, Fownhope
Winter 2014: Chase Inn, Upper Colwall
Autumn 2014: Red Lion, Peterstow
Summer 2014: Baron’s Cross, Leominster
Spring 2014: Green Dragon, Bishops Frome
Autumn 2013: Bridge Inn, Kentchurch
Summer 2013: Royal George, Lingen
Spring 2013: Wheelwrights, Pencombe