Herefordshire CAMRA

HEREFORDSHIRE PUBS OF THE YEAR 2017

Barrels, Hereford

ROLLING OUT THE BARRELS

City favourite is voted Herefordshire Pub of the Year for 2017

Today the Barrels in Hereford enjoys an almost cult following from many Herefordians and visitors alike. Just like the Cathedral, River Wye and chronic traffic congestion, it feels like itís an intrinsic part of the cityís fabric, but that hasnít always been the case.

To many who know the Barrels, it can seem like itís been there forever, but it might surprise some to learn that it was only created in 1986 - when Peter Amor took over the closed Lamb Inn on the cityís St. Owen Street; installed the fledging Wye Valley Brewery into outbuildings at the back, and renamed the pub the Barrels. The rest is historyÖand a lot of hard work.

The Barrels is no stranger to recognition and adulation. Itís been named Herefordshire Pub of the Year on five previous occasions, and Runner-up more than a few times too. Itís also the only pub in the county that can boast to having featured in 30 consecutive CAMRA Good Beer Guides. Itís even been mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain on at least one occasion. Itís probably now time it was appended onto the Mappa Mundi.

However, it isnít the awards per se that makes the Barrels what it is, it is the people that run it and use it. It is remarkable that it has won awards so consistently over so many years. It isnít just a survivor, but as other pubs and venues in the city have raised their game, the Barrels, somehow, has evolved and always managed to keep at the head of the pack. Moreover, it has defied those who suggest its better days were in the past; it is still recognised today, generations later, as a great pub. There is something very special about the place Ė very special indeed Ė that makes it so popular with so many different people.

On the surface of it, the pub shouldnít be that remarkable. Its four bars are thoroughly traditional in nature, it doesnít sell food and itís on the edge of the city centre. However, once you scratch below the surface, you start to understand what it is that makes this place so enjoyable to visit. Obviously there is the beer and cider (with a dozen or more hand pumps stood proud on the bar), but also over the years there have been numerous small improvements, most recently with the addition of the Brewery Bar.

However, it is the day-to-day, that manager Phil Pryce and his dedicated staff get right time and time again, by simply doing the things that keep the place alive and thriving. It seems to be intuitive: whether itís the quiz night; live music, or just nibbles on the bar Ė itís all done with a light touch and to the exclusion of no-one.

Itís helpful that the pubís regulars are like an extended family, and will happily sit and drink with whoever might be passing through - whether itís a group of visiting football fans; live music aficionados, or just the younger set on a lively weekend evening - you will never feel threatened at the Barrels. It is this overarching friendliness that is the pubís strongest suit.

Without doubt the jewel in the Barrelsí crown is its annual three-day beer festival, which last August Bank Holiday ran for its 30th year. Itís not just a beer festival either, with live music and a great atmosphere crammed into the cobbled back yard, itís the cityís end-of-summer party, and probably the nearest thing Hereford has to the Notting Hill Carnival. Moreover, the festival has raised an astonishing £500,000 over those years for local and national charities - of which there are too many to even start to list here. And a final thought: if it wasnít for the Barrels Beer Festival there probably wouldnít be a Herefordshire CAMRA branch, and there certainly wouldnít be a Beer on the Wye festival. So, you now know who to blame!

Commenting on the award, Barrels licensee Phil Pryce said: ďThe Barrels is honoured and extremely pleased to be voted the Herefordshire Pub of the Year and are proud of our continued association with the Campaign for Real Ale.Ē

The Barrels, 69 St Owen Street, Hereford, HR1 2JQ www.wyevalleybrewery.co.uk/the-barrelsTelephone: (01432) 274968 Open 11-11.30 Mon-Thu; 11-Midnight Fri & Sat; 12-11.30 Sun


CLASSIC COUNTRY PUB

Black Swan, Much Dewchurch

Herefordshire Pub of the Year Runner-up for 2017 is the Black Swan Inn at Much Dewchurch. It is everything that the archetypical old English village inn should be. Looking from the outside, its 16th century half-timbered construction is hidden away behind rendering, but inside its rich history is laid bare in its full unadulterated glory, for both locals and visitors to relish at their leisure. On a cold winterís night, its cosy atmosphere; wonderful old nooks and crannies; wonky beams; blazing log fires, and the highly convivial atmosphere make it worthy of more than its winter seasonal award.

The beer range is never dull, with landlady Gill experimenting with dark beers amongst others on the night of our winter award presentation. The ĎMucky Duckí - as it is affectionately known by some - is popular with villagers, local clubs and teams, and visitors alike. The food offering is good honest fare, and the local hunt use the pub as a venue from time to time - even though they have their own local - the Kilpeck Inn at Kilpeck! Such are Gill and her pubís charms.

Above all, the Black Swan is welcoming to all. It was the relaxed and very welcoming atmosphere one finds there, as much as the selection and quality of the beer that ultimately swayed the judges in its favour. However, the Black Swan isnít just for the winter Ė itís a pub for all seasons. Itís a little bit of Olde England and not a million miles away from Hereford. Isnít it time for you to call in?

Black Swan, Much Dewchurch, Hereford, HR2 8DJ. Telephone (01981) 540295. Open; 12-3, 5.30-11 Mon-Fri; 11.30-3, 5.30-11 Sat; 12-4, 6-11 Sun; Meal Times: 12-2, 7-9


DRAGON & APPLES

Congratulations to Adam and Zoe Durrant at the Green Dragon Inn at Bishops Frome on the occasion of being named Herefordshire CAMRAís Cider Pub of the Year for 2017.

Itís a previous winner and a lovely country pub with real fires; a warm welcome, and a range of real ciders to complement the real ales and excellent food. The Green Dragon is the quintessential English, black and white, low-beamed country pub. It has an unspoiled warren of small, discrete rooms - each with its own real fire and the centrepiece of a grand inglenook fireplace.

It is much sought after as a destination for walkers and coach parties with its tradition for good quality ales, cider and food.

Adam and Zoe have been at the Green Dragon for almost five years and offer six cask ales, alongside an expansive range of local ciders. In the early days there was Stowford, Strongbow and a couple of boxes of Henneys, but they have transformed the offer with a variety of Celtic Marches (e.g. Thundering Molly and Lily the Pink) and Westons (Rosieís Pig) ciders. The fruity variants (e.g. Tutti Frutti, Hand Brake and Flat Tyre) are particularly popular during the summer months. Two that impressed were Bartestreeís ĎFiona and Vickyí cider and the Henry Weston Perry.

Adam and Zoe take pride in what they sell and obtain quality produce from local suppliers which may even be flavoured with cider during cooking. The apples for the some of the ciders actually grow in the village!

They normally hold a beer festival, which usually takes place over the last weekend in June, and, as any archetypal village pub should, it is also home to many other community-orientated events.

Green Dragon, Bishops Frome, WR6 5BP Tel (01885) 490607 www.thegreendragoninn.com Opening Times: 5-11 Mon-Thu; 4-11.30 Fri; 12-11.30 Sat; 12-6 Sun; Winter 4.30-11 Mon-Thu; 4-11.30 Fri; 12-11.30 Sat; 12-6 Sun Meal Times: 6-9 Tue-Fri; 12-2.30, 6-9 Sat; 12-3 Sun


PUB OF THE SEASON

 Oak Inn, Staplow

A HEARTY OAK

Summer 2018 Pub of the Season is the Oak at Staplow.

The year 2007 was a turning point in the history of the Oak Inn at Staplow. Acquired back in 1919 by Whitbread, when they took over Ledbury brewer Lane Bros. and Bastow, this eccentric pub was somewhat run down and looked ripe for a change of use planning application.

Meanwhile, Hilton Haylett, of the Horseshoe in Ledbury, was looking for a change and was eyeing up the idyllic Ancient Camp in Ruckhall. Sadly for the Ancient Camp, its eye-wateringly high asking price was a major deterrent, and fortuitously the Oak came onto the market. What followed was a major, but very sensitive refurbishment with reopening following in 2008.

Today, the Oak achieves that often-elusive balance between a gastro and community pub. The old building has been partially opened out with a large bar counter and a restaurant to the left. The main drinking areas being to the right. Log-burning stoves, flagstone floors, and oak beams set the scene and several smaller alcoves to the side add to the convivial atmosphere. Dogs are welcome in the drinking areas.

The pub has four well-appointed en-suite B&B rooms, which enjoy bucolic views over the gardens to the open countryside beyond.

The well established trio of ales consists of the local Wye Valley Bitter and Ledbury Gold plus Bathams Bitter. The latter is rare for the county, and has to be collected regularly from Brierley Hill in the Black Country. In the autumn, some variety is introduced with the exciting range of green-hopped beers from the nearby Ledbury Brewery.

It is probably true to say that the Oak owes its continued existence to the high quality and adventurous nature of its food. Chef Simon Rogers operates in full view of the diners in the restaurant which aims to use ingredients that are in season and as local as possible. Obviously that canít apply to sea fish, but that comes via a former fisherman who travels early in the morning from Grimsby to Ledbury.

Hylton and his partner Julie Woodward are proud of their almost uninterrupted presence in the Good Beer Guide since 2009 as demonstrated by the annual posters displayed prominently in the bar. The establishment is kept to a high standard both decoratively and in service to customers with friendly and attentive staff. If youíve not been then why not plan a visit?

The Oak Inn, Staplow, HR8 1NP. Telephone: (01531) 640954. Website: www.oakinnstaplow.co.uk .


Recent Pubs of the Season

 Olde Tavern, Kington
Spring2018: Olde Tavern, Kington
Winter2017: Red Lion, Pembridge
Autumn2017: Moon Inn, Mordiford
Summer2017: Hostelrie, Goodrich
Spring2017: Balance, Luston
Winter2016: Black Swan, Much Dewchurch
Autumn2016: Talbot Hotel, Ledbury
Summer2016: Alma Inn, Linton
Spring2016: Oak Wigmore
Winter2015: Queenís Arms, Bromyard
Autumn2015: Red Lion, Stiffords Bridge
Summer2015: Carpenters Arms, Walterstone
Spring2015: New Inn, Fownhope
Winter2014: Chase Inn, Upper Colwall
Autumn2014: Red Lion, Peterstow
Summer2014: Baronís Cross, Leominster
Spring2014: Green Dragon, Bishops Frome
Autumn2013: Bridge Inn, Kentchurch
Summer2013: Royal George, Lingen
Spring2013: Wheelwrights, Pencombe
Winter2012: Crown, Woolhope
Autumn2012: Slip Tavern, Much Marcle
Summer2012: Wheatsheaf, Whitbourne