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-barrels Telephone: (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

Red Lion, Stiffords Bridge

RETURN OF THE LION

Autumn 2018 Pub of the Season is the Red Lion at Stiffords Bridge.

The Red Lion has had a lot of knock-backs over the years: there were the floods - not once, but twice; then the successful Lannies quit for family reasons, after which the next licensees only lasted four months. As recently as the spring of 2017 it was forlorn and closed, when the pubís owner wrote a despairing article in the Sunday Times bemoaning the state of the nationís rural pubs. However, as fate would have it, this wrist-slitting cry for help was to alert the current licensees to the charms and potential of the Red Lion. They wrote a letter to the owner asking him to have a chance to turn the place round, and the rest we now know.

Steve Moorman comes with a fine pedigree. He once ran the iconic Port Ďn Ale in Tipton - a Black Country paragon of ale where, during his tenure, it stocked over 3,000 different beers. Come up to the present day and, with his partner Viki Kuhlke, it would not be an exaggeration to say they have transformed the roadside pub back to where it should rightly be - and quite a bit more besides - despite only taking the place on in June 2017.

On the bar you will find six interesting cask beers. They can be local or not so local, the usual or not so usual. Youíre more likely to win the National Lottery than to guess the beers before stepping up to the bar. Keeping them company are two local real ciders, which at the time of the presentation were both from Barkers (the perry had just been named West Midlands Champion at Beer on the Wye).

After leaving the Port Ďn Ale, Steve headed to Crete, where over a period of twenty years he variously ran a hotel, a bar and his own travel company. He also employed and teamed up with partner Viki at this time. It is this that explains the little Greek influences. Youíll always find a Greek staple on the popular and diverse menu, and you can be assured the Greek Salad will be 100% authentic! Two of the three loveable pub dogs (Flo and Bean) are rescue dogs that came home with them from Greece.

The Red Lion is now somewhere people want to go to once more. Revitalised and totally re-energised, it is busy again and things are happening. Already this year have been events for St Georges Day and Guy Fawkes. Thereís the possibility of a beer festival on the horizon too. Alternate Tuesdays are quiz nights and there is live music (when advertised), including on Steveís 60th birthday, which is on the 22nd September!

However, there are plans in hand to make it better still. A refurbishment is in the wings, with the pub set to be improved both inside and out. Already the pubís charming and excellent garden has been tidied up - with lights in the trees making sitting out at dusk a delight.

This is the first pub to be awarded Pub of the Season for the second time and with Steve and Viki now firmly at the controls it probably wonít be its last award.

The Red Lion Inn, Stiffords Bridge, Malvern, WR13 5NN. Telephone(01886) 880318. Facebook: @StiffordsBridgeMalvern


Recent Pubs of the Season

Oak Inn, Staplow
Summer2018: Oak Inn, Staplow
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