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

Black Swan, Much Dewchurch

CLASSIC VILLAGE PUB

Winter 2016 Pub of the Season is the Black Swan, Much Dewchurch.

Herefordshire Pub of the Year Runner-up for 2016 is the Black Swan Inn at Much Dewchurch. But, before the Black Swan was adjudged in our annual Pub of the Year competition, it had already been voted our Winter Pub of the Season. A case of two awards for the price of one!

On the 17th November, popular landlady, Gill Constance - along with her staff and customers - gathered in front of the pub’s roaring fire to collect the certificate as our Winter Pub of the Season (see photo), completely unknowing that in just a few days it would be named Pub of the Year Runner-up too - and how thoroughly deserved it all is.

The Black Swan 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 winter’s 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 ‘Mucky Duck’ - 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 pub’s 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 isn’t just for the winter – it’s a pub for all seasons. It’s a little bit of Olde England and not a million miles away from Hereford. Isn’t 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 gillconstance-blackswan@outlook.com


Recent Pubs of the Season

Alma, Linton
Autumn 2016: Talbot Hotel, Ledbury
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