Herefordshire CAMRA

HEREFORDSHIRE PUBS OF THE YEAR 2016

Alma, Linton

HIGH STANDARDS MAINTAINED

Linton’s Alma Inn named Pub of the Year for 2016

It is hard to deny that it is the people who run pubs that make or break them, but sometimes a pub can have something quite magical about it too. In being awarded Herefordshire CAMRA Pub of the Year for 2016, the Alma Inn at Linton wins this prestigious award for third time, but on this occasion it is the first such accolade for new owners – Gemma and Dan Evans - who only took over the reins of this late Victorian village inn back in January 2015.

When visiting the Alma for the first time (before one enters), it might come across as unremarkable – just another typical village pub. However, that impression is rapidly banished once you cross the threshold of this three-room charmer. It is a rare mix of the contemporary and quintessentially traditional that works so well. Granted, since Gemma and Dan took the helm, the place has been spruced-up with some stylish and more contemporary décor in places, but the atmosphere remains steadfastly and unashamedly that of an unpretentious, dyed-in-the-wool English inn - replete with cosy window alcoves; roaring open fires; comfortable seating, and always a gentle buzzing atmosphere. The place has an honesty about it that is lacking in too many other pubs these days, right through from the small pool room at the rear to the wood-panelled ‘other room’ towards the front.

The Alma excels in doing both the ordinary and less ordinary with a real degree of panache. Even the introduction of food, which - by the way - is both imaginative and delicious, did not spook the many loyal and long-standing customers, some of whom travel miles to partake in the simple pleasures on offer at the Alma. The most important being the prevalence of good, old-fashioned conversation. Just try entering the front lounge bar on an evening and avoid being spoken to by the locals - you’ll do well to last for more than 30 seconds! In a nutshell, the baby has not been thrown out with the bathwater with the changes made in the past two years or so.

The competition judges were particularly impressed with the beer selection on the bar at the Alma. Regular cask beers are from Oakham, Bristol Beer Factory, Malvern Hills and Butcombe breweries; distinctive by being uncommon for the county, yet they always hit the mark. And the price is right too!

The highlight of the Alma’s year is undoubtedly the annual Linton Music Festival. You’ve probably heard of it on the likes of Radio 2, but maybe you hadn’t realised it was held in the extensive rear gardens of the pub. Thousands turn out for the event each June solstice weekend, and as a bonus they have a full-blown beer festival laid on for them to wash down the oodles of live music. It’s a ‘must do’ if you’re visiting Herefordshire.

In congratulating Gemma and Dan on their success, Mark Haslam of Herefordshire CAMRA said: “The Alma Inn is an outstanding package - well-run, laid-back, and always worth the trip along winding country lanes to its welcoming doorstep. It’s a shining example of how a village pub can evolve, yet still remain true to its traditional values. May the Alma Inn live long and prosper!”

 Alma Inn, Linton HR9 7RY. Open Mon 6-11; Tue-Sat 12-3, 6-11; Sun 12-3, 7-10.30. Food served Tue-Sat 12-2, 6-9. Telephone: (01989) 720355. website: www. www.almainnlinton.co.uk

 

CLASSIC COUNTRY PUB

Black Swan, Much Dewchurch

Herefordshire Pub of the Year Runner-up for 2016 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 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

 
 Yew Tree, Peterstow

YEW TREE BEST FOR APPLES AND PEARS

Cider-maker’s Peterstow pub wins Cider Pub of the Year 2016

Congratulations to all at the superb Yew Tree Inn at Peterstow, on being named Herefordshire CAMRA’s Cider Pub of the Year for the first time. This is no surprise to those who know their real cider, after the lease to the pub was taken on by Mike Johnson of the Ross-on-Wye Cider Company in 2014.

Mike and his family have been making cider at Broome Farm for as long as anyone can remember, and have picked up many awards including Champion Cider Maker at the Big Apple in 2009 and 2011, CAMRA’s Pomona Award in 2009, and more recently the Queens Diamond Award for Excellence in Food and Drink in 2013. They still make cider the way it ought to be made – no water, yeast or artificial sweeteners – just juice. Broome Farm hosts the Ross Cider Festival each year on the first weekend in September, and it’s always a top occasion.

The Yew Tree is a proper country community pub. There’s darts on a Monday, a quiz on a Tuesday, and live music on a Saturday. And every Thursday night it’s Cider and Sausage Night, where three sausages, mash and cider onion gravy can be enjoyed with a selected range of matching ciders. But whatever day of the week, cider is the star of the show. There’s always a draught Ross-on-Wye cider on handpump, and a huge collection of bottle-conditioned ciders and perries in the fridge. In fact Ross-on-Wye Cider makes the largest range of single-varietal ciders and perries in the world – a real global first for Herefordshire, and something that we should all be really proud of.

And it’s not just cider! The Yew Tree seems to specialise in beers from breweries not often seen in the county. This comes about through reciprocal arrangements with cider customers further north and results in breweries such as Ilkley, Lancaster and Townhouse being represented on the two handpumps alongside the regular Hobsons Best.

Take a look at Tripadvisor for reviews of the Yew Tree’s food, and every rating seems to be five star. You’ll find traditional home-made favourites, plus dishes cooked in their own cider, such as Cider Cake (as seen on TV’s Market Kitchen, and made by Mike’s sister Hilary), and Cider Cooked Ham. Food is served every lunchtime, and Thursday to Saturday evenings.

The Yew Tree has a Cider Shop on site, open every day 12noon to 9pm, with a range of three draught ciders and one draught perry to take away, plus a full selection of bottles, beers, gifts, etc. The Ross-Hereford bus 32 stops outside, but for those wanting to stay the night, the Yew Tree even has its own caravan and campsite.

Runner-up in this year’s competition is the fab Hereford Beer House, in West Street in Hereford. Opened in 2015 by Jonny Bright and Amelie Varin, it’s a bright and contemporary craft beer bar, run with passion by the knowledgeable owners. And while modern-style beer is the main focus here, they still keep six excellent Herefordshire ciders on tap, from producers such as Bartestree, Newton Court, Olivers, Gwatkins, Ty Gwyn and Once Upon a Tree.

Just pipped into third place was past-winner the Green Dragon at Bishops Frome, a lovely country pub with real fires, a warm welcome, and a range of real ciders to complement the real ales and home-prepared food.

Yew Tree, Peterstow, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 6JZ Telephone (01989) 562815 www.rosscider.com Open: 12-11 daily Meal Times: 12-2.30 Mon-Wed; 12-2.30, 6-8 Thu-Fri; 12-7 Sat; 12-2.30 Sun

 

PUB OF THE SEASON

Black Swan, Much Dewchurch

LUSTON REBALANCED

Spring 2017 Pub of the Season is the Balance Inn, Luston.

The nomination of the Balance is in recognition of the fact that the only pub in the village of Luston has been restored and revived over the last year as a community asset by a family that is living in the pub. They have opened it up seven days a week, provided good food, hospitality and beer, including a specially-brewed local ale from nearby Leominster. It’s a wonderful example of what can be done.

The Balance has an unusual history in that its owners were granted planning permission in 2001 for conversion into three dwellings. However, they sold it on, and new owners carried out an extensive refurbishment. Trade appeared to flourish, but bizarrely in 2006, when the owners tried to invoke the previous planning permission they found it had lapsed, so made an application for renewal. With support from CAMRA, the locals were able to demonstrate that the original planning permission was flawed, and that, boosted by local population growth, the pub could not be claimed to be unviable. With the renewal application declined, the pub remained open, but slowly deteriorated in condition and trade, and eventually closed in sad circumstances.

That’s now all in the past. After several years of closure, the Balance was bought by Colin Ravenhill, who set about substantial work on the fabric of the building, including new boilers, a paint job inside and out, and new garden furniture. The pub is run by Colin’s stepson Daniel Raybould, who came with considerable experience as a pub manager with M&B and offers locally-brewed Hobsons Best Bitter, Wye Valley Butty Bach, and a house beer brewed specially by Swan Brewery. These are complemented by a guest beer. The locally-sourced pub food includes stone-baked pizzas and Sunday roasts.

The Balance Inn, Luston, HR6 0EB. Opening 11-11 daily. Telephone (01568) 616801. Bus service 490/491/494


Recent Pubs of the Season

Alma, Linton
Winter 2016: Black Swan, Much Dewchurch
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