HEREFORDSHIRE PUBS OF THE YEAR 2014
SMALL PUB, BIG AMBITION
City micro-pub, Beer in Hand voted Herefordshire CAMRA Pub of the YearWhen CAMRA first learned about plans for the county’s first micro-pub we were privately concerned how it might work: outside the city’s ‘ring road’ and in a converted launderette, it didn’t sound like an obvious blueprint for great beer success. How wrong we turned out to be! For a start, we hadn’t allowed for the effort and business skills of owners Mitchell and Alison Evans.
Hereford had long been calling out for a pub that offered a good range of beers from different small breweries from around the UK. The Beer in Hand has now filled that gap many times over, as is evidenced by its runaway success. The customers have just kept coming across the threshold ever since it first opened back in August 2013. Not stopping there, the operation has gone on to provide the largest selection of real ciders and perries in the county - typically as many as a dozen being available. And just to top this lot off is an eclectic selection of bottled beers and ciders.
At the end of 2013 the pub was awarded the accolade of Herefordshire CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year. Now, only twelve months later, it has won the BIG prize - and thoroughly deserved it is too.
The Beer in Hand isn’t your run-of-the-mill pub, thus the moniker ‘micro’ being applied to the Eign Street premises. Besides the enormous range of real ales (plus ciders and perries), the most notable feature is the large enclosed racking unit. Holding up to sixteen barrels behind individually-sealed glass fronts, it is a neat way of efficiently chilling the beers without the need for a traditional pub cellar. This brings the added bonus that the customer can see their beer served straight from the barrel every time.
Otherwise, the Beer in Hand might be best described as basic-cum-minimalist modernist in decor, with comfortable furnishings towards the front and a seated alcove area off to one side towards the rear. Whilst it’s nothing like a spit and sawdust boozer, it still seems to engender a good locals’ pub atmosphere. Conversation will always hold sway in a place like this. The owners appear to have the Midas touch for the pub trade. Whatever they do at the Beer in Hand seems to land the right way up every time: such as the introduction of food nights and Sunday lunches, live music and quizzes - all admirably supported by an ever-building number of loyal locals. We’ve even forgiven them for running a ‘Beer on the Eign’ festival concurrent with our Beer on the Wye festival back in July! Obviously, that was a success too.
Simon Crowther, Herefordshire CAMRA Chairman, explains:
“The Beer in Hand is a very welcome addition to the city’s pub scene. It gives Hereford’s beer drinkers a chance to try a number of different beers from various UK small breweries, an opportunity they otherwise only get at a beer festival. For visitors to the city, it represents a stellar showcase for local Herefordshire ciders and perries.
“Getting the Beer in Hand established was a big commitment and a massive leap of faith - one that has very much paid off for the owners. Well done and thanks go to Mitchell and Alison for taking the risk and then making it work so well.”
A presentation of the Pub of the Year certificate will take place at the Beer in Hand in February.
Beer in Hand, Eignbrook House, 136 Eign Street, Hereford, HR4 0AP. 12 (4 Tue & Wed)-11; 11-10.30 Sun; fully accessible; 10p/pint discount for CAMRA members website: www.beerinhand.co.uk; twitter: @bihhereford
ANOTHER ACCOLADE FOR BORDER PUB
Bridge Inn at Kentchurch is voted Herefordshire CAMRA’s Country Pub of the Year
The Bridge Inn Kentchurch is a pub not so much in the centre of the village as in the ‘Heart of the Community’. Taking the B4347 eastwards from Pontrilas, one wonders just how the tiny parish of Kentchurch village with so few visible signs of habitation can sustain a pub. Yet since taking over the pub, Nick Phillips and his wife Andi have taken it from strength to strength.
Once part of a mill complex dating back some 400 years, the pub still retains much of its historic character, while the garden, set beside the River Monnow, offers stunning views towards the Black Mountains.
Nick and Andi are committed to offering excellent beers, with three real ales availablle in winter, increasing to four - plus a real cider - in the summer. The á-la-carte menu includes traditional "pub grub", plus a range of specials which vary from night to night - all freshly prepared on the premises. Sunday lunches and regular themed nights are very popular and booking is recommended. Andi's homemade puddings are always popular - particularly the cheesecakes!
The pub is surrounded by delightful countryside offering some fine walking, providing a handy refreshment stop along the Herefordshire Trail or the Bagwyllydiart and Pontrilas walk described in the ‘Garway Bus’ leaflet. Download here and follow links leisure, then walking.
Bridge Inn, Kentchurch, Hereford HR2 0BY. Tel (01981) 240408. Opening Hours Mondays 6pm to 10pm Tuesday Closed Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 12pm to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 11pm Saturday and Sunday 12pm to 11pm