The Cricketers Arms in St Helens (top left), Volunteer Arms (Staggs) in Musselburgh (top right), the Wonston Arms in Wonston (bottom left) and the Chequers in Little Gransden (bottom right).
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the best four pubs in the country as part of its Pub of the Year 2018 competition, one of the most respected and well-known pub awards in the UK.
Among the finalists is the Volunteer Arms (Staggs) in Musselburgh, a traditional local decorated with wooden floors, wood panelling and mirrors from defunct local breweries. Run by the same family since 1858, it offers a regularly changing range of real ale.
Also in the running is the Chequers in Little Gransden, a village pub with wooden benches and a roaring fire, which has been run by the same family for over 60 years. It is also the home of Son of Sid Brewery and the pub offers a selection of their beers.
Saved from closure and being run as a community project, the Wonston Arms in Wonston has made it through to the final for the first time. A popular pub in the heart of the village, it serves four real ales from local breweries and is home to jazz sessions, quizzes and regular visits from food providers.
The fourth and final pub in the top four is the current CAMRA Pub of the Year – The Cricketers in St Helens. A friendly local community pub also saved from closure, the pub boasts 13 handpumps on the bar and offers brews from newer regional brewers and local microbreweries.
All of the pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, value for money, customer mix and most importantly – quality of beer. The four finalists will now have a chance to win the National Pub of the Year title for 2018, which will be announced in February 2019.
National Pub of the Year Co-ordinator Andrea Briers said: “Each of the finalists are different, with both town and village pubs represented, all of which are excellent examples of their style of pub. This stage of the competition is very tough and all four finalists should be proud of their achievement.”
Each of the four finalists will be presented with their super regional award at local events over the coming weeks.
Find out more about the finalists:
Presentation date: 24 November 2018 at 4pm
The multi-award winning village pub has been owned and run by the same family for over 60 years and in the Good Beer Guide for 24 of them. The unspoilt middle bar, with its wooden benches, roaring fire and a collection of decoy birds that seem to be gathering on the beam over the bar, is a favourite spot to catch up on local gossip. The pub’s Son of Sid brewhouse supplies the pub and local beer festival. Fish and chips are a highlight on a Friday night!
Andrea Briers, who is also the local CAMRA Regional Director for East Anglia, said: “The Chequers is a wonderful traditional pub which serves its community and welcomes visitors. It is great to see Bob and Wendy’s hard work rewarded with a place in the final four of the Pub of the Year competition.”
Presentation date: Saturday, 17 November at 3pm
CAMRA’s current national Pub of the Year, the Cricketers Arms has established itself as an excellent cask ale pub, with 13 hand pumps on the bar plus over 110 gins. Beers come from newer regional brewers and local microbreweries, and there is also an excellent selection of real ciders. This is a friendly local community pub on the edge of the town centre, hosting darts and pool teams, and entertainment at the weekend. Beer festivals are staged several times a year including one between Christmas and New Year.
Nick Bosley, CAMRA’s Regional Director for Merseyside and Cheshire said: “To reach the final 4 pubs in a National competition two years running demonstrates a consistency in quality over a long period of time. Andy, Denise and the team at the Cricketers Arms keep making small changes to show whatever is achieved it is still a work in progress.”
Presentation date: Presentation has taken place.
Run by the same family since 1858, the bar and snug are traditional with wooden floors, wood panelling and mirrors from defunct local breweries. The more modern lounge opens at the weekend. The real ales, mostly hoppy and pale but often with one darker, change regularly.
Sarah Crawford, CAMRA’s Regional Director for Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “I’m delighted that the Volunteer Arms (Staggs) has made it through to the final of CAMRA’s Pub of the Year competition – it really deserves the recognition that comes with this award, and its fantastic to see the hard work of the team rewarded.
“It’s such a welcoming, family orientated pub and one that is popular both within the community, and those who make a special journey just to visit. I can’t think of a better place to spend an afternoon – and often have myself!”
Presentation date: 15 December at 2pm
A true community pub in the heart of the village, the Wonston Arms serves four real ales from local breweries plus 160 gins. It opens on Mondays for darts matches, a fish and chip van visits Tuesdays, curries are delivered Fridays and a fishmonger visits on Thursdays. Folk music takes place on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month and it is also home to regular jazz sessions, quizzes, and a photography club. The pub has been named Branch Pub of the Year three years running, and has a focus on raising money for charity.
Nigel Jones, CAMRA’s Regional Director for Wessex and the Channel Islands said: “Matt and his team have created a fantastic rural village pub with a great atmosphere by shaping it around the community and its needs. They have realised that it takes something special to create a sense of real belonging so that people want to come out of their homes and back in the pub.
The Wonston Arms serves excellent cask ales and is a great social environment for all. There is also a community business benefit which both emanates from, and contributes to, Matt’s success. Regular “pop-up” hot food, music, community, charity and educational events add to the “must be there” feel. In these testing times for pubs it is a real credit to them that it is so popular. This pub really deserves to go all the way in this competition.”
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