BRANCH AWARDS 2019
Branch and Cider Pub of the Year 2019
Polhill Arms, Renhold
Branch Pub of the Year 2018 and 2019
Cider Pub of the Year 2019
Congratulations to the Polhill Arms on achieving this double award after already winning Branch Pub of the Year in 2018 and Cider Pub of the Year 2016 and 2017. This is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the care and effort given to the business by landlord Paul Smith and partner Lindsay Kent.
You can hardly miss this friendly, one-bar village local at Salph End, on a bend in the road from Bedford to Wilden. There’s always a warm welcome, with a large garden and play area as well as the busy bar. There’s an interesting collection of pub and brewery artefacts, as well as R101 airship memorabilia. Live entertainment and quiz nights feature regularly, with darts and hood skittles also popular.
Paul and Lindsay offer Hardys & Hansons Bitter and up to five changing real ales in fine condition, not all from pub owner Greene King. There are always at least two real ciders, usually served direct from a bag in a box, but often four in the summer months. Ciders often come from small producers in or close to Bedfordshire. Traditional pub food including fish and chips, is also available except on Sunday and Monday evenings. Like the beers, ciders regularly and are often from small producers in or close to Bedfordshire.
For further information, call 01234 771398, visit www.polhillarms.co.uk or follow the pub on Facebook @polhillarmsrenhold.
The Polhill Arms will now compete against CAMRA’s East and South Beds winners for the all-Bedfordshire Pub of the Year and Cider Pub of the Year awards. The county winner goes on to compete with five others for the East Anglia regional title, and the regional champion will compete for the national title later in the year.
Town Pub of the Year 2019
Dudley Street, Bedford
Congratulations to the Devonshire Arms too for winning one of our branch awards for two successive years - last year it was our Cider Pub of the Year.
A traditional Charles Wells community pub at the heart of the Russell Park residential area, the “Devvy” is well supported by local people. There is a warm, friendly atmosphere, an open fire in winter and even candlelight. The front bar has bare floorboards and an open fire, while there is a separate snug at the rear. The garden is popular for sitting out in good weather and includes both a gazebo for smokers and a no-smoking paved area. Traditional pub games like cribbage and dominoes are played regularly.
Landlords Ronnie and Rebecca Toms offer three regular real ales from the Wells stable and three guest ales often sourced more widely, but our award is for the reliable Old Rosie and Rosie’s Pig ciders and Country Perry, all three from Westons of Much Marcle, Herefordshire, and served direct from a chilled box. A range of wines is also sold by the glass or bottle.
Although the pub does not serve food on a regular basis, snacks may be provided during the occasional beer and cider festivals. The Devvy has won CAMRA awards before - it was our Branch Pub of the Year in 2013. For more information, call 01234 301170, visit devonshirearmsbedford.co.uk or follow the pub on Facebook @devonshirearmsbedford
Most Improved Pub 2019
Our most northerly branch venue, this attractive, thatched and boarded rural pub serves three real ales and good pub food throughout opening hours. The main bar to the left of the entrance leads to a games area behind and there is a small lounge bar on the right, used mainly for dining. The large garden to the rear offers a pleasant outdoor area for use in fine weather.
The three, well-kept real ales are Greene King IPA, St Austell Tribute and Timothy Taylor Landlord. The pub is open every evening for food and drink, and all day from noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Congratulations to landlords Adam and Tina Heast for winning this special award, which we don’t make every year, but to recognise exceptional pubs where hard effort has raised the quality of a local pub from the ordinary to something special.
For more information, call 01234 798346, visit the pub website at www.thethreecompasses.co.uk, or follow it on Facebook@TheThreeCompassesUpperDean.
Three Compasses, Upper Dean
Club of the Year 2019
RAFA Club Bedford, Ashburnham Road, Bedford
Congratulations to the RAFA Club for winning our Club award for a third time in four years. The club occupies a converted Edwardian house in Ashburnham Road, almost opposite the station car park. The building also houses the Bedford Branch of the Royal Air Force Association and the Rhodesian Armed Forces Museum, which is well worth a visit. The function room can be booked for private events.
The club was originally launched as a social venue for ex-servicemen and women, although new members without a military background are now very welcome. The club is closed on Monday and parking at lunchtime is limited, with most of the rear car-park rented out to commuters. The premises are well decorated with local aviation memorabilia and have recently been refurbished.
The Club offers a popular bar serving Eagle IPA, Fuller’s London Pride and up to two, regularly changed guest ales. Good value lunches are available from Tuesday to Saturday with a cooked evening meal also available on Wednesday, but this and the Sunday roast lunch must be booked in advance. A lively social programme includes pool, darts, crib and a monthly quiz. CAMRA members are welcome guests, although those visiting frequently may of course be pressed to join the club! For more details, call 01234 350107 or visit www.rafa-bedford.org.uk, which provides details of the RAFA branch and the museum, as well as the club.
The RAFA Club will now compete against other winners for CAMRA’s national Club of the Year title, to be awarded early next year. We wish it the very best of luck.
North Beds CAMRA
CAMRA awards are given only to the best pubs and clubs, and to the hard-working people who run them. This year North Beds Branch is making five awards for excellence to three pubs and a local club. Branch chairman Roger Stokes commented: "I am delighted that we can again honour a number of pubs and a club. They are all different, but each seeks to serve, and is part of, its local community. Together they demonstrate the variety of the best real ale and cider outlets and I look forward to visiting them again to present their awards."
Framed certificates will be presented to the award winners. You can find more information about them all in CAMRA’s WhatPub online pub database.
The regional winners of their respective competitions take part in further stages to produce an overall national winner. The Cider Pub of the Year competition came to an end in October (CAMRA’s national Cider Month), with the Firkin Shed, Bournemouth, taking the national award.
The new national Pub of the Year and Club of the Year winners will be announced in February, but we already know that the Chequers, Little Gransden, is one of the four finalists for Pub of the Year. We wish the owners good luck.
In February too, CAMRA will launch a new national competition to select the best pubs and clubs for 2019.
A competition for the overall Bedfordshire Pub of the Year 2018 between the Polhill Arms, the Engineers Arms, Henlow, and the Black Lion, Leighton Buzzard, ended once again in victory for the Black Lion, which went on to represent Bedfordshire in the East Anglia regional competition. The regional title was won by the Chequers, Little Gransden, Cambs, not far across the Bedfordshire border and home of the Son of Sid microbrewery.
The competition for Bedfordshire Cider Pub of the Year set the Devonshire Arms, Bedford, against the Engineers Arms, Henlow, and the Black Lion, Leighton Buzzard. The Engineers Arms was chosen as our county winner, but the East Anglia Cider Pub of the Year award finally went to the Woodbine Inn, Waltham Abbey, Essex.
The Cranfield Campus Club went forward for the East Anglia Club of the Year award 2018, but this was eventually won by the Caxton Club, Beccles, Suffolk.