BRANCH AWARDS 2017
Branch Pub of the Year 2017
A comfortable town inn dating from the 1770s and for long a favourite meeting place for locals of all sorts, the Three Cups is now a Greene King Local Hero pub offering local microbrewery beers. Seven real ales are always available, including Greene King IPA, Morland Old Speckled Hen and at least two from White Park Brewery, which holds the lease. The Three Cups is effectively now White Park’s brewery tap.
Manager Bev Burridge, who learned her cellar craft in other leading real ale pubs in Bedford, brought with her the knowledge and experience to keep and serve real ales of excellent quality. Tasting thirds are available for all beers, with a rack of six tasters available for a fixed price. Locally sourced home-cooked lunches are also served, with evening meals also available from Monday to Thursday. Old wood panelling helps retain some of the pub's original character, which has led to the pub often being described as Bedford’s “country inn in town”. The pub is five minutes’ walk from the town centre and close to Bedford Blues rugby ground.
Having won North Beds CAMRA’s Town Pub of the Year runner-up award in 2015, the pub was just asking for another. Our congratulations to Alan Kelly and White Park Brewery, and to Bev and her pub team for winning our top award as Branch Pub of the Year 2017 against stiff competition. For more information, call 01234 352153, visit www.threecupsbedford.co.uk or follow the pub on Facebook at The-Three-Cups-Bedford.
The branch winners from East, North and South Beds compete for the Bedfordshire Pub of the Year title and the chance to take the East Anglia regional award against county winners from Cambs, Essex, Herts, Norfolk and Suffolk. For the third successive year, the county title has gone to the Black Lion, Leighton Buzzard, winning narrowly against the Three Cups and the New Inn, Biggleswade.
Roger Stokes with manager Bev Burridge and Alan Kelly of White Park Brewery
Country Pub of the Year 2016/17
A charming, thatched community pub on the old High Street off the Turvey road south-west of the modern village centre, the Fox has been a fine pub offering good real ale for many years. However, current owner-licensee Alison Brown has made it even better with a warm welcome for regulars and casual visitors alike. The old, under-used, restaurant has been knocked through into the bar, providing a larger and more flexible space for drinkers, diners and games players. The attractive garden is always popular with families in good weather. Competing for customers with so many good rural pubs in our area, Alison and the Fox have made a superb achievement and fully deserve our award.
The regular real ales are Fuller’s London Pride and Wells Eagle IPA, with two frequently changed guest beers, often sourced from local microbreweries. Alison’s cellar management is excellent, guaranteeing you a well-kept pint. Good value, home-cooked lunches are served throughout the week and evening meals from Wednesday to Saturday. There is a regular quiz on Thursday evening, occasional themed food evenings and regular beer and cider festivals over the spring and summer bank holiday weekends, for which an outhouse in the garden provides an additional bar and cask stillage. There is regular live music every month and at both festivals.
Congratulations to Alison and her team for winning our Country Pub of the Year award for the second successive year. For more information, call 01234 720235, visit www.thefoxatcarlton.pub or follow the pub on Facebook at TheFoxAtCarlton.
Roger Stokes with owner-licensee Alison Brown
Branch Cider Pub of the Year 2016/2017
You can hardly miss this one-bar, family-friendly village local at Salph End, on a bend in the road from Bedford to Wilden. Refurbished a couple of years ago by owners Greene King, the pub offers a warm welcome and a large garden, play area and restaurant. An interesting collection of pub and brewery artefacts is always on show, as well as R101 airship memorabilia. Live entertainment and quiz nights feature regularly, with darts and hood skittles also popular.
Landlord Paul Smith offers Hardys & Hansons Bitter and up to five guest ales in fine condition, but CAMRA has given this well-deserved award for his commitment to real cider. At least two real ciders are always available, usually served direct from the bag in a box, increasing to four in the summer months. The brands change regularly and are often from small producers in Bedfordshire and neighbouring counties, supporting local enterprise.
Paul also serves traditional pub food including fish and chips, except on Sunday and Monday evenings. Congratulations to Paul for winning our Cider Pub of the Year title for the second successive year. For further information, call 01234 771398, visit www.polhillarms.co.uk, or follow the pub on Facebook at polhillarmsrenhold.
The Bedfordshire Cider Pub of the Year 2017 title was won once again by the Engineers Arms, Henlow. The Engineers Arms now competes for the East Anglia regional title against five other county winners.
Roger Stokes with licensee Paul Smith and partner Hayley
Branch Club of the Year 2016/2017
The RAFA 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.
Club chairman Ray Rowland and branch chair Lez Fishman preside over a popular bar offering Fuller’s London Pride, Wells Eagle IPA 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 and their guests are welcome, although frequent guests will of course be invited 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.
Congratulations to Ray, Lez and the RAFA Club for winning our Club of the Year title for the second successive year. The club will now compete against other branch winners for the national Club of the Year title, to be awarded early next year. Another RAFA Club in Sussex secured the national title last year and was a finalist this year too. We wish our own RAFA Club the very best of luck.
Our branch chairman Roger Stokes with RAFA bar chairman Ray Rowland
Special Branch Award 2017
Every real ale lover in Bedford knows the Wellington Arms. Owned by local pub group Burlison Inns but leased to B&T Brewery since 1998, this apparently unremarkable street-corner local has been central to the growth of interest in cask beers in the Bedford area. With its traditional, friendly style and mixed clientele, the pub offers a wide selection of ever-changing regional and microbrewery beers from 12 handpumps, with another two pumps used for traditional real cider and perry. Draught and bottled beers from Bedford, Germany and other European countries are also available in a choice not often found in this area. Local ale lovers have probably learnt more about the styles and flavours of traditional cask beers here than anywhere else in Bedford. There is even a courtyard for drinkers and smokers where customers of all sorts meet and exchange friendly banter.
The Wellington Arms under B&T has given much the same service to the beer drinkers of Bedford for almost 20 years. It has won our Pub of the Year competition seven times, including the first five times in successive years. However, perhaps we have come to regard this exceptional pub as a local institution that has been there for ever and will always be a central venue for real ale drinkers in Bedford. CAMRA North Beds has decided to recognise the special status of the “Wellie” with an equally special, unique branch award. Congratulations to Mike and Martin from B&T and to manager Lesley and her knowledgeable bar and cellar team, and many thanks on behalf of all your admirers and customers for giving us such a wonderful pub. For more information, phone 01234 308033, visit www.thewelly.wix.com/bedford or follow the pub on Facebook at The-Wellington-Arms.
CAMRA awards are given only to the best pubs and clubs, and to the hard-working people who run them. Branch chairman Roger Stokes commented: "I am delighted that we can again honour four pubs and a club this year, including a pub that has been such a key provider of real ale in Bedford. 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."
B&T directors Mike Desquesnes (left) and Martin Ayres with manager Lesley Griffin
Last year’s national Pub of the Year competition came to an end in February 2017. The Black Lion in Leighton Buzzard, our Bedfordshire Pub of the Year, was beaten to the East Anglia regional title by the Stanford Arms in Lowestoft, Suffolk. After further competition among the very best pubs in the country, CAMRA's new National Pub of the Year is the community-owned George & Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire. The other three finalists, all worthy award winners too, were the Salutation Inn in Ham, Gloucestershire, the Stanford Arms in Lowestoft and the Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire.
CAMRA’s new national Club of the Year is the Cheltenham Motor Club in Gloucestershire, which had already won the same title in 2013.
National Pub and Club of the Year 2017
Framed certificates have been presented to all five award winners. You can find details of them all in CAMRA’s online pub database at www.whatpub.com.
North Beds CAMRA