Tuesday, 16 September 2008
Pub of the Year
My first visit (1/4) to judge four of the last sixteen of pub of the year was to Chequers at Little Gransden, Bedfordshire, the East Anglian winning pub.
First and foremost, the beer quality here was first class. The pub is home to Son of Sid Brewery and three of its beers were available. Muck Cart Mild, Spud and Gransden Weiss. I had been impressed with two of their beers I tried at Chappel beer festival last week but all three here were even better.
The pub itself is a classic, three bar, rural community pub. On a quiet Friday lunchtime the atmosphere though was somewhat lacking and the style and decor could be described also as rural.
The service and welcome was excellent with friendly customers and bar staff.
Clientele mix was good albeit slightly difficult to judge at a quiet time. Mainly custom from the local farming community but we were also joined by a small group of young-uns playing pool (but drinking cherry cola).
CAMRA aims were well publicised. The usual posters, newsletters and certificates all ticked the box but in addition, locally brewed beer, a permanent mild and a discussion about the St Ives beer festival meant this category scored particularly highly.
Altogether good value, beer at £2.60 - £2,75. An enjoyable visit to a classic pub.
One disappointment was that the saloon bar was in darkness and we sat in the "rough and ready" public bar area. We would never have guessed the brewery was next door; apparently it can be viewed from the saloon bar. As visits are anonymous, I chose not to ask to have a look but I can't help thinking that scores for service and welcome in particular would have improved had they at least turned the saloon bar lights on.
This was close to a perfect pub for me - great beer in basic but friendly surroundings - that's pretty much all I ask for. However, my wife was less than impressed with the lack of comfort and the door left open by smokers.
This has set my benchmark for the remaining three pubs at a fairly high level.