Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, April 10, 2015

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We have picked our local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year, the Coach and Horses at Dersingham winning for the second year in a row and now it is time to put it up against the best of the rest of Norfolk.

This year there are three pubs in contention as the newly-formed Mid-Anglia branch, has chosen as their champion, the Queens Head at Earsham which is just in Norfolk. Norwich branch has gone for the Beehive. Having a rare football-free Saturday we decided to head off to have a look at the Queens Head, a pub I have never previously visited and on the way call in at the Mid-Anglia offering for the Cider Pub of the Year. This was another new pub to me and as we approached it looked good. However in the car park we pulled up next to a vehicle plastered in rude and offensive stickers.

Being late on Saturday afternoon, the place was reasonably quiet, with a few through in the bar watching the rugby internationals, and a group of three sat by a table nearby. As I sat down clutching my half of Rosie Pig, I became more aware of the group of three. It looked like a guy of about 50, bleach blond hair, gold jewellery and tattoos with his female partner and a son of maybe 20. The older couple were swearing rather loudly and playing the fool. He stuffed a few bits of torn up beer mat down her top and she retaliated by flicking beer of the top of her drink in his face. They noticed that ‘She can hear us’ (expletives deleted), referring perhaps to the Bar Wife or maybe the barmaid. We soon left what was rapidly becoming a rather uncomfortable situation, passing the notice by the door which forbade swearing. So, how do you score that place? Nice cider, good prices, clean and tidy with pleasant bar staff, but if I never set foot inside again it will be too soon.

On we went to the Queens Head. By this time it was what we in the North would call tea time, although the rugby was still on TV. In the bar the volume was cranked up, so we went through to the other room. It soon became apparent that this was the venue for the local football team to have a few post-match beer and sandwiches and the tables filled up. I was not sure who they were playing, but I do know the opposition got away with murder and the ref was useless. But here’s the thing; they discussed it sensibly, without swearing and seemed like a really pleasant bunch of lads. The beer was good, and at £2.50 a pint it is a place I would love to visit again. Will it be better than the Coach and Horses or the Beehive? Time will tell, but it does show that you should not leap to conclusions. Given the choice beforehand I think I would rather have shared a bar with a family group rather than an after match football drinking session, but it would have been the wrong choice.