Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, April 7, 2017

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine

In his last great work, The Age of Reason, Norfolk-born political activist Tom Paine convincingly demolishes organised religion.

One of the points that he makes most is that the description of someone as a ‘prophet’ originally had the meaning of a musician rather than someone who could see the future.

Perhaps the Rev John Henry Hopkins was a prophet in both senses of the word. On one hand, he wrote the catchy little Christmas carol ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’, whilst on the other he accurately predicted the results of the Norfolk CAMRA Pub of the Year contenders, at least in the sense of Nostradamus where cryptic verses are fitted to events after they happen.

From West Norfolk, we have once again the Kings Arms in Shouldham. This will need no introduction to many local readers, having retained its title from 2016.

It displays the best features of a typical village local. Great beer, friendly service and good food. It’s warm in winter with the log fires, offers a beer garden in summer and what separates it from the rest of the local contenders is the community focus that you would expect from a pub owned by the locals themselves.

Up against it is the Kings Head in Norwich. This is a classic town pub serving a great selection of Norfolk beers in a pleasant environment and is also a former winner, this being it’s third victory in the last 10 years in the Norwich CAMRA competition. To add a bit of uncertainty into the mix, the Mid-Norfolk entry, is the Old Kings Head at Brockdish. This is down on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, just off the A143 to the east of Diss.

It is not a pub I am familiar with, but a glance at the website shows that it could be a real contender, dating back to 1400 and specialising in local beers, pizza and gin, alongside coffee and cakes.

How are we to choose which pub goes forward to represent the best in Norfolk against the rest of East Anglia? The decision will be made by any local CAMRA member that cares to get involved. All are invited to visit the three contenders and complete a survey form, the scores from which will be used to crown the county champion. This pub will then undergo a similar challenge against the best in Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, with the winner going on until eventually the National champion is decided. The current holder of the title is the George and Dragon in Hudswell in North Yorkshire, another pub which I am not familiar, but reading the press releases it seems to have a lot in common with the Kings Arms, being closed in 2008, and reopened as a result of a community buyout.

We have had national success in the Club of the Year and Cider pub of the Year competitions in the past, so it is high time we made some progress in the most prestigious competition of all, so if you are a CAMRA member and wish to help judge, get in touch.

We will not win the Cider Pub of the Year this time as we have not selected a branch entry. With the closure of the Railway Arms in Downham we felt that we did not have a pub of sufficient quality. But one of our members is attempting to compile a list of pubs selling proper cider and I would welcome any information.