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Column: Jeff Hoyle takes a look at the most recommended pubs on Google

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I was scrolling through my Google feed recently, which is apparently personalised for me to reflect my interests, and between the Rugby League roundups, Mark E Smith’s opinion of the Smiths and the heart wrenching tales of abandoned puppies one headline caught my eye.

I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like ‘King’s Lynn’s Leading Pub Expert offers his recommendations’.

That looks interesting I thought. Who could that be? Only to find that when I clicked, it was me. I have never claimed to be an expert and my choices have no more validity that anyone else’s.

Beer stock (50422925)
Beer stock (50422925)

In fact, some people put a lot of faith in the ‘wisdom of crowds’, so let’s have a look at what you recommend. By ‘you’ I mean the CAMRA members who have submitted beer scores for the local pubs that they have visited on a scale of 1-5. My time period for this exercise is the last six months, essentially post lockdown. My initial list is reserved for those pubs which have had more than ten scores entered and the area covered is that of the West Norfolk CAMRA branch which extends down to the Suffolk border and as far east as Larling in the south of the county and Burnham Thorpe in the north. Top of the list is the White Hart Free House at Ashill, which opened shortly before the first lockdown and has an average score of 4.43. I have visited the pub on a couple of occasions and been impressed by the whole package, especially the staff, and not just the beer. Next comes Lynn’s Nip and Growler with 4.37. This divides opinion, gaining some top marks and the odd zero as it is not clear whether the beer on sale is cask conditioned. Some comes from key kegs but others may come from key casks, meeting the CAMRA definition of real ale.

Unfortunately, there is no way for the drinker to distinguish between the two. Don’t let that stop you trying it out though. Larling Angel (4.33), Middleton Gate (4.33) and The Stuart House Hotel (4.19) complete the top five, with Dersingham Coach and Horses (4.18), Roydon Union Jack (4.15), Hockwold Red Lion (4.09), Hockwold New Inn (4.04) and Ferry Lane Social Club (3.91) rounding out the top 10.

The usual notes apply when considering the scores. Some of the pubs may have changed hands over the time period in question and I believe that a couple of them may be coming to the market shortly. Beer supply and quality may have been affected by the strange times we are living through and this may have been beyond the control of the pubs. Of the pubs with less than 10 scores recorded, the top ones are the Ffolkes at Hillington and the Foldgate at Stradsett, both places I have tried recently and fully deserving of their high marks.

In total the beer in 76 pubs has been scored over the last six months, so I hope it is an accurate reflection of what is really going on, rather than the opinion of one ‘expert’. If you don’t agree, then enter your own scores on Whatpub, which will require you to become a member of CAMRA. I would also be interested in any recommendations of places for us to visit, either personally or for a gathering of West Norfolk CAMRA members. Much as we try, we cannot keep up to date with all the locals and there may well be some hidden gems of which we are unaware.

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