Jeff Hoyle The Bar Man: Half a Century of ale
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Campaign for Real Ale and to mark the occasion 50 Golden Awards are to be presented. These will be divided between Pubs, Pints and People who have made a massive contribution to the cause over this time period. So far, the winning pubs have been announced and of the 32 recipients, three are in East Anglia.
The Red Lion at Preston near Hitchin is included as it was the first community owned pub in the country, having been purchased from Whitbread in the early 1980’s.
Almost 40 years later it is still going strong and was good enough to be named the East Anglian CAMRA Pub of the Year just before the pandemic came along. I went along to the presentation and it is clear that the pub makes the grade on more than just its history, and it would be hard to find a more vibrant community centred village local anywhere in the country.
It also established the community ownership model which is going from strength to strength, especially in Norfolk with the Blue Bell at Stoke Ferry being the most recent example soon to be followed by White Hart at Foulden if everything goes to plan. The government have just released funding for the UK Community Ownership Fund which may encourage even more schemes.
The Queens Head at Newton, about seven miles south of Cambridge is one of five pubs that have appeared in every edition of the Good Beer Guide, 48 so far and counting. The others are the Roscoe Head in Liverpool, The Buckingham Arms in Westminster, The Star Tavern in Belgravia and The Square and Compasses in Worth Matravers, Dorset, all of which feature on the list.
The Queen’s Head has been in the Short family since 1962 and has an unspoiled interior of regional importance. Famous visitors include Edward VII and the Kaiser in the years before the First War and above the games room window is a photo of the Shah of Persia playing darts with Harry and Ruth Short. We also have an award winner in Norfolk, the Fat Cat in Norwich.
This will be well known to many beer lovers as it has probably the best selection of beer of any pub in the country. A CAMRA National Pub of the Year on two occasions and a local winner multiple times, it is famous far beyond the local area. The empire has expanded with another couple of pubs and a brewery to seek out if you ever tire of one of the best free houses in the country.
You can see the rest of the Golden Award Winners by a simple search of the CAMRA website and there are some real gems to seek out. Where to start? Bradford might be a good place as it has two pubs listed, the Corn Dolly and the Fighting Cock, both traditional town pubs with great beer, and as I know, handily placed for the football ground. Not as close though as the Leyton Orient Supporters Club, the only club on the list.
One of the few grounds I have visited with a selection of great beer, and it was worth leaving the Bar Wife outside as a hostage in order to gain admission.
With staycations the thing, many of us are travelling round Britain more than ever, so look out for further award winners wherever you go. There is a Cider House, a home brew pub dating back to 1832, gorgeous interiors, national award winners, all waiting to be discovered.