Which local pub sells the best beer? We all have our own favourites, but do these really sell the top pints? In order to find out, CAMRA runs a website called Whatpub which has details of just about every pub in Britain and also allows members to enter a score of between zero and five for beer that they drink in any of the pubs. Check out the websites at http://whatpub.com/ or http://data.beerscoring.org.uk/. In 2015, a total of 112 pubs in the West Norfolk CAMRA area had at least one score entered and the best are listed below. Bear in mind that the branch area is not the same as the West Norfolk Council area, as it covers the old licensing districts of Lynn, Hunstanton, Downham, Thetford and Swaffham. Clearly, the results of the beer scoring will be more accurate if more scores are entered, so I have divided the pubs into those which received more than 10 scores, those which received between 2 and 9 scores and those with only one score. In the first category, the top five pubs in the area are the Eagle at Great Hockham (53 scores, average 4.36), the Stuart House Hotel in Lynn (21/4.05), the Red Lion at Hockwold (206/3.98), the Kings Arms at Shouldham (51/3.89) and the Gate at Fair Green (54/3.81). I guess some of these would be expected, but as always there is the odd surprise.
With the pubs which received fewer than10 scores, one high or low score makes a bigger difference, but they are clearly worth a visit, so here are the top five. The White Horse at Gaywood (4.17), the Hare Arms at Stow Bardolph (4.13), the Berney Arms at Barton Bendish (4.1), the Red Lion at Swaffham and the Crown and Anchor at Wiggenhall St Germans (both 4.0).
There are also a number of pubs which only attracted one rating over the year and the best of these are the Waggon and Horses at Griston (4.5), the Chequers at Thompson, the Woolpack at Terrington St John, the George in Swaffham and the Three Horseshoes in Roydon (all 4.0)
It is interesting to see that a score of 5 was very rare. This indicates a perfect pint and only seven pubs were recorded as serving beer of this quality at least once during 2015. Perhaps predictably, since they are already listed above, the Eagle, Red Lion in Swaffham, Red Lion in Hockwold and Kings Arms in Shouldham are amongst these, but although the overall consistency was not as good, perfect pints were also recorded at the Lattice House and Crown and Mitre in Lynn and the Willow House in Watton.
You may agree or disagree with the results, but surely it is preferable to try to measure the quality of the beer served, rather than rely on the imperfect memory of an alcohol addled brain when evaluating different places. Sure, there will be some of the pubs where you don’t like the food, where the other customers or staff get on your nerves, the TV is too loud or the prices are too expensive, but remember this is not a guide to the best pub, rather the best beer.
If you think your local is better, go out and try some of the ones listed above and see if you change your mind.
If you are a CAMRA member, enter some scores of your own and make next year’s list even more representative. As an added incentive, each member who submits a score is entered into a quarterly prize draw. What are you waiting for?