Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, November 4, 2016

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It’s the time of year when the West Norfolk CAMRA branch starts the process of choosing their Pub of the Year, which will be announced next February.

We ask for nominations from members and then compile a short list of four that members can survey in order to choose the winner. If there are more than four nominations we take those which have the highest average score on the National Beer Scoring System (NBSS), a facility that allows any CAMRA member to enter a score which reflects the quality of the beer in any pub that they visit. See for more details. As I have been preparing the list to resolve the selections, it seems like a good opportunity to share some of the results with our readers. All the figures are based on the year up to late October, and the scores are out of 5.

There were a total of 99 pubs in our branch area with at least one score entered. The leading pubs with at least 10 scores registered are the Eagle at Great Hockham (4.34), the Kings Arms at Shouldham (4.13), the Red Lion at Hockwold (4.12), the Stuart House Hotel in Lynn (4.06) and the Angel at Larling (3.96). Clearly, pubs with fewer scores entered may have a less reliable average, but should still be worth a look, so here are the leading establishments which have more than one and fewer than 10 scores entered. The Twenty Churchwardens at Cockley Cley (4.33), the Cock at Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen (4.3), the Kings Head in Great Bircham (4.25) and the Windmill at Necton (4.25). There are also four pubs which just had a single score of 4.5 entered, which are the Castle Hotel in Downham, the Ostrich in Castle Acre, the Bedingfeld Arms in Oxborough and the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market.

Equally interesting to me, is the pubs that our members go back to time and time again, so here are the pubs which have attracted most scores, an indication I think that a reliable pint is on offer. Hockwold Red Lion attracted 189 scores, the Old Windmill at Great Cressingham 82, and the Great Hockham Eagle 74. Finally, another measure that I find interesting is the number of different people who have entered scores for each pub. There are several factors that might play a part. Has it hosted a CAMRA meeting? Is it in a centre of population or near a transport hub? Is it listed in a guide book? Has it won or been nominated for an award? It will perhaps come as no surprise that the pub which was scored by most different members was the Kings Arms at Shouldham, our current Pub of the Year, equal with the Globe Hotel in Lynn. Close behind were the Lattice House in Lynn, Larling Angel, the Coach and Horses in Dersingham, and the Crown and Mitre in Lynn.

Does the NBSS produce a definitive list of the best beer in the area? Perhaps not, though with 1108 scores entered over the year, it should at least provide the best guide around. Over recent months more people than ever have started to participate which should increase the accuracy. One of the uses of the scores is to help to select pubs for the Good Beer Guide, so if your favourite is not listed, this might be why. So, if you are one of over 400 CAMRA members in the branch area, why not add your expertise to our data, and help to make our information even more accurate?