The Bar Man, February 27, 2015: Simply champions

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It’s Pub of the Year time. CAMRA have announced that the Salutation Inn at Ham in Gloucestershire is the national champion for 2015.

This village pub situated, near the town of Berkeley, is run by Peter Tiley with his wife Claire. There are lots of bad luck stories about people giving up their jobs to follow their dream of running a pub, only to find that it is much harder than they anticipated, but this is not one of them. Peter quit his job in London in 2013 and neither he nor his wife had any practical experience of pub management, yet within two years they are in charge of the national champion.

I haven’t been there as, rather irritatingly, the announcement was made a couple of days after we returned from the area after watching the football at Cheltenham. Maybe we will take a small detour later in the season when we head off to South Wales to watch Newport County and the South Wales Scorpions.

It may even be better by then, as there are plans to open a micro-brewery later this year and to stock the walled garden with chickens to go with the pigs which are already there. They also intend to plant potatoes so that ham egg and chips can be 100 per cent home produced.

As it happens, the same day that saw the announcement of the national winner also saw the announcement of the West Norfolk CAMRA Pub of the Year.

We select our winner in the same way as the Salutation was chosen. CAMRA members visit all the contenders and fill in a score sheet divided into the following categories, beer quality, atmosphere/style/décor, service/welcome, good value and sympathy with CAMRA’s aims.

It is clear from the results that members had very different opinions in some of the categories, but it does mean that everyone who chose to take part did visit all the contenders. We had five on our shortlist this year, having used the average beer quality scores on the CAMRA National Beer Scoring System to whittle down the contenders to a manageable number. In fifth place was the Union Jack at Roydon (1023 points), fourth was the Angel at Larling (1054), third was the Peddars Inn at Sporle (1065), and second was the Victory at Clenchwarton (1066) which means that once again our winner is the Coach and Horses at Dersingham (1074). As you can see, it could hardly have been closer.

The Coach and Horses was also the winner of the best bar award in the Lynn News, so I guess that a lot of people are familiar with it. If not, go out there and sample the great beer and atmosphere, but don’t neglect our runners up – they are also great pubs. It is the first time that we have ever had a past winner retain its title, so that augers well for its progress through future rounds of the competition. Who knows? Maybe next year they will be celebrating the national championship.