My latest visits to places serving beer have illustrated to me how ‘pub’ perfection can be found in all sorts of places. Some in the GBG, all the way through to some not even in the What Pub database.
Our local British Legion club, The Knoll, provides a community pub for one end of the village. Its extortionate charge of £1 for non-members keeps out that pub ticking riff-raff (and keeps it out of What Pub I suppose). Of course with the quid entry included, it’s still the cheapest real ale session hereabouts. A fine pint of Marston’s Saddle Tank (aka Burton Bitter before a ‘more money than sense’ £1m re-brand of their beers) and a lovely Mansfield Mild (old school keg), since you ask.
A friendly welcome in a space smaller than most micropubs, the entertainment is when the floor is opened up beneath your feet for access to the cellar. And we won the quiz with free sandwiches for afters. What more could you ask for?
Journeying northwards, at last we ticked off the Swan with Two Necks at Pendleton just south of the Forest of Bowland. A former CAMRA pub of the year and a family run pub of many years standing. On a wet day it seemed nothing special from the outside but opening the front door it had that ‘just seems right’ feeling that happens so infrequently these days.
It was a public house, but very much somebody’s house, where we were welcome guests of the hosts. A proper welcome, talking about the weather and choosing beers, and legs warmed by the glow of an open fire. Beers (Wishbone’s Abyss stout and Ossett Gold) were in good nick and a proper plate pie added to the glow.
The pub was full to bursting on a weekday lunchtime and all was well with the world. I just hope this isn’t an example of a dying breed of perfect pubs. An ageing clientele happily focussed on a limited range of gently-hopped beer and home-cooked food doesn’t seem to be flavour of the month for many.
On to the Yorkshire Dales to meet friends. Rendezvous at 3pm at the Old Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale was the order of the day before we moved on. Some had got there earlier with the landlady, Beany, ready to close. Did she batten down the hatches and repel boarders? No, pub perfection meant she stayed open until we all arrived and had our pints of Black Sheep and their Ribblehead bitter. And so it proved over the weekend, as we saw her generous welcome extended to all, whether it was beer, meals or coffee and cakes.
And finally to the Beaumont Hotel in Hexham. Recently refurbished and a top quality restaurant to boot, but with a small bar area. Nevertheless the owner’s very happy to serve an excellent pint of Allendale’s Golden Plover and discuss beer quality and lacing down the glass. Another one not on the What Pub database but it takes all sorts to achieve pub (and beer) perfection these days.