HOW DO WE DECIDE OUR PUB AWARDS.
What does it take to win our pub awards and how do we make our choices? We all have different likes and dislikes, but, in judging for our pub awards, we try to be as objective as possible by looking at our real ale pubs from a number of angles. Our Pub of the Year (PotY) must do very well across all of these “angles”. It must be a pub that, when you visit it, you really do want to (and often do!) cancel plans to go elsewhere! Similarly, our Pub of the Season should do well across the board.
How good is the beer?
This doesn’t mean the beer is to your personal taste! How clear and fresh is the beer? How “drinkable” is it? To be considered as a CAMRA PotY the real ale must be very good all the time! Not surprisingly, this is the most important category in our assessment. Style, decor and cleanliness
Is the pub well looked after?
Is the décor in good condition? Is the style appropriate to the type of pub? Are the tables cleaned and empty glasses cleared quickly? How clean is the pub, glasses and toilets? Is it so good you’d love to move in? Our PotY should always be very well looked after!
How good is the service & welcome?
How polite, warm, welcoming is the service you receive? If you have a query, how well is it dealt with? How well does the staff know the real ales they serve? Our PotY should strive to provide excellent, friendly service.
How well does the pub serve its community?
Does the pub have a community focus? Is the pub inclusive and welcoming to all sectors of the community? Is there a good atmosphere?
How well does the pub support CAMRA, principles?
Are prices and opening hours clearly displayed? Do you get a full measure or a top up without asking? Is real ale promoted in a positive way? To be our PotY, the pub's support for CAMRA/real ale should be obvious to everyone who uses the pub!
What is the overall impression of the pub?
How enjoyable was your visit? How keen are you to visit again? Would you like to stay a lot longer?
We have a (fairly fluid!) "team" of around 25 members who regularly visit pubs in our area. They use the above "angles" to assess pubs and this provides a list of potential pub award candidates. At branch meetings, potential candidates are considered and a shortlist of four or five pubs is agreed. These are emailed to branch members who have the final decision on the winner. The result of the ballot goes to the following branch meeting and arrangements are made to present the awards. Simple as that!
The biggest award the branch makes is the 'Pub of the Year'
This year's Branch Pub of the Year 2020 is - The Fell Bar,Penrith
Cider Pub of the Year 2020 - The Cumberland Inn, Alston
The Branch Pub of the Year 2019 was - The Drovers Rest, Monkhill repeating its success in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018
Sound familiar? After five years in a row, it should do! Oh yes, since 2015 the Drover’s Rest has been elected as the Branch’s Pub of the Year in an open ballot of branch members. So, what is it that appears to be leading the Drovers’ team to continual success? Could it be the quality and range of the real ales being offered? So far, the pub has served over 1000 different beers.
As well as serving top quality beers, Sandy and Sarah have been experimenting with brewing their own beers thanks to help from Bowness Bay Brewery. Up to now drinkers have enjoyed the following:- Seeing Red; It’s Nectar; Forager; My Hops Don't Lie; And the Crowd Goes Mild - 4.5% Our take on a traditional ruby mild, with the additional of Earl Grey tea and a small amount of hops designed to add a taste of lemon. A true breakfast mild, packed with flavour.
Additionally, the Fifth Birthday Festival held to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the pub’s re-opening under its present ownership on the 24th August 2013. The commitment to real ale is obviously contributing to the team’s success.
But who are the team? Well, It’s a family affair, but not in the Mafia sense! That is to say Sandy and Sarah Williamson and Sarah’s mum and dad, Bill and Linda Robinson.
Is it just the beer? There are many factors, which have contributed to the team’s constant success. One of which is the community focus. The Drovers hosts the local churches’ annual carol service and there is a weekly visit to the pub by the
Congratulations to Bill and Linda Robinson, their daughter, Sarah, and her husband Sandy Williamson, on winning our pub of the year award.
Prior to the arrival of the Robinson family, the Drovers had been in sad decline for a number of years. Together with Sandy, they have worked extremely hard to develop the business and maintain a vital community asset.
For those interested a list of former owner/managers of the Drovers Rest Monkhill can be found in the pub history section.
Cider Pub of the Year 2019 - The Fell Bar, Penrith
City Pub of the Year 2019 -The Fat Gadgie
Situated in the heart of Carlisle on Devonshire Street the Fat Gadgie has quickly developed a reputation for serving an ever changing range of good quality real ales. In less than two years this is a must visit pub for lovers of good beer.
Pub of the Season Spring 2020 The Cumberland Alston
Pub of the Season Winter 2020 Royal Oak, Moorhouse
The Royal Oak in Moorhouse, a small village to the West of Carlisle, has provided a hub to the local community since 1742. Between 1916 and 1973 it was part of the “Great Experiment”- the State Management Scheme. Many pubs and breweries were closed down due to the scheme, but the Royal Oak survived before being bought by Greenall Whitley in a package deal in May 1973 when the State Management Scheme was wound up. It is now a free house. Surprisingly, although the property is so old, it is not a listed building and although it has gone through some changes it still probably still retains the same feeling as it had many years ago. It has a single room with a small alcove to one end and you can almost sense the “days of old” when it was more like someone’s living room. Log burners at each end of the room provides the country pub atmosphere and it provides a lovely cosy stopping off point on a winters evening and although it is not on the Hadrian’s Wall route it is well worth the short deviation to visit. Sky Sport is available usually showing the major sports events. Steve and Lynne Irving bought the property in December 2017 and promptly made it a popular venue with locals and visitors alike. Steve had previous experience of the trade as, many years prior to his purchase of the Royal Oak, he was the licensee of the Friars Tavern in Carlisle. The pub had no real ale when he took over but promptly went to two handpumps in a short space of time. There are now two regular ales: Theakstons XB and Cumbria Legendary Ales Loweswater Gold and a third hand pump with a guest beer from a Cumbrian brewery. There is also an extremely large choice of gins and as a staunch supporter of Cumbrian breweries there is a selection of Cumbrian craft beers in the fridge. Lynne is the chef at the pub, and along with her band of helpers, they provide excellent home made food from 5pm - 8pm on Wednesday to Friday, from 12 – 3pm and 5pm – 7.30pm on Saturday and 12 – 7.30pm on Sunday. You must try her various Cheesecake Specials; they are something else. Oakfest is the pubs mini beer and music festival. This is a weekend with a large choice of real ales and ciders plus local music. There is also food from the Stonehouse Smokery next to the pub. This is usually the second weekend in July and 2020’s date has just been announced as the 11th July weekend.
Pub of the Season Autumn 2019 -Agricultural Hotel Castlegate, Penrith
Agricultural Hotel, Penrith The Agricultural Hotel is situated close to the town centre and even closer to the railway station. Whether driving into Penrith on from the M6 junction 40 or walking from the railway station, meaning the Agricultural Hotel holds a prominent position as the first pub you see when visiting the town. Gary and Wendy Bowden have run the pub since 2003 and was a Jennings establishment until March 2018 when, following a lot of work from Gary and Wendy, it became ‘free house’ and since then the sale of Real Ales has increased significantly. Many Cumbrian ales as well as ales from Lancashire and Northumberland have been on sale since March 2018. A reasonable guess would be 300+ different ales on tap, indicating how the sales have increased since then. Whilst most of the ales are in 9 gallon casks, Windermere Bitter and Pale Ale as well as Bowness, Swan Blonde are so popular that Gary has to order 18 gallon casks. However, that doesn’t take away from the variety of ales on sale, as the rotation of different Blondes, Porters, Reds and Ambers is remarkable. There are always four ales on and, considering the amount of ‘churn’ of Real Ales, the quality served is outstanding, a fitting tribute to all the staff. You get a clue as to what ales are coming on if up look up at the shelf to the right of the bar and there you’ll see various pump clips attached. However, the order of the pump clips doesn’t always correspond to the next cask on! The Agricultural is well supported by the locals of Penrith and is, as you might expect, visited by many tourists as the Hotel also supports 5 en-suite bedrooms. The pub also boasts a 42-seater restaurant, serving excellent quality and fantastic value for money meals. The outside area has also recently been renovated which provides plenty of additional seating and has been very popular during the recent spell of warm weather. BT Sport has recently been added to the pub. Bearing in mind that Gary is a staunch ‘red half’ supporter of the city of Liverpool, for the recent UEFA Champions League Final the pub was packed to the rafters. Rumour has it, Gary was giving away free glasses of champagne at the final whistle! The Agricultural Hotel is a very commendable winner of the autumn 2019 Pub of the Season award. Congratulations to Gary, Wendy and all the staff, Samantha, Richard, Louise, Hazel, Chris, Paul and Mary. A couple of years ago, the national CAMRA Beer magazine ran an article on the glass shutters behind the bar. These are very rare Autumn
Pub of the Season Summer 2019 -The Wellington, Great Orton
The Wellington, Great Orton
The Wellington Inn and Caravan Park is situated about 5 miles to the west of Carlisle, in the picturesque village of Great Orton. It is on the outer fringe of the Lake District, but far enough away to not be too touristy. Husband and wife, Barrie and Kirsty Lomas, run the pub. They took over the pub in August 2012, which they managed as a Robinson’s outlet. In December 2017, they took a brave step and bought the pub to run as a free house. They have built up quite a following, due to good value food and drink, as well as making everyone feel welcome. The Wellington, Great OrtonYou do not have to be a regular to feel comfortable in this pub. A real fire is to be found at the colder times of the year. Be warned though, it pushes out some heat; you may not want to sit next to it! The Wellington has two changing beers, although Loweswater Gold is proving a popular choice and appears on a fairly regular basis. The pub is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It opens from 12-2 and 6-11 from Wednesday to Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday.
Pub of the Season Spring 2019 -Blacksmiths Arms, Talkin
Blacksmiths Arms Talkin. Blacksmith's Arms, Talkin Solway CAMRA members have voted the Blacksmith's Arms at Talkin as our Pub of the Season for spring 2019. The Blacksmith's is a friendly pub with a reputation for good beer, excellent food and fine accommodation. The pub was once the local smithy offering refreshments whilst horses were being shod. Sadly, you’ll have to travel further afield for equine attention, since now it offers real ale from local breweries rather than strongarm pursuits. The pub has been with the Jackson family for well over 20 years. It serves the local community and visitors alike as a popular meeting place. The Blacksmith's attracts visitors from far afield to enjoy the delights of the local area as well as the beer and food! When I asked what they attributed their continued success of the Blacksmith’s, the reply was, “we are a family run business with a good mixture of customers who enjoy our company, food and real ale”. Amazingly, this is the fourth time The Blacksmith's has won our pub of the season award! They are the first pub to achieve this honour.
Pub of the Season Winter 2019 - 301 Miles from London
. 301 Miles from London
In 2014 the Pub of the Year was the Fetherston Arms , Kirkoswald
In 2013 the Pub of the Year winner was the Agricultural Hotel.Penrith
In 2012 the 'Pub of the Year' winner was: The Kings Head, Carlisle.
Pub of the Year Winner for 2010 & 2011 was The Cumberland Inn, Alston.
Each quarter we award a Branch 'Pub of the Season
Pub of the Season Autumn 2018 - Fell Bar ,Pub of the Season Winter 2018 -Dockray Hall Penrith