North Cheshire CAMRA - Branch Competition Timelines
For North Cheshire CAMRA, the end of the previous year sees the start of the merry-go-round of awards to the outstanding pubs and clubs in the branch area. The first part of the award season runs through to March, but Community Pub of the Year is awarded in November to fit in with the CAMRA National decision to move Community Pubs Month to that month. The awards timeline is shown in the following table.
|Pub of the Year|
|Nomination of Candidates|
|Club of the Year|
|Nomination of Candidates|
|Community Pub of the Year|
|Nomination of Candidates|
Pub of the Year
Pub of the Year candidates are selected based on their (NBSS) beer scores between January and November, subject to specific minimum criteria for number of scores and number of scorers. The scores are split into 2 periods: the hotter months (May to August) and the rest of the year combined. The average score for each period is computed, with the pubs ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc for each period, and the 4 best combined rankings are selected.
These pubs are then judged anonymously twice each (to compare busy and quiet periods) by a minimum of two judges between December and February, using CAMRA's national guidelines and scoring system. The winner is announced early March.
Club of the Year
A similar process to Pub of the Year except selection takes place in January, with judging through to mid-March and the winner announced end March.
Community Pub of the Year
Unlike the two other awards Community Pub of the Year candidates are selected via direct nominations by North Cheshire CAMRA members, supported by brief justifications which guide the judges. The intention is to announce the winner, and ideally present the award, during CAMRA's Community Pubs Month, November.
Pub (and Club) of the Season
A new quarterly award first introduced in 2016 for pubs (and clubs) that have shown extra commitment in promoting real ale, sometimes new or innovative pub or clubs.
North Cheshire Award Winners 2017
Pub of the Year - Egerton Arms, Little Budworth
North Cheshire CAMRA’s Branch Pub of the Year 2017 is the Egerton Arms in Little Budworth which last year had collected our Summer Pub of the Season gong. This is the first time they have won the Pub of the Year accolade just beating 2015-winner the Lion (Moulton) in a closely-fought competition where four of the five pubs in the final were scored top by at least one judge with the winner picking up multiple first places. The other finalists were last year's winner Helter Skelter (Frodsham) plus the Tavern (Warrington) and Brewery Tap (Lymm).
This competition gets stronger every year and to come first requires all round appeal and a great team effort from everybody at the pub and that’s where the Egerton’s knowledgeable and friendly team excel!
Lots of people turned up to the Saturday 6th May presentation on what, unfortunately, turned out to be a bit of a grey day, but that made the event even more intimate. Even with everyone piled into the pub to listen to the guitar strumming, banjo picking, double bass plucking, foot stomping live music there was still space for us to absorb our beer consumption with lunch, selected from the imaginative, scrumptious menu. There are not many pubs, especially in such a rural location that can boast such a huge footfall on a grey Saturday afternoon.
It’s fair to say the team at the 'Edgy- ton' are doing something very right and all credit should go to Mike & Helen Walter and their daughters Alice, Emily and Francesca who have run the pub since it reopened from near dereliction 4 years ago, and are now ably assisted by Rowan front of house.
We wish the Egerton Arms good luck as it now goes forward to represent North Cheshire CAMRA in the county-wide competition to find the Champion Pub of Cheshire for 2017.
As a quick footnote, congratulations again to Chris and the team at Appleton Thorn Village Hall who have retained the Branch Club of the Year crown for the 4th year in succession. Indeed they have subsequently won Cheshire Club of the Year, and the Merseyside and Cheshire Regional crown. They now now progress into CAMRA's national competition. Presentation of the branch and regional awards will be arranged for the Autumn.
Community Pub of the Year 2017 - Albion, Warrington
The looming Victorian facade of the Albion may seem, at first glance, a bit imposing but as any visitor to the Albion will attest, it gives way to a warm, friendly and welcoming interior: what all we beer and pub lovers would call ‘a good, old-fashioned, cracking local boozer’.
Sitting on the Fringe of St. Peter’s park in Orford, Warrington, the pub sits very much at the heart of our community and embodies that resilient, communal spirit that all great pubs should have and it’s a glowing tribute to the management team Pat, Emma and Jennie Worrall that they accomplish this so well.
Boasting an impressive 4 frequently rotating guest ales, often sourced from local breweries, the Albion forms an essential part of the local community. The pub has spacious seating areas, a live hearth in winter and two bar areas, but what it gives back to the community goes way beyond this. Easter eggs and Christmas selection boxes are donated annually to Warrington food bank to help struggling families, whilst the pub provides support to the local Women’s refuge and hosts numerous charity nights and events throughout the year to raise lots of much needed funds for some very deserving causes. During the recent local authority led scheme, Clean17, encouraging residents to come together in mutual pride and tidy up the streets, the Albion hosted all the volunteers back at the pub afterwards.
All this is in addition to any given week: live music, stand-up comedy, quiz nights, bingo and live sports coverage.
The presentation took place on Tuesday 30th May and was well attended. The local customers provided a very welcome sense of celebration and kindly lent their voices and their approval to the presentation speech by local member, James Fox! The staff showed their kindness and appreciation by the complimentary drinks and a great evening was had by all.
As an organisation like ours that prides itself on protecting our pubs and promoting good beer, the Albion is exactly the kind of pub that we at CAMRA need to get behind and support. In coming years other pubs will be nominated and awarded this community accolade but for us here in Orford, the Albion will always be at the heart of our community.
Pub of the Season Autumn 2017 - Ferry Tavern, Penketh
Branch Chair, Jim Reddihough, presented the award on 26th September and commented that it was a pleasure to present an award to a pub that was relatively local to him and on a pleasant day he might occasionally summon up the strength to do the over 3 mile walk which is always rewarded by the excellent selection of well kept real ales on offer the quality of which is difficult to match in Warrington.
The location of the Ferry Tavern is both a curse and a blessing. Beyond compare on a beautiful summer weekend but difficult to attract customers on a dark, wet winters night and that is before we even mention the vagaries of the Mersey and rising water. Andy and Jade have risen to the challenge and managed to attract a loyal band of followers with entertaining quiz nights, friendly banter, the nationally famous Glastonferry Festival and their scrumptious fish and chip meals.
The launch of CAMRA's 2018 Good Beer Guide also marked the Ferry Tavern’s 20th continuous entry in the annual guide, a remarkable achievement continuing on from Jade’s parents who ran the pub for the first seven years and set Andy and Jade off on their passion for cask ale. Twenty years in the Good Beer Guide is a sound testament to a successful and very popular pub, which above all serves a consistently excellent pint of cask ale.
Pub of the Season Summer 2017 - Little Tap, Tarporley
12 months after the branch's inaugural presentation of the Pub of the Season Award in Little Budworth we found ourselves in the extreme south of the branch area once again, this time in Tarporley.
Little Tap was a collaborative concept between James Ivill and Myles Carr. An ex butchers shop was converted in Tarporley High Street and they shared their vision, love and passion for Craft Beer, eclectic gin and good food to create the Little Tap.
They have fulfilled a niche in the village to provide small plate dining which is perfect to enjoy whilst enjoying a beer or three from their extensive range of cask, keg, bottles and cans sourced from local, national and worldwide breweries.
There are currently three cask beers on on hand pump, the locally sourced house beer from Brew Foundation- Little Bitter That and the rotating guests on our visit were Roosters- Londinium and Northern Monk- Eternal. The choice of beer by other methods of dispense is way beyond that which you would normally expect to find.
We visited on 28th July, the night when they were celebrating their First Birthday and there was a busy and lively but relaxed atmosphere. The Little Tap is doing a great job attracting the younger generation of beer connoisseurs but everyone should feel at home here.
The vision of James and Myles to create a community hub for everyone to enjoy is working splendidly so much so that plans are being put in place to enlarge the premises by expanding upstairs.
Pub of the Season Spring 2017 - Stag at Walton
A brief Article by Andy Edwards describing his first ever presentation on behalf of the branch in April 2017......................
I started by explaining the branch pub of the season award. It recognises pubs that have shown exceptional commitment to CAMRA’s aims but have not yet qualified for pub of the year – for example by only recently offering cask ale or broadening their range. Perhaps they’ve gone the extra mile, or overcome a difficult situation or been willing to host CAMRA events. They may be community focussed, serving local ale and consistently good beer quality is taken into consideration.
So then I put the Stag at Walton in context of these factors.
Cask ale has been promoted for some time, but Steve Hammersley has taken the brave move to start brewing on the premises, offering four real ales named Stag, EPA. Wire and Bridge. Supply was just about managing to meet the local’s demand.
They provide quality food, cosy atmosphere with the open mic and quiz nights and knowledgeable staff.
I hoped everyone in North Cheshire CAMRA agreed with me in wishing Steve and his team every success in building upon these achievements.
So my key thought is think positive! - making even the briefest of speeches is good for your self confidence – the audience will be with you not against you and will help if you dry up. They will also provide constructive criticism so you can polish up your performance for future occasions, and might even buy you a pint for doing it!.
Pub of the Season Winter 2016/2017 - Bulls Head, Warrington
This was always traditionally one of the best Greenall Whitley pubs in Warrington. Being just outside the town centre it didn’t suffer the open plan blight of other pubs and even today retains all its snugs and crannies. However over recent years, with regular licensee changes, the pub had become tired and was in need of some tlc. Or put another way, it needed a kick up the backside.
In November 2015 a new licensee arrived in the person of Lesley Hepworth to provide that proverbial kick. A complete paint job and general tidying up of the pub followed, the one working handpump providing a national beer is now up to three serving Doom Bar and guest beers from the Pubco's Finest Cask list.
The pub is active with three quiz teams, dominoes and pool teams and a couple of teams for the crown bowling green to the back. There is a large function room to the back of the pub which is frequently used for birthdays, anniversaries or and occasionally CAMRA Regional meetings. The Warrington Folk Song Club meet there every Sunday at 8.30pm.
When it comes to managing the pub Lesley is ‘old school’ in the belief that landlords/landladies should be seen and heard (except maybe when it comes to karaoke). What can’t be argued is that such an approach has enhanced the activity and community feel of the pub involving the locals as well. There are some Saturdays where music may feature and these can link up with charitable events such as saving the Warrington YMCA and more so for prostate cancer as the causes. So much in the case of the latter that the locals have performed a Calendar Girls equivalent and these calendars can be purchased in the pub in aid of the charity.
The award was presented to the pub by Regional Director, Nick Bosley on 15th February 2017.
North Cheshire Award Winners 2016
Pub of the Year - Helter Skelter, Frodsham
For the third time in four years, the award for North Cheshire CAMRA Branch Pub of the Year has been won by Helter Skelter in Frodsham, beating off opposition from pubs from Lymm down to Little Budworth. This single- roomed bar regularly serves up to eight real ales from local micro-breweries as well as others far and wide, plus one ever-changing real cider and a range of continental beers both on tap and in the bottle see www.helterskelter-frodsham.co.uk.
The quality of its real ales is unquestionable and it has appeared in CAMRA’s best-selling Good Beer Guide for the last seven years. The real ales are supplemented by excellent home-cooked food served in both the bar and the upstairs restaurant. This award doesn’t just recognize the quality of the beer served by the pub as it was also judged against a number of other national CAMRA criteria which focus on its broader appeal to its customers and its community.
Branch chairman, Nick Bosley, in paying tribute to the Helter Skelter, had the following comments to make: ‘This competition gets stronger each year so for the Helter Skelter to win again it deserves all the accolades to everyone at the pub who has contributed to its success.’
Landlord Nick Broome commented on behalf of the pub: ‘The hardwork and commitment that comes from my staff, especially Joe Flett who plays a huge role in our cellar and beer offering, along with the support of my family has been recognised once again in winning this award. Currently in our 10th year here at Helter Skelter, it is a tribute to the ethics and vision that I have had from day one. But at the end of the day without customers enjoying our ales, returning day after day, week after week, it would all be for nothing. I can only but thank them for their loyalty and support over the last ten years and hopefully many more to come!’
The runner-up in awards was the Lion in Moulton, last year’s winner which only reintroduced real ale two years ago but now offers up to five real ales at a time and has established itself firmly at the centre of the local community. The other finalists were the Barn Owl (Agden Wharf), Brewery Tap (Lymm) and Egerton Arms (Little Budworth).
The award to Helter Skelter was presented at North Cheshire CAMRA’s annual Beer Matched Dinner on 12th March whilst we scoffed an excellent range of beer and food.
Helter Skelter will now go forward to represent the North Cheshire Branch of CAMRA in the county-wide competition to find the Champion Pub of Cheshire for 2016.
Club of the Year - ATVH, Appleton Thorn
Next was Club of the Year which for the 3rd year running was won by Chris and the team at Appleton Thorn Village Hall, a CAMRA national finalist as recently as 2015 and ever-popular outlet for real ale which has firmly established itself as a regular winner of CAMRA national, regional and local awards. Alison’s Sunday lunches are of course legendary as well.
As one of our judges commented: ‘a very welcoming club, with a real family atmosphere. The beer is served at a consistent temperature, which really brings out the flavour. Even though the bar can be very busy at times, the staff never seek to rush the customers, always having time to chat and pass the time of day.’
We understand Chris is setting up a new ‘wall of fame’ to house his own award certificates – good luck in trying to overhaul the numbers accumulated by his Dad! The transition in licensee/steward from Derek to Chris has been smooth of which they should both be proud. Chris does however need to keep on his toes as runner-up, Davenham Cricket Club, is getting ever nearer in the judging.
Subsequently Appleton Thorn Village Hall has gone on to be judged Merseyside and Cheshire Regional Club of the Year 2016 in a closely fought contest. How many more gongs can they win....but the competition is getting ever closer! The presentation will be during their popular annual beer festival end October so we can expect yet another excellent celebration at the Village Hall.
Next should have been the Community Pub of the Year but as CAMRA opted to defer national Community Pubs Month from April to November we have likewise postponed the competition till Autumn.Watch this space for an announcement in October and presentation in November.
Pub of the Season Summer 2016 - Egerton Arms, Little Budworth
On a summer evening in July North Cheshire CAMRA presented its inaugural Pub of the Season award for Summer 2016, to the Egerton Arms in Little Budworth, in a garden with a quintessentially–English view over the village cricket club.
Since the Walter family resurrected and reopened the pub in 2013, at a time when many thought it may have closed for good, it has grown into a local beacon for both cask ale choice and quality, with up to six cask ales served by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, including the recent addition of an house beer brewed for them by Deva Craft and named after the pub dog, ‘Handsome Horace’. Indeed they always have a balance of proven beers, often local, and new ones coming on with the staff well-briefed about the beers that are on now and next, including the craft and foreign beers that supplement the cask ales, and if you ask nothing is ever too much trouble.
With 27 pubs closing a week, this is a tale of success and the intervening three years the pub has gained an entry in CAMRA’s national Good Beer Guide and this year rose to 3rd in North Cheshire’s Pub of the Year competition. They also host a popular beer festival in July, coincidentally (!) on the night of the presentation. Being a dark beer drinker I particularly loved Blackjack’s Jaffa Chocolate Orange Stout, a collaboration with Thornbridge as well as Beer Nouveau’s oak-aged and the hugely-impressive Wee Beastie Imperial Russian Stout, 9.6%, which had been produced specially for them and served straight from the wooden barrel – a one-off liquid experience to be relished!
Part of the pub’s success is that it remains very much a family affair with Mike and Helen Walter supporting their three daughters who run the pub day-to-day: Alice, Emily & Francesca. Emily’s love of dark beers was almost certainly the prompt for several to be available over the course of the three day festival.
The regular weekend live music events are particularly popular and the pub certainly does its bit in supporting local charities via fund-raising events.The pubs can get very busy in Summer with cricketers, locals, walkers, families and even touring car clubs with the vicinity to Oulton Park – a true community pub which is welcoming to both families and pets. The atmosphere is invariably relaxing, particularly when watching cricket!
So a well-deserved award for a cracking pub!
From the Archives
CAMRA National Club of the Year 2014 - Barnton Cricket Club
Next up was a major coup: Barnton Cricket Club crowned as CAMRA's National Club of the Year. Twice a finalist in the past, this was 3rd time lucky for the Club and a fully-deserved reward for consistency over the years. The difficulty in Barnton getting to the top of the tree of 28000 clubs starts at North Cheshire branch level where it had to overcome a multi winning National Club in Appleton Thorn Village Hall , national winner last in 2008, before becoming Regional winner and into the final 16. This probably makes North Cheshire the only CAMRA branch to host two different National Club of the Year winners.
Presenting the award, CAMRA National Director Keith Spencer said; "Barnton Cricket Club remains as popular as ever and it is clear to see why, with a fantastic range of real ales kept in excellent condition. The club is open to CAMRA members and club members alike, who all enjoy popping in for a quick pint - whether they've earned it on the cricket field or not! The club is a very worthwhile winner of this coveted CAMRA award and should be seen as a great example to clubs across the UK who are thinking of offering more real ale."
Mike Elliot, the Steward at Barnton Cricket Club and the man behind the Club's excellent real ale reputation, had this to say on the club's win, "It's absolutely fantastic, you don't know what it means to me and everybody at the club. It was fantastic just to be nominated as a finalist - the members will be so happy."
Mike also went on to praise the whole team at the club for all their efforts.
Local MP, George Osborne commented; "This is a fantastic achievement by Barnton Cricket Club and a welcome recognition of the great job they do for the community."