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 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 a combination of their (NBSS) beer scores, subject to specific minimum criteria for number of scores and number of scorers, and a poll of local CAMRA members. Normally 5 pubs are chosen to appear in the ‘final’ and are then assessed according to National CAMRA guidelines by a panel of judges in February or early March. The winner is announced early March.
Club of the Year
A similar process to Pub of the Year except selection takes place based on NBSS scores only in January, with judging through to mid-March and the winner announced end March.
Community Pub of the Year
Unlike the first two 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, April.
Pub (and Club) of the Season
A 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.
Click to see past winners and runners-up in the Branch Awards Roll of Honour.
North Cheshire Award Winners 2019
Pub of the Year - Helter Skelter, Frodsham
This year's top award was scooped by old favourite Frodsham's Helter Skelter, narrowly beating the Lion, Moulton in a 6-pub final.
So for the fifth time in nine years North Cheshire CAMRA have judged the Helter Skelter as their Branch Pub of the Year.
Helter Skelter is by far North Cheshire CAMRA’s most awarded pub having won this title seven times since the award was launched thirty years ago.
A regular in CAMRA’s national Good Beer Guide for the past ten years, the quality of the pub’s real ales is unquestionable but this award doesn’t just recognize the quality of the beer as it was also judged against a number of other national CAMRA criteria which focus on it’s broader appeal to its customers and its community, for example: service and welcome, style and décor, community focus and atmosphere. To win this award requires a great all-round team effort from everybody at the pub.
Landlord Nick Broome commented on behalf of the pub: ‘In becoming, once again the North Cheshire CAMRA Pub of the Year, it shows the hard work and dedication is really worth it. My team, headed up in the bar by Joe Flett, work tirelessly for this great pub and deserve to share this award. To have won for the fifth time in my tenure and the seventh overall for the pub, this little unassuming gem, really is the essence of our devotion and commitment to what is becoming a harder and harder trading environment.’
The award to Helter Skelterr was presented on Saturday 29th June by Weaver Vale MP, Mike Amesbury.
Club of the Year - Appleton Thorn Village Hall
Appleton Thorn Village Hall was duly crowned North Cheshire CAMRA Club of the Year for the 5th year in succession with the presentation to be arranged for the Autumn. However at the same time it was announced that they had gone one step further than last year's appearance in CAMRA's national final and were indeed National Club of the Year 2019 . An amazing and well deserved success for Chris and his team, highlighting the Village Hall as CAMRA's most-decorated club having won the national title on three previous occasions, last time in 2008.
Community Pub of the Year Ferry Tavern, Penketh
People flocked to the Ferry Tavern recently for a Tap Takeover (for a limited number of days the majority of the hand pumps dispense a range of beers from a specific brewery) I could say they were only here for the beer - BUT THERE IS MUCH MORE TO THIS PUB.
Andy and Jade have set out to please their customers by providing the extras that make their pub special: everything from Fell Walking to Art Classes, from quizzes to Boxing Fitness sessions, from pickled onion contests to Glastonferry musical extravaganza and Quarterly Beer festivals, the famous Fish & Chips! I could go on but suffice it to say that in many ways it is the hub of the Community. The pub’s success is evidenced by previous CAMRA certificates for “Pub of the Season” and “20 years consecutive appearance in the GBG” as well as unsolicited praise from the Liverpool Echo and being voted “Best pub in Warrington” by readers of The Warrington Guardian.
And now The Ferry Tavern has been judged by CAMRA members to be the best Community pub in the whole of North Cheshire
Jade had a good start, taking over from her parents as probably the youngest licensee in Cheshire and now, with the addition of Andy’s imagination and energy they have built up the Ferry as the centre of their empire and the local hub of a wide range of activities The future is safe in Mulholland hands: 5-year-old Charlie has already been seen pretending to draw his first pint!
Pub of the Season - Autumn - Ring O'Bells, Lower Stretton
The Ring O'Bells in Lower Stretton is a traditional, unspoilt village local, just as pubs used to be: no intrusive music or games machines, just conversation, banter and of course, beer. The entry in CAMRA’s Pub Heritage list recognizes the historic pub interior as being of some regional importance with the internal layout unchanged since 1960’s and some of the fixtures, including the bar counter bar back and a fireplace, harking back to the 1930’s. Landlady Liz is justly proud of the pub’s heritage and is keen to protect it.
Stretton Parish Council successfully applied to have the pub listed as an Asset of Community Value in 2016 and based their case on the pub being the only community space available in Lower Stretton. As a result the local community uses the pub both for meetings and a swathe of different community events over the course of the year. A true hub of the community!
The pub has featured in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide for fifteen of the last twenty years including the last two under Liz. It is also a former North Cheshire CAMRA Pub of the Year from 2007.
But none of the aforesaid formed the selection of the Ring O’Bells as North Cheshire CAMRA’s Pub of the Season for Autumn 2019. This award was for dedication ‘above and beyond’ in support of dark beers such as Mild, Porter and Stout, all of which CAMRA sees as endangered beer styles. There are very few pubs in our branch area serving Mild on a regular basis, whilst you can count on a few fingers those that regularly serve more than one dark beer, as here. We gathered on a cold and wet evening in October to make the award to be greeted by a welcoming and roaring fire. We had of course to sample the dark beers and both Coach House Gunpowder Mild and Merlin Castle Black were on good form, ably supported by four lighter beers: Merlin Elixir, Weetwood Cheshire Cat, George Wright Drunken Duck and Woods Shropshire Lad. Liz is also a staunch supporter of small, independent local breweries with Gunpowder Mild and a couple of Merlin Beers available regularly. Indeed as she told us, at a previous pub she had showcased the Merlin beer range for the brewery’s initial launch.
Pub of the Season - Winter 18/19 - Pack Horse, Culcheth
Why not venture out to Culcheth and try out this splendid old-fashioned pub? The oldest pub in the village, the Pack Horse dates back to the 18th century with the original wooden beams still in place. It has a true village atmosphere with beer and chat at the centre of things. A little out of the way but in a lovely secluded location at the very bottom of Church Street next to the church. The management team have run the pub for 15 years, building a true vibrant community hub.
The bar is well stocked with a fine selection of wines and gins plus 3 carefully selected real ales which constantly rotate and are always in excellent condition. These often include at least one beer from a local brewery and are sometimes ones not easily found in nearby pubs. The staff are knowledgeable and will help with your selection if required. George Wright Pipedream is a particular favourite of the regulars and was on the night we made the presentation in February. If the weather is pleasant you can sit outside in the quiet cul de sac overlooking the churchyard as you can see in the photo.
Excellent food is served on Sundays only between 12pm and 6pm with the speciality being a Sunday Roast which is really good value at £13.95 for 3 courses.
North Cheshire Award Winners 2018
Pub of the Year - Costello's, Stockton Heath
Top of the pile was Pub of the Year.............
It was in the aftermath of the Beast from the East that a small group of North Cheshire CAMRA members embarked on a trip to judge the branch’s Pub of the Year. Mini bus organised we started our trip round five pubs on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon in early March. First up was the Ferry Tavern, Penketh. A gem of a pub and long-term Good Beer regular which thrives despite its rather out of the way location on the banks of the Mersey River. After being dropped at the car park on the other side of the railway tracks we crossed the level crossing, walked a couple of hundred yards along the river bank and entered a cosy pub full of happy imbibers. I was amazed to see how busy it was for Saturday lunch time, but I do know that for some it was a sweetener before embarking on the supermarket run! And with a selection of eight beers what a sweetener! We could have stayed longer but time was of the essence so after a couple of halves and run down the judging checklist we returned to the mini bus.
Next up was Costello's, Stockton Heath. In a more mainstream location as expected it was again full of happy people partaking of the seven various Dunham Massey and Lymm Brewery beers on offer. We were particularly impressed with award-winning Dunham Porter, and indeed the range of dark beers was the best of the day.
Then on to Costello’s sister pub - Lymm Brewery Tap. Based in the previous post office building near the Bridgewater canal with a brewery in the basement, it is one of a cornucopia of eating and drinking establishments in Lymm. A different selection of seven Lymm and Dunham beers sampled and the last chance for us to try another dark beer, Lymm Chirotherium for this year as the last batch for this Winter had been brewed in February. Roll on next Winter!
A short drive then to a different town in the North Cheshire CAMRA branch area – Frodsham. Here we had two pubs to judge – previous winner Helter Skelter with the most extensive list of ten cask ales, and the more recently established Kash 22 Brew & Chew with four cask beers on tap plus a range of craft keg beers. Very convenient being able to wander between the two pubs, just across the road from each other. One, busy with standing room only where drinkers were having a quiet chat; the other rather louder with a late afternoon band covering a whole gamut of golden oldies. Certainly, a rather different atmosphere here than in any of the other pubs.
Unfortunately, time to leave and get back on the bus to do some serious judging. Throughout the day the judges scored the pubs in five different categories: most importantly Beer Quality, then Service & Welcome, Style & Décor, Community Focus & Atmosphere, and Alignment with CAMRA Principles. The scores for some of the categories were based on individual views and preferences, others we came to a joint view on the bus as we all threw in our ten penneth to influence the scores.
Trip over, it was then time for the branch Pubs Officer to collate the scores and come up with the winner. By now you will likely know that the winner was Costello's, Stockton Heath with Lymm Brewery Tap coming in a close second, followed by the Ferry Tavern. Congratulations to all of the finalists.
The award to Costello's was comprehensively covered by the Warrington Guardian and presentation of the Pub of the Year certificate took place on 7th April with an excellent turnout of CAMRA members and locals. The dark beer drinkers were happy to see Dunham Porter on the bar again along with a Mild. A tasty array of sandwiches and pies complemented the beer.
POTY 2018 - South Warrington Guardian See page 14
……and not forgetting our clubs. Following on from Pub of the Year, this year's CAMRA national finalist Appleton Thorn Village Hall was judged branch Club of the Year for the fifth year running, ahead of the other two finalists: Davenham Cricket Club and Barnton Cricket Club. The presentation took place 4th May and was particularly well-attended by CAMRA members. Chris was presented with the club's 5th consecutive branch Club of the Year award (give somebody else a chance, please!), as well as Cider Club of the Year 2018. Ian Garner also attended on behalf of CAMRA's National Executive to present the club with a certificate as Finalist in CAMRA's recent national club competition. Is there any more room on the walls for these accolades?
Appleton Thorn Village Hall subsequently won the Merseyside & Cheshire regional crown and has progressed into the national competition before finally being elected a humongous CAMRA National Club of the Year 2019.
Community Pub of the Year - Lion, Moulton
The Lion, Moulton has been transformed since licensees Andy and Dolores Jones, took over the pub, going from strength to strength.
It was voted North Cheshire CAMRA Pub of the Year 2015 and appears in the current edition (2018) of the Good Beer Guide. It is listed as an asset of Community Value by Chester West and Chester Council.
The pub supports a wide range of community activities, which includes, supporting the Moulton Drama Group which puts on regular plays at the Community Hall opposite the pub, and they meet at the pub itself. At the times of performances the pub hosts pre and after event refreshments - with beers themed to the plays.
With one of the oldest traditional Crow Fairs in the country still performing their traditional dance in the village, the Moulton Crows use the Lion Hotel to meet and practice their moves - all cloaked in secrecy to protect the identity of the performers.
From a recreational viewpoint, the pub hosts themed event nights; their ever popular Wiggioke is a variation of Karaoke; it’s singing whilst wearing wigs! Friday is cheese night, with a complimentary cheese board.
All in all a well-deserved Award which local CAMRA member Chris Lawton presented to Andy and Dolores on 20th April
Pub of the Season Autumn 2018 - Hanging Gate, Weaverham
“The gate hangs well and hinders none – refresh and pay, and travel on”. This is the inscription on a wooden gate that is hung outside this pub like a pub sign, restored back into prime position by the latest owners, Manchester family brewers J W Lees.
The history of the Hanging Gate is a long one. Dating its origins back to the early 1700’s its original name was the Gate Inn, when “gate” was an alternative name for highway. It was the last farmhouse pub in the village and became part of the Marbury Estate changing its name to the Barrymore Arms, a place where Lord Barrymore used to collect his rents. In 1932 the pub was sold to Greenall Whitley of Warrington (remember them, when nearly every pub in the mid-Cheshire area was owned by them?) who changed the name to the Hanging Gate. Following the eventual demise of Greenall Whitley as a brewer and then as a pub company, the Hanging Gate went through a range of owners as the new mega pub-companies began to take shape. During this extensive period of change, little money was invested in the pub estate but it remained a cracking pub to visit under the management of Alan and Sheila Done, formally of the now demolished Weaverham pub, the Salter. Eventually the pub was sold on to aspiring local pub company New Moon where a significant refurbishment took place. The emphasis here was very much on food, with the kitchen opening to view by guests over the “pass” and the bar moved very much to one side of the building. Despite a number of attempts to grow the beer range it proved more and more difficult and real ales became only sporadically seen on the bar. With a final throw of the dice for New moon, they decided to rebrand the operation completely as an Italian restaurant to be called Cassa Matta with no real ales for sale. There was something of a social media backlash against the renaming and rebranding of the pub, including the loss of the now famous hanging gate.
New Moon relinquished the operation in 2016 and indeed are no longer around. The pub stood empty until historic family brewer J W Lees from Middleton near Manchester stepped in and purchased the pub. Quickly signing up with local multi-pub operator Broad Oak Pub Company (who specialise in operating family-brewery owned pubs such as the White Lion, Alvanley; Netherton Hall, Frodsham; Smoker, Plumley; Red Lion, Pickmere and Parr Arms, Grappenhall), the seeds were set for a dramatic change in their fortunes.
The first thing to happen, delighting the people of Weaverham, was the change of the name back to the Hanging Gate and the restoration of the inscripted gate sign. The bar was also relocated to become the true centre of the pub where four excellent beers by J W Lees make a regular appearance. That isn’t to say that the food offer has been forgotten though – all of the Broad Oak pubs do excellent food and this is no exception – but it is now back to being how it should be, as a pub selling great food rather than a restaurant selling a few beers. In fact so good is the beer and offer now at the Hanging Gate, the team were awarded the North Cheshire CAMRA Pub of the Season award for Autumn 2018 – true progress indeed.
Pub of the Season Summer 2018 - Salt Barge, Marston
It’s been a most unusual Summer. We haven’t had such a long period of hot weather for decades.
Every publican knows the difficulties of maintaining a constant cellar temperature of 12 degrees Celsius - 24 hours a day - 365 days a year. This temperature can vary by a degree or two but no more. To serve cask ale in excellent form under such conditions needs exceptional dedication. To be awarded the pub of the season, especially when the season is so challenging, is a real achievement, and the Salt Barge, Marston, has done it.
The team at the Salt Barge constantly work to improve the pub, which has LocALE accreditation, offering three, sometimes four, beers and ciders on hand pump. Tatton brewery provides ‘Best’ as the house beer, plus seasonals. Tatton works closely with the pub to ensure its brews are offered at a quality that does justice to their name. Tatton Brewery was pleased to be represented by brewer Lee Gannon and by Simon Walkington.
The Salt Barge is one of the few surviving independent pubs, and concentrates on local beers and local food, cooked on the premises from fresh. It is part of the Northwich area’s salt heritage. It is opposite the award-winning Lion Salt Works and is very close to the beautiful Trent and Mersey canal. This makes it very popular with walkers, cyclists, narrow boat users as well as Marston locals. Dogs on leads are very welcome at the front part of the pub. It’s worth a visit and deserves supporting.
Local member Annie Makepeace presented the award to the management team of Lyn Taylor and Phil Gatley on 1st September in front of an excellent Saturday afternoon turnout.
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.