Runcorn Bridge at sunset

Halton

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

Members' News

If you have something to share with other members, the please send details by email to one of the committee members who will arrange for it to be published here.

  • Sad news Monday 10 February 2020

    It is with regret that we must let you know that Mike Allen has sadly died. Mike was one of the founding Halton CAMRA branch members and its first branch chair. Mike was a very active branch member and there are many treasured memories of his time in the branch. In due course Mike and Kath Allen moved to a neighbouring branch area but remained friends with all who knew them. We extend our sympathies to Kath who we all know and love and can only say a fond farewell to Mike who will be missed.

  • A tour around Runcorn Tuesday 27 August 2019

    On a sunny Friday evening in July I completed a short pub tour of Runcorn's Old Town beginning at Runcorn's main railway station, which, thanks to the opening of the Halton Curve railway line in May, now receives hourly trains direct from Chester as well as the usual West Coast trains from Crewe and beyond.

    The Lion is located minutes from the station, up Shaw Street, and it is a comfortable, U-shaped locals' drinking pub that also welcomes visitors. Two regionally-sourced cask ales are always available and I opted for Rudgate's 3.8% golden ale 'Viking' from York, which was refreshing, on good form and served by pleasant staff. Robinson's hoppy 3.8% 'Right Beer, Right Now' was the other ale.

    Heading north along Greenway Road towards the Bridgewater Canal leads to Runcorn's newest pub/restaurant the Ten Lock Flight. The extensive open-plan premises is smartly divided into a small bar area and three dining areas. The vibrant artwork on the walls celebrates landmarks such as the Grade I-listed Halton Castle and also Runcorn's yesteryear industries. Thwaites's 'Wainwright', Wychwood's 'Hobgoblin' and Banks's 4.2% 'Sunbeam' were the three cask ales on sale at this Marston's outlet and the latter ale, Midlands-brewed pale ale certainly captured the bright, radiant late afternoon atmosphere extremely well.

    Taking the foot bridge over the canal and beyond Brindley Arts Centre, Church Street's Ferry Boat is just minutes away and it is the town's JDWetherspoon outlet. It usually supplements its three regular cask ales with at least two still ciders and up to five guest cask ales, including a LocAle. On my visit the 5% 'Oatmeal Stout' from Birkenhead's Peerless was on alongside Cameron's 4.5% pale ale 'Roadside', the 4.1% 'British Bulldog' from Kent's Westerham brewery and a 4.6% mahogany-coloured 'Plum Porter' from Suffolk's St Peter's brewery. This speciality porter was flavoured richly with blackcurrants and damsons and, moreover, it was served in splendid condition.

    Mersey Road, which runs to the rear of the Ferry Boat, leads to a footpath near the bank of the Manchester Ship canal, where breezy, invigorating views across the Mersey Estuary can be enjoyed. I continued west along this path as far as Queen Ethelfleda's majestic railway bridge and upon turning left onto Brindley Street, reached CAMRA Halton's 2019 pub of the year, the Society Tap Rooms. This is a brewery tap and a music venue run by Blueball brewery. It comprises a bar area, a brewing area that opens when music events and beer festivals are on, and a yard directly beneath the railway arch. The modern style mixes the florid and the lavishly artful with industrial functionality in an intelligent, coordinated way; the place could be somewhere in deepest hipster Hackney, but it's not, it's in Runcorn!

    Anyway, as well as a still cider, the 4.6% 'Slack Alice', the bar was serving three cask ales: Salopian's 4.1% 'Hair of the Dog', Blueball's 6% 'Ninja Juice' and the 5.5% IPA 'Out of Pique' brewed by the Halton-based, award-winning Chapter Brewery. My take on Chapter's IPA is, a moderate citrus burst followed by contrasting roasted, grassy, herby flavours. It was strange yet thoroughly decent and served in excellent condition. Further, chatting with the affable locals, a mix of all ages, was a joy. The STR was my favourite and final visit of the tour and, conveniently, it's within short walking distance of Runcorn's main railway station. Cask ale pubs are thriving in Runcorn Old Town!

    On a sunny Friday evening in July I completed a short pub tour of Runcorn's Old Town beginning at Runcorn's main railway station, which, thanks to the opening of the Halton Curve railway line in May, now receives hourly trains direct from Chester as well as the usual West Coast trains from Crewe and beyond
  • State of the borough report - David Grey Friday 10 May 2019

    By this time of the year American Presidents have usually performed their annual “State of the Union” address some months ago. In a quarterly publication, it is similarly worthwhile from time to time to appraise what a broad picture of an area`s real ale and pubs shows.

    There are very well known destinations for “beer tourism” such as Norwich, Sheffield, Liverpool, Derby and many others but Halton is not and does not pretend to be one of these. Halton is very much an area for locals to live and drink in. With that said and done some of the best gems in an area have to be sought out by those in the know!

    Halton is blessed by having several breweries located within the borough. These include Blueball brewery with its award winning “Society Tap Rooms (STR)”. This was voted Pub of the Year by Halton CAMRA and has been described as a breath of fresh air in Runcorn Old Town that excluding the much appreciated Ferry Boat (Wetherspoons) is somewhat of a real ale desert. The brewery has a strong community focus and the STR bar merits visiting regularly!

    Similarly Chapter Brewing in Sutton Weaver has recently won Champion Beer of Cheshire with “#3. Dead Man's Fist”. Having visited an “open day” at the brewery I would strongly recommend that the brewers full range of stunning beers is sampled. I would also recommend keeping an eye out for future open days - first Saturday of the month July, August and September.

    With regard to wider Runcorn pubs, the Norton continues to thrive, the Prospect merits a visit and the Ring O Bells in Daresbury still maintains a well deserved focus on keeping local ales. In Widnes the picture is a little more mixed. Some more marginal pubs have stopped keeping real ale. However there are some consistent real ale pubs such as the Four Topped Oak where good food also continues to be available and the Premier (Wetherspoons) notably has much improved its availability of real ale.

    There are signs of a possible real ale resurgence in the area with the Black Horse in Cronton that was closed recently reopening as “the Dandelion Tavern” with a good range of craft beers and real ales.

    Very much a summary but Halton is overall much improved in terms of the availability of quality real ale even though it still needs to be sought out!

  • MBCF19 Sunday 25 November 2018

    Whatever the weather, the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival (MBCF) is the North's biggest beer crawl. Safely protected from the winter, the Manchester Central hosts the January drinkers' treat for the fourth year.

    2019 will mark the 50th anniversary since the former rail station saw its last locomotive. With 750 or so different drinks, there's bound to be something to whet all whistles.

    The festival is a great way to 'Tryanuary' – a drinkers' response to the killjoys promoting Dry January. This campaign from our neighbouring region aims to inspire people to seek out and try new beers in what is often a slow month for the trade. The festival beer and cider orderers never disappoint with a selection which will feature specially commissioned beers, collaborations and ales rarely, if ever, seen in the Northwest.

    The festival will be open to the public from Thursday 24th to Saturday 26th January 2019. Full details can be found on the festival's website.

    Opening Times

    • Wednesday 23rd: 5pm – 9pm (preview session for CAMRA & SPBW members – Free Entry to members
    • Thursday 24th: Noon – 10.30pm
    • Friday 25th: Noon – 10.30pm
    • Saturday 26th: Noon – 7pm

    Entry Prices

    PRICES HELD FOR SECOND YEAR IN A ROW.

    • Thursday 24th January 2019: £4 + £3 glass hire (refundable)
    • Friday 25th January 2019: £7 + £3 glass hire (refundable)
    • Saturday 26th January 2019: £7 + £3 glass hire (refundable)

    Concessions:

    Senior citizens, Armed Forces (including British Legion), Emergency Services Personnel, NHS Staff, Full Time Students with valid identification, £1 off all sessions. Max one discount per entry.

    Advance tickets:

    Advance tickets are available from 9am on Monday 1st August. Click here to purchase.

    CAMRA Members

    • Weds 23rd 5pm – 9pm. FREE Entry (£3 glass deposit on entry) [CAMRA Members and Society For Preservation of Beers From The Wood (SPBW) Members only preview session]
    • Thursday 24th FREE entry (£3 glass deposit on entry)
    • CAMRA Members attending Friday / Saturday will pay full price but will receive £4 beer tokens
  • There's a new pub - By Kevin Johnson Thursday 15 November 2018

    Queen of Hearts

    In times when pubs are closing at a rate of 18 per week it is astonishing that new ones are not just opening, but they are being purpose built … in Runcorn.

    The Queen of Hearts is built on the site of the old Halton Arms and opened in late October 2018. It is part of Marton's Heritage estate and is the first new build under that branding. It seeks to provide a socialising space serving the local community offering a wide selection of drinks and traditional pub food. The building offers three distinct areas, formal restaurant area, a less formal bar area and a reception (non-dining) area. It is run by attentive staff with friendly service and value for money.

    When I went to survey the pub, I was met by the site managers Michelle and Barry, who are both very clearly excited by this new venture and have some great ideas which will be implemented in the coming months. In terms of cask ale, there are 4 regular house beers (Wainwright, Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Marson's EPA). When the demand for real ale increases, it is expected that a further two beers will be available, largely selected based on customer requests / recommendations. They are really looking forward to engaging with the local CAMRA branch.

    Their plans for entertainment are still being formulated: they have a Sunday evening quiz, in which using your mobile phone is not considered to be cheating, indeed it is encouraged. I did not quite get that bit, but I guess I'll have to go and do the quiz to find out how it works! There is a well provisioned dart board in the bar area with 3 nearby large TV screens. Michelle said that she was looking forward to establishing a darts team for the pub, along with a dominoes 'school' and provisions for the playing of card games.

    There is a massive bar giving plenty of room to get served, whilst the dining area has a few nooks and crannies creating a sense of multiple eating areas. The place boats an open pizza kitchen. See Queen of Hearts on WhatPub for full details of their opening hours and deals … thinking of which CAMRA members get 10% discount on real ale. For the latest news on what's happening there follow them on FaceBook

  • Fight for your pubs!! Sunday 29 July 2018

    In some parts of the country it is sometimes said that the fight to save quality cask ale has been won! That may be true there but in Halton the fight to save real ale is very much still needed and ongoing!

    Currently in Halton, 31 pubs serve cask ale. Although this has increased as a percentage of the total number of pubs, it is still less than half.

    What can be done! Firstly we have to use our local pubs and give them our business if they are to survive. Beyond this, I try to help my local CAMRA branch and enjoy doing this. One thing I do is carry out pub surveys to make sure the details and photos on “Whatpub” are up to date. Recently, I carried out a survey of the Beechwood in Runcorn. What a fantastic pub! Sports themed at one end, very community focused (they even sponsor a local football team!), a comfortable raised seating area and complemented by 2 real ales being served. The pub is now awaiting a refurbishment. A local estate pub but very well worth a visit!

    Another activity I assist with is delivering the Out Inn Cheshire magazines on the Widnes side of the Mersey. Amongst other pubs, I normally deliver to the Four Topped Oak, Church View, Premier (Wetherspoons), the Crown and the Eight Towers. Each has a good selection of real ales, is very welcoming and has a long and successful track record. In each pub, I check out what real ales are on sale, see if anything has changed and if possible have a pint whilst visiting! There are many worse jobs!!

    If you are passionate about saving your local and tasting quality cask ales, yes – use them, but if you want to take it a stage further come to a branch meeting and support your local branch!

  • CAMRAs national Pub Of The Year - St Helens!! Thursday 1 March 2018

    A Merseyside pub saved from closure has been named the best in the country: The Cricketers Arms receiving CAMRA's regional Pub of the Year award in 2016.

    The Cricketers Arms in St Helens, Merseyside, has won the prestigious Pub of the Year title from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) just five years after it was boarded up for closure.

    When owners Andy and Denise Evans took over the running of the pub in 2013, it was boarded up and hadn’t served cask ale since the 1980s. The Cricketers Arms is now a well-established local community pub with an excellent selection of 13 locally sourced cask ales and up to 20 ciders in the summer.

    Alongside an impressive ale and cider range, plans are in the making for a microbrewery to open in the next few months and customers will be tasked with naming the pub’s beers. Visitors can also take part in a number of social nights including regular beer festivals, dominoes, jam nights, pub quizzes, karaoke and pool teams, as well as enjoy a new whiskey and gin bar.

    The Cricketers Arms regularly wins local CAMRA awards, but this is the first time it has won a national title. Paul Ainsworth, CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year coordinator said: “After winning the regional award in both 2015 and 2016, it's a well deserved third time lucky for the Cricketers to be named CAMRA’s national Pub of the Year.

    “In less than five years, Andy and Denise have converted a boarded up pub on the brink of closure into a true destination pub for beer lovers across the country. What impressed me the most is that the Cricketers is a genuine community pub where people from all walks of life come together to socialise. It is a shining example of how a pub, which seems destined for closure, can have its fortunes turned around when in the right hands.”

    Owner Andy Evans said: “We are over the moon to be named the top pub in the country after just a few short years of renovations. We’ve done everything we can to make this a welcoming community pub and still have exciting developments ahead of us. As well as expanding the beers available, we created a beer garden and put greens in the ground, and have big plans to install a microbrewery this year. We are very proud to be part of the cask ale scene and look forward to celebrating with our locals!”

    Runners-up in the competition include the Wigan Central in Wigan, the Stanford Arms in Lowestoft and the Weavers Real Ale House in Kidderminster. Pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, community focus and most importantly – quality of beer.

    The Cricketers Arms will be presented with an award for its achievement at an event open to the press at 1pm on Wednesday 28th February 2018. This will be followed shortly afterwards by CAMRA’s Club of the Year presentation at the neighbouring Flixton Conservative Club at 6pm

  • Why take on a pub? Sunday 4 February 2018

    In recent months two of Haltons prestige real ale pubs have come under new management. The Royal Oak in Weston Village, a very successful pub and winner of Haltons Pub of The Year 2017 changed hands in December. This busy and popular pub has come under the stewardship of “H” as he likes to be known and Sam. H came along to Halton CAMRAs December meeting and outlined his vision of putting a third real ale line on, sourcing local products to supply quality food and his passion to further develop the pub was clear to all.

    Not far away in Weston, the Prospect a former multiple Pub of the Year winner changed hands in September. This pub with its real fire, snug and bar, wealth of heritage and long standing reputation for quality real ale and food would be many peoples dream pub. This must be largely due to much appreciated landlords Jim and Michele. Their superb tenure at the Prospect has ended due to Jims ill health and they have everyone`s very best regards with them as they move on.

    The new team at the Prospect is headed by Donna and Christine. Many of the familiar staff remain unchanged and the cellar is run by Callum who 12 months ago had previously held this position at the Prospect for 3 years. Quality real ale is still expected by the Prospects regulars! We spoke to Donna and were keen to find out why she would want to take a pub on in the current climate and what plans she had.

    Why take on a pub at this current time? Donna replied that she had managed pubs before, wanted to have a family run business but that she wouldn’t have taken on any pub other than the Prospect.

    What attracted you to the Prospect? Having been a previous customer at the Prospect, Donna said that she knew it was popular, had a homely feel and that when visiting they had always been impressed with the quality real ales on offer. The superb views over the Mersey, homely feel and a clearly thriving well known business had worked its magic on her.

    How do you see the pub developing as you move forwards? The Prospect is due for a refurbishment and whilst keeping it traditional, Donna is keen for the pub to have a facelift. She welcomes the kitchen being extended, new toilets and the opportunity to develop the outside drinking area with its panoramic views. Critically Donna says she also has a line free that she wants to see used for quality guest real ales (some perhaps locally brewed) of her choice.

    We wish Donna and Christine every success in their venture at the Prospect and with such a clear vision of the way forward we are sure the future is good. The author will certainly, like many others be a regular visitor to sample the well kept real ales and fantastic food!

  • Recent social trips! Friday 10 November 2017

    Spitting Feathers Brewbarn

    It had been decided that we would set up a social event to one of the Spitting Feathers Brewbarn Sessions at their brewery. We had a good number in the party and we had arranged to meet either at Chester Station or at the Brewery itself. The day wasn’t a good one as the rain decided it also wanted to come along with us.

    Once we all started to arrive we were quickly “checked in” to the Brewery and sent straight into the Brewery’s social bar where we were greeted with 3 great choices of beer aptly brewed to Spitting Feathers fantastic quality and three different ones to suit all tastes. As the people started to arrive in, you could feel the atmosphere rising as everyone was there to have a good time and enjoy the Saturday afternoon as all Saturday afternoons should be.

    As a group we all stayed together and had great conversation, and the Brewery brought around some snacks that really hit the spot and we all eagerly tucked into them. As the afternoon wore on, the casks were changed and an equally, and depending on your taste buds, or better cask came on with quick changes. The day coasted by and we all had smiles the whole afternoon, especially when the food got served up and the whole room eagerly got their hog roast with yet another change of casks. And during all this we had the sheepdogs trying to make more friends especially when the hog roast was out.

    We all had a fantastic afternoon and finished off with a 6% beer that was absolutely out of this world, and after starting the day on a sublime stout it mixed in with the band that played and everyone was up and dancing the day away. After the session a few of us got a taxi back and finished the day off in The Cellar which rounded the whole fantastic day off. We have all decided that it is one for the calendar next year and a fantastic price to boot.

    Oktoberfest in Blueball Brewery

    Another event a few members went on was the Oktoberfest in Blueball Breweries new(ish) new premises, and although it was mainly craft the cask they had was good quality and the plans they have are exciting with a permanent bar to be set up there and more events set up and an increased cask selection on tap. It is also good news to hear that another two breweries are to move in with them and make it a regular feature and a pub, which is good news for Halton CAMRA as it increases the Breweries in the Area to 6.

    Appleton Thorn Village Hall

    Finally there was another Festival held, this time in Appleton Thorn Village Hall near Warrington. Coinciding with the Festival was a presentation made to them for gaining the Regional Club of the Year award for Cheshire, which is a mark of their quality in a Region that has so many good clubs as well as pubs. It was attended by a few of the Cheshire Branches so as a formal Regional Award, it was a great occasion to attend, and as a festival it was really good with a great selection of beers for all tastes, strengths and variety.

    It was a great event and good to mingle with the other CAMRA Branches and socialise together. So thank you to Appleton Thorn for a successful event, and thank you to all the CAMRA and none CAMRA people who attended.

    Offbeat Brewery Bar

    As another note there was a little look in at the Offbeat Brewery Bar at the Brewery in October, and it is a great set up in Crewe and well worth a visit with good quality Real Ale and a very friendly atmosphere.

  • "Our Hero" Tuesday 1 August 2017

    “Our Hero” – Gallantry, local history and real ale!

    Halton has many aspects that make it unique. In terms of military history, 3 people born in Halton have been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). This is the highest award of the UK honours system for gallantry “in the face of the enemy”. One was in the Army, one in the Navy and one in the Royal Flying Corps (the pre cursor to the Royal Air Force).

    A campaign has been ongoing to see these local heroes honoured with statues in their home towns to represent not just the fallen but all those who have fought for their country.

    • Thomas Jones a Cheshire soldier earned his VC in World War 1 and is now commemorated by a statue in Runcorn's Memorial Gardens.
    • Thomas Wilkinson earned his VC as a sailor in action off Malaya in World War 2 – the campaign to build a statue in West Bank, Widnes in his name is due to start in 2018.

    However there is an ongoing campaign to build a statue for Sergeant Thomas Mottershead VC DCM in Victoria Park in Widnes. This campaign is well underway with a statue due to be erected in Victoria Park in 2018. His award of the VC arose from events on the Western Front in 1917 when flying a FE2d biplane and shot down, despite burns that eventually killed him, his coolness saved the life of his observer. The campaigns facebook page gives further detail.

    Interesting military and local history...but where does real ale come in? The link is Norton Brewery, a microbrewery opened in the grounds of Norton Priory in 2011. Norton produce 3 regular real ales most commonly seen in bottled form – Priory Gold, Priory Ale and Priory Velvet. The unique thing about Norton is that it is a part of Halton Community Services. The ethos is that those who would normally attend day centres are given the opportunity to have a rewarding and varied day contributing to the success of the brewery. Over 145 adults with a learning disability work at the brewery, cafe and within the Priory. It is a ground breaking success and truly innovative. In this sense it is very much a community brewery.

    In my capacity as Treasurer for the Sergeant Thomas Mottershead VC Statue appeal and as Chair of the Halton CAMRA branch it occurred to me these two very different interests really could and should combine! The statue appeal committee at my instigation met with the brewery and it was agreed that a real ale should be brewed in honour of Sgt Mottershead VC DCM and be brewed by Norton Brewery.

    Norton Brewing managed to locate an authentic World War 1 time brewing recipe from a London based brewery and have started production of a real ale named “Our Hero” based on this. History brought to drinkable life!! Quite possibly this beer will taste like those drunk by many service men before embarking for danger on the Western front.

    On 25th July 2017, the appeal, brewers and Mayor and Mayoress of Halton met at Norton Brewery to launch “Our hero”. Current plans are that “Our Hero” will be available towards the end of August from

    • The Premier (Wetherspoons) - Widnes
    • Ferry Boat (Wetherspoons) - Runcorn
    • Prospect – Weston Village
    • Royal Oak – Weston Village

    Expectations of a quality real ale are high and although too early to say this - maybe a second brew will be made!

    For those who get to taste “Our Hero” – a chance to reflect both on those brave service personnel drawn from all communities who gave their lives for us in the “Great War” and also to appreciate the fruits produced from a truly community based brewery. We will raise a glass to that!

    David Gray - Branch Chairman

  • Halton Pub of the Year 2017 Monday 3 July 2017

    Halton's pub of the year for 2017 is Weston Village's Royal Oak, which under the smart stewardship of licensees Sharon Bates and Terry Hamblett has flourished since they arrived in Spring 2016. Following a refurbishment completed in Autumn last year, the 19th century pub comprises a central bar within a sizeable open plan area. Upon entering, there is a front area for the drinkers; to the right is a comfortable dining area, and to the left is more seating and a games area with pool table and dart board. In fact the Royal Oak now proudly boasts ladies' and gents' darts teams.

    Chiefly a family-friendly pub that also welcomes customers' pets, late evening entertainment in the form of karaoke nights is a regular feature.

    On the a culinary front, there are traditional home-cooked meals in the form of burgers, sausages, sandwiches and baguettes, each served with chips and salad for well under a fiver. Sundays are kept special by way of "Sunday lunch your way" - bespoke full roast dinners served to customers' preferences from a range of options. At just £6.49, it is tremendous value for money. Furthermore, if the weather is kind, the Royal Oak's spacious enclosed garden is ideal for those who like to eat and drink in the open air.

    On my late Friday afternoon visit in early April, bustling with a fair few drinkers and a young family, and with joyous spring sunshine beaming through the windows, Sharp's 4% 'Doombar' and Theakston's 5.6% 'Old Peculier' graced the handpumps in addition to a still medium 4.5% cider, 'Happy Daze' from Gwynt y Ddraig. The dark, malty ale 'Old Peculier' from Yorkshire tasted robust and delicious and was presented in excellent condition at the optimum temperature.

    Card-carrying CAMRA members are charged a generous £2.50 per pint, whilst non-members can enjoy this discount every Tuesday. And speaking of discounts, Wednesdays are nominated "meal deal nights", when for just a fiver customers can enjoy any fixed meal and any pint.

    In short, thanks to Sharon, Terry and the regular locals, hospitality, warmth and sincerety are in abundance at the Royal Oak, located in a village that has firmly retained its charm and character despite the ongoing changes underway elsewhere in the region. Even if you're not a local, the Royal Oak is well worth a visit.

    Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 1600-2300 Friday 1600-2330 Saturday 1700-2330 Sunday 1200-1030

    Meals: Tuesday-Friday 1700-2100 Saturday 1200-2000 Sunday 1200-1700

    Address: 187 Heath Road South, Weston Village WA7 4RP Tel. 01928 577781

  • All in a Good cause! Friday 3 February 2017

    A number of local CAMRA members who have strong connections to the 4th Widnes St Bedes Scout group drew my attention to their impending beer festival. I duly bought a ticket and visited the venue in the setting up period where there were skilled craftspeople at work labouring hard to ensure the evening was a success. The portents were good!

    On a wet, cold winters evening in November after a long week at work I went along to the groups fourth annual beer festival. What an eye opener!!

    I arrived very shortly after opening time and the venue was already pleasantly full. Over the course of the evening a capacity 120 attendees enjoyed in full the 11 available beers and 2 ciders! The organisers were very much involved in a team effort and clearly relishing what was a very successful event. Everyone took turns to work behind the bar, serve food or sell/ run raffles! Ten beers were available, all sourced from local breweries including Connosseur (St Helens), 4Ts (Warrington), Sandiway (Cheshire) and Seven Brothers (Salford).

    The beer quality was superb, and the organisation very slick to run such a successful beerfestival within the scouts premises. The festival and raffles earned a substantive amount for the local scouts to carry on their good work, those visiting enjoyed a first class beer festival and it can now be shouted loudly – Who says there is no demand for real ale in Widnes (Publicans please note!)!

    I can only say roll on next years festival and make sure you get your ticket!

  • Use your pubs! Sunday 4 December 2016

    When you think of Halton, perhaps you don’t immediately think of quality pubs and pleasant environments in which to have a drink. It is true that there is still a “Greenall Whitley” legacy in some parts of Halton, and the Campaign for Real Ale has been working hard to encourage more pubs to stock cask ale and attract customers.

    The fringes of Halton contain some attractive pubs where cask ale, good food and a pleasing environment can be found. The Wellington in Hale, Ring O Bells in Daresbury and Red Lion in Moore leap to mind.

    Halton is changing - the Weston area of Runcorn is a mini oasis. The Royal Oak has recently been refurbished under new stewardship. Terry and Sharron have a commitment to serve cask ales and usually 2 are available. On a recent visit I enjoyed a superb pint of Caledonian Autumn Red. A real cider was also available. The Round House always has a real ale available. Not far away, the Prospect, a Halton CAMRA Pub of The Year has a deserved reputation for home cooking – especially the Sunday lunches! However the pub also hosts many community events, has a real fire and importantly a good selection of real ales. Adnams Broadside, a full flavour real ale is one of the regular beers.

    The Old Town area has struggled for quality pubs that serve real ale, but the Ferry Boat (Wetherspoons) is a beacon! Not far to go to the Lion in Greenway Road where 2 changing guest beers and a real cider are served. Also not far to the Norton Arms in Halton Village where 4 changing guest beers are served in a very historic pub set beneath Halton Castle. Moving North of the Mersey, central Widnes was a real ale desert but there has been a renaissance!

    A crawl of real ale pubs could be held in venues including the Premier (Wetherspoons), Derby, Grapes and the Kingsway Hotel. These are very traditional type pubs. On a recent visit a superb pint of Pedigree was on offer from the new management at the Grapes.

    Away from central Widnes, food and a good selection of real ales from Ember Inns can be found at the Four Topped Oak. The Church View similarly has a wide and varying selection and has been subject to a recent refurbishment. Amongst the real ales available on a recent visit was an excellent pint of Timothy Taylor Boltmaker. The Eight Towers whilst offering food also serves up to 6 real ales mostly from the Ringwood, Banks and Wychwood breweries.

    We all moan when pubs close – but the truth is we need to use them and enjoy them if they are to stay open. Certainly in Halton I think you will be very pleasantly surprised

  • A Widnes stroll! Sunday 5 June 2016

    On a warm, dry afternoon in late May, I boarded Arriva's No. 110 Runcorn-Warrington bus for Widnes to explore a few of that town's many diverse cask ale outlets. The first stop was Marston's 'Eight Towers' located on the edge of the Halton View estate and within sight of the nearby power station's landmark cooling towers. It's a large two-room restaurant and there are tables and benches outside. Four ales were available on this visit: Marston's 4.2% 'Sunbeam', Wychwood's 4.5% 'Hobgoblin' and Thwaites's 4.4% 'Lancaster bomber' and 4.1% 'Wainwright'. The latter, a pale-coloured bitter, was on fair form and it was a good, thirst-quenching start.

    A 40 minute leisurely stroll on foot followed via a route through he scrubby, municipal green area whimsically named "The Bongs", which is perhaps a mediaeval Cheshire dialect word meaning wooded area near a riverbank. Here in this tranquil retreat there are views of the surrounding industry and, sweeping in the distance to the south, the sandstone hills of Runcorn and Frodsham.

    Next up was Greene King's 'Church View' up on the edge of town at Lunts Heath. It has an attractive Tudor-style exterior, an extensive interior and it is chiefly a family-friendly restaurant. Three Greene King ales were on in addition to Cumberland, Ruddles, Tribute and Belhaven's 3.8% 'Golden Bay'. This Scotland-brewed Belhaven ale wasn't too bad. It was just a bit thin on flavour, in my opinion.

    En route to Hough Green, via a green space known as "Upton Rocks", there is another lovely Tudor-style hostelry named 'The Tavern'. While it wasn't on my pre-planned itinerary, I did observe that it is a free house serving two cask ales, Landlord and Doombar.<.p>

    The uniquely named 'Four Topped Oak' run by Ember Taverns was third on the list. Yet another family-friendly restaurant - and packed with customers on this late afternoon - they were serving four ales: Doombar, Black Sheep's 4% 'Ember Taverns Pale Ale', Brakspear's 3.4% 'Bitter' and Brains's 4.5% 'Reverend James'. For me, the deep, tawny-coloured malty ale that is the Wales-brewed Reverend James was the first richly-flavoured and hugely pleasurable ale of day. Noteworthy is this establishment's promotion of cask ale by way of chalk board detailing the current ales and the illustrated booklets describing ale types in general.

    On the cusp of the evening, I continued on foot along the path running parallel with the Liverpool-Manchester railway line, passing Widnes station and taking in the leafy Victoria Park. Eventualy reaching the town centre, I called in 'The Grapes' on Widnes Road. This is a proper, traditional boozer comprising two rooms: a front lounge, today occupied by locals engaged in joyous, lively discussion and a rear function room for evening entertainment. The Grapes is special for its commitment to serving still cider from hand pump. I tried a half of the 5.2% 'Apples and Pears' from Lilley's of Somerset. Pale and crystal clear in appearance, and virtually odourless, this cider's foretaste was deceptively delicate. However, its lush, dry flavour soon developed quietly. Definitely a subtle one. Oakham's 4.6% 'Bishop's Farewell' was the cask ale on here.

    Wetherspoon's 'Premier' is one large open plan room or hall. While it may not conform to everyone's idea of a convivial, traditional pub setting, the place was well populated and the bar staff were friendly and diligent. Being my final stop, I took it easy and surrendered to the Premier's languid hub-bub with a slow pint of the 8.5% Stockport-brewed 'Old Tom' from Robinsons. This famous yet uncommon dark beverage has fruity notes of date and raisin and a gentle bitterness. Other ales available were a 5.2% IPA from Lancashire's Lytham Brewery alongside Cumberland, Ruddles and Doombar. In short, pubs, cask ale and real cider are alive and kicking in this fair town of the Vikings. It's well worth a visit!

  • Haltons Got Talent! Thursday 12 May 2016

    One of the most difficult (but pleasurable!) decisions facing Halton CAMRA is to select its annual Pub Of The Year (POTY). The choice is democratically made, but a number of factors come into the decision. These include whether the pub has a community focus, whether the real ale has been of a consistent high quality throughout the whole year and the ambience/ welcome received.

    In 2015, the Prospect in Weston Village was a very deserved POTY winner, and besides quality real ale, the home cooked food and real fire make a very welcoming environment. The competition for the 2016 award was very close run. Three strong candidates all polled equally for second place; The Lion in Runcorn – a deservedly popular traditional pub near the railway station, the historic Norton Arms in Halton Village and the Ring O Bells in Daresbury that is awarded “Locale” status due to the commitment shown in sourcing local real ales.

    However the “first past the post” for 2016 and a deserved Pub Of The Year winner is the Eight Towers in Weates Close, Widnes. The pub has two sides – a large bar where sport is popular and a large seated side where food is served. A good size outdoors area is very popular in the summer months. Six real ales from the Marstons range are served (4 regular beers & 2 changing guests) and through tastings made throughout the year the real ales have been found to kept be in good condition. That a pub in a non town centre location in Halton, can support such a choice of real ales is a testament to the managements skill in looking after the real ales and to building up a thriving trade. The pub raises monies for charity, hosts fairs for children and has a community focus.

    If you are passing, give the Eight Towers a visit –in an area where real ale has not always thrived, it certainly is a beacon showing what can be achieved!

  • Protect your local Thursday 12 May 2016

    It is a common sight, throughout the country – boarded up and derelict pubs! More difficult to spot but equally common are pubs that have changed use and may be are now shops/ apartments or nurseries. The reasons for this are many.

    Halton is far from immune to this – once extremely busy pubs such as the Masonic (Runcorn) the South Bank (Runcorn) and the Doctors (Widnes) remain boarded up. The Appleton Arms in Widnes in now a childrens nursery, with the Railway in Runcorn expected to have the same fate. The Swan in West Bank has become apartments and the Queens in Widnes has been demolished and become an overspill car park for the bus depot!

    Besides reminiscing, a much asked question is what can be done about this? There are many parts to this answer. One part of the solution is for valued community pubs to be formally listed as Assets of Community Value (ACV). The importance of this was discussed in an article in the Spring Out Inn Cheshire. Whilst not in itself preventing change happening, ACV status can make pubs less attractive to developers, and give locals a chance to campaign to save their pub. Nationally over 1,200 pubs are listed as ACVs. If you want to learn more about what you can do to protect your local, please visit www.camra.org.uk/listyourlocal

    Halton CAMRA fully endorses the protection of good local pubs, and often the serving of good quality cask ale is a sign of a thriving vibrant community centred pub. The branch has recently submitted its first application for a pub to be listed as an ACV – the Grapes in Widnes. This has a thriving support from the local community and is a key part of the local music scene. Every Saturday, local bands perform live – talent is nurtured and a good night had by those who go along. A win – win situation! The Grapes also serves real ale and a real cider – a rarity in the cider desert of Halton! Halton CAMRA view the Grapes as the ideal candidate for an ACV - the outcome of the application for the Grapes is keenly awaited.

    A number of other vibrant community pubs spring to mind as meriting ACV status, and the protection this brings. Further applications are expected! Halton already has one pub awarded ACV status – the Wellington in Hale. Again a thriving pub serving real ale and with regular events (eg Quiz nights) and a community focus.

    If you want to protect your pub – firstly use it! However, after this ACV listing may be a key part of the answer!

  • Get involved with your branch! Thursday 10 March 2016

    One of the things we often get asked is what does a CAMRA branch do? Halton CAMRA is a small branch (210 members) and because of this it is easy to see what everyone does and what good fun it is to get involved!

    The branch has bi-monthly meetings always held at pubs that serve quality real ale!! A recent meeting was held at the Norton Arms, Halton Village – a historic multi award winning pub. As with all activities any members are encouraged to come along and are made welcome.

    A pleasurable duty of the branch is to survey all the pubs in Halton that serve real ale and to ensure that the entries on the Whatpub website are kept up to date. Many members are responsible for different pubs and my own patch includes the Grapes in Widnes and the Four Topped Oak. It is always good to survey these pubs and see what has changed, or sometimes to find a pub that unexpectedly has started to keep real ale!

    Halton CAMRA has appointed a new Social Secretary and she has just nearly completed her first programme of social activities. These include trips to beer festivals, local pub surveys and brewery trips. Recent highlights have been trips to Birmingham, Stockport beer festival and a Christmas crawl to Chorlton.

    Volunteers from the branch have helped at festivals such as the Cheshire Beerfest and those in Liverpool, Manchester, and even Bristol! Help can range from staffing the bar, setting up and taking down the festivals, ordering the beer or many other roles. The branch are even looking at nominating certain pubs as Assets of Community Value and members can work with other pub regulars and liaise with the planning department to achieve this!

    If this appeals to you and you are in CAMRA, come on board and join in! If you are not in CAMRA, join up and take part – you will be made very welcome!

  • Why drink a locally brewed beer? Friday 6 November 2015

    The Campaign for Real Ale has for some years recognised the value of supporting locally brewed real ales. There are several reasons why including that local brewers increase their sales thereby employing local people, money is spent and retained in the local economy and the choice of real ales in local pubs is increased. Of course, from a green perspective fewer “beer miles” mean less pollution and also less road congestion.

    The reason we raise this topic is because Halton CAMRA has recently had the pleasure of according 2 local pubs “LocAle” status. This means that they always have available a real ale brewed within 20 miles of Halton. The first of these pubs, the Prospect in Weston Village keeps an own branded beer that is locally sourced. This complements its ethos with its food being sourced as locally as possible and with a strong community emphasis very evident within the pub. Two quality nationally available real ales complement the offer.

    In contrast, the Ring O Bells at Daresbury stocks 4 locally sourced real ales, often featuring Weetwood and Frodsham beers. The pub is part of the Chef & Brewer chain and although food focussed, well worth a visit.

    Full details of both pubs are online under the Whatpub site. However, we would always recommend trying LocAle real ales and seeing what local brewers can achieve! Presenting the LocAle accreditation to both pubs was a great pleasure.

  • The importance of a good pub guide.. Sunday 2 August 2015

    When I go away (whether for business or pleasure) the first thing I reach for is a Good Beer Guide! I like to know what pubs serve real ale, what ales they keep on tap, which have accommodation, serve meals and where they are. However while I will always take a Good Beer Guide with me, the guide only covers the very best pubs with most real ale pubs not included and for those pubs in the guide details can change in the course of the year.

    Fortunately CAMRA has developed the “Whatpub” website precisely to address this shortfall. The website is maintained by local CAMRA members, should cover every pub serving real ale and is maintained on an ongoing basis. Members can even feedback comment if they find anything has changed in these pubs.

    In Halton, we try to make sure that the details of pubs in our area are kept up to date! As examples of recent changes; The Kingsway Hotel in Widnes has recently started to serve real ale (Greene King IPA) and gone from keg to cask – hopefully the continuation of a new trend in Widnes! The Windmill in Windmill Hill, Runcorn has sadly recently been closed. The Ring O Bells in Daresbury, and the Prospect in Weston Village have just been accredited as serving Locally brewed real ales and given LocAle status. The Grapes in Widnes has gone from keg to cask... The list goes on!

    All of these changes have been made to Halton's pubs on Whatpub. If you go anywhere in the country and want to check out the pubs and beers first give Whatpub a try! But also.. if you have a pint of real ale in your local in Halton and find there is anything incorrect on Whatpub, let us know. We will thank you for it!

  • Real Ale renaissance in Widnes! Thursday 2 July 2015

    It has been said nationally that the fight to get real ale promoted and appreciated is over and that the Campaign for Real Ale can move on and change its focus. I have always maintained that in Halton (where previously only about 20% of pubs served real ale) this is not the case. We are very much concerned with promoting and encouraging pubs to serve real ales and to get customers to try real ales and appreciate their flavour and diversity.

    Within Halton, Runcorn has for some time had a better selection of pubs serving real ale, and I have heard many Widnesians praying for just one good pub! At long last their dreams may be starting to come true!

    Recently I received an “e” mail from the new landlady at the Grapes in Widnes, saying that they now served two real ales and a real cider. Around 20 years ago the Grapes was the premier real ale establishment in Widnes and a regular Good Beer Guide entry. It was also a personal favourite of mine! Sadly the pub has been through darker times and became a keg only establishment that was a shadow of its former self.

    With great excitement, I visited the Grapes and had an excellent pint of Adnams Ghost Ship whilst learning of plans to keep two regularly changing guest beers with one possibly being sourced from local breweries. The pub has retained its traditional character with a very friendly atmosphere and a focus on live music at weekends. Real cider has increased in popularity hugely and the landladys decision to stock a regularly changing real cider besides being commercially sensible is also a welcome addition to what has been a “cider desert”. As a former resident of the South West of England (Cider country!) it is also a tipple I very much enjoy and a welcome addition to what has previously been on offer. Highly recommended!

    Around this same time, I also learned that the Bradley in Widnes has been keeping a guest beer, and that the Derby (a long term keg pub) has real ale available. This is hot off the press, but leaves the prospect of a Widnes pub crawl from the Premier (Wetherspoons) to the Grapes! Meanwhile further out on the Widnes borders, the Church View has expanded its range of cask ales considerably, and the Black Horse in Cronton has started keeping cask ale (Jennings Cumberland).

    All in all, the residents of Widnes may at last be getting their prayers answered.

    Out Inn Cheshire article
  • A tour around Halton! Sunday 5 April 2015

    At a branch meeting in mid February at the Wellington in Hale Village, it had been decided, before our Annual General Meeting in April, a trip would take place around some of the branches key pubs. The objectives – to enjoy some of the fine real ales available in Halton, present two much merited certificates and to gain some additional beer scores towards inclusion in the Good Beer Guide.

    So it was that on a Sunday afternoon the day started with 4 of us turning up at The Lion in Runcorn at 12:30pm and getting served fantastic quality beer that we all scored highly and was served with joviality from behind the bar. All 4 of us knew we were in for a special day and one we had all looked forward too. We travelled across to Widnes and met two more colleagues at the Church View and the group was complete.

    The Church View had a much increased selection of real ales on tap from my last visit, and also a real draught cider on tap. Indeed it had the largest single range of reaI ales of the day. I had a pint of the Wells Bombadier Gold that was in fair condition, but some other beers available were in fine form.

    The next call was to the Eight Towers and the formal presentation of Haltons Community Pub of the Year award to Eddie and Barbara Woodward. This award was given to reflect the strong commitment within the pub to its local community and the charitable fund raising from which Alder Hey amongst others have benefited. I found the Ringwood Boondoggle in excellent condition, and all the beers sampled were also in superb condition. Eddie showed the group around the beer cellar which was well laid out and very clean. We agreed that it was time we held another branch meeting here!

    The last visit on the Widnes side was to the Grapes, an up and coming real ale pub where in a relaxing atmosphere, I enjoyed a superb pint of Conwy Infusion and a draft cider. The group feeling was very much how welcome it was to find a totally unspoilt pub where no garish attempts at modernisation have taken place. A good traditional pub with quality beers on draught!

    We crossed the Mersey to Weston Village to visit the consistently good Prospect. Here Haltons “ Pub of the Year” certificate was presented to Jim and Michelle under whose stewardship the pub has gone from strength to strength and the beer quality (and food!) is consistently excellent. The Adnams Broadside (as always) was superb. We believe that the Pub Of The Year award is special – it cannot be bought and is voted on by CAMRAs Halton members to reflect the overall best pub for that year in the borough. The Prospect also received this award in 2012 and this is a testament to Jim and Michelles hard work and commitment to both real ale and a quality environment.

    Finally the Widnes contingent left to return across the Mersey leaving 3 of us to make our way to the Norton in Halton Village. Here we had the last of our days beer that was again served to a high standard. The pub was very busy and this was great to see in today's somewhat troubled economy. But what can you expect from a classic and highly respected pub but quality beer - No wonder the punters were voting with their feet and visiting en masse!

    It had been a magnificent day that we all enjoyed and we agreed that we should do it again. We could all think of additional pubs that deserved to be visited. Halton has some fantastic quality pubs and we should acknowledge them more. These pubs need our support and here's to 2015 and lets all appreciate and patronise Halton quality pubs.

    Out Inn Cheshire article
  • A walk on the borders! Sunday 25 January 2015

    Recently a colleague wrote an article for Out Inn Cheshire describing a walk along part of the Runcorn boundaries of Halton. This prompted me to undetake a short walk along the Western boundary of Halton, on the outskirts of Widnes with of course some stops for real ale!

    We met at the Unicorn in Cronton where a fine pint of Timothy Taylor landlord was enjoyed. Two real ales were on offer in this popular multi roomed pub. A scouting party visited the nearby Black Horse where this previously keg only pub now keeps Jennings Cumberland as a regular real ale. Both pubs have a reputation for quality food, but it was too early in the day for this!

    We drove to Hale Village, passing the Four Topped Oak along the way and wishing we had time to go in and enjoy their selection of real ales. However today was about walking and we parked at the Wellington to start our walk.

    We left the pub and turned right towards the War Memorial and artillery gun that dominate this stretch of road. We then turned left down Church End and stopped at the Childe of Hale pub. This is named after the 9 ft 5 inch tall giant (John Middleton 1578 to 1623) whose story plays a major part in the local history. This tells how his wrestling prowess led to him beating the kings champion but falling into misfortune on the way home.

    A pint of Adnams Bitter was much appreciated and Wells Bombadier was also available. A full size statue of John Middleton appears further on the left hand side of the road. We took the second left turn (Within Way) and followed this from road to track at the edge of the river Mersey.

    The scene becomes very rustic as open fields and views across the Mersey dominate. At the Mersey, we then turned to the right noticing large flocks of birds and fast moving Rabbits. We followed the path to Hale Lighthouse, and walked onto the foreshore for a mooch about. At the lighthouse we then headed in a straight line back towards Hale Village along a well worn path that became a good road after a stile.

    We walked past St Marys Church (where you can see John Middletons grave in the churchyard), to pass the Childe Of Hale and return to the Wellington. Here a fine selection of 4 real ales were presented. There is a popular bar at the front of the pub, but we sat in a smaller drinking area adjacent to the busy restaurant. Two Marstons beers were presented and two guests. I enjoyed a pint of Brakespeare Bitter and an excellent pint of Okells Olaf.

    It had been a very enjoyable day with some fantastic walking and scenery complemented by some excellent real ales. I can only recommend to others not to stick to the town/ city centres but have a look at the more outlying areas as well – you may be pleasantly surprised!

    Out Inn Cheshire article
  • 2014 Cheshire Beer Festival Friday 14 November 2014

    2014 Champion Beer of Cheshire - Milds & Best Bitter first round - blue teamChampion Beer of Cheshire

    Halton CAMRA Branch were well represented in the judging panel of the 2014 Champion Beer of Cheshire at the Cheshire Beer Festival held at Chester Race Course. Gary Sleigh chaired the first round "Bitters and Golden" beers and Kevin Johnson chaired the "Milds and Best Bitters" judging panels.

    Golden BeersThe panels of 3 to 4 people were faced with the "chore" of blind tasting 9-10 beers, each judged (1 to 10) on appearance, aroma, taste and aftertaste, against their "style" classifications. In all there were 39 candidate beers. On the panels chaired by Gary and Kevin, one mild (Gunpowder Mild), one best bitter (Weetwood ) and two golden ales (Red Willow & Pied Bull) were put through to the next round.

    Woodlands Midnight Stout
At the Globe
Alan HasldenKevin was also a member of the finalist panel; Woodland's Midnight Stout was judged to be Champion Beer of Cheshire 2014 with Beartown's Wojtek runner up and Coach House's Gun Powder Mild coming third.

    Halton branch lends a hand

    Gary Sleigh, Alan Haselden and Kevin Johnson assist with dispensing beer on Friday afternoon.The branch was also represented on the Friday by Alan Haselden helping out in any way necessary. Gary also kept himself busy on the cider bar with Linda Linda Harris (Regional Cider rep - Wirral Branch). Kevin worked both days doing various roles, the most enjoyable being helping visitors find beers which matched their preferences.

    From Alan:"Halton branch CAMRA members volunteered their skills, time and effort to help make the inaugural Cheshire Beer Festival held at the Chester's race course on 14-15 November a glowing success. Organised by the Chester and South Clwyd branch in conjunction with other Cheshire branches, over 100 cask ales and some 20 still ciders and perrys were sourced from breweries located as far south as the West Country to as way up north as Orkney as well as some new interesting ones to have emerged from the capital.

    Gary Sleigh and Linda Harris (Regional Cider rep - Wirral Branch)And of course, most Cheshire breweries contributed at least one cask: from Halton there was 4T's 3.7% 'Keep Calm' and Norton's 4% 'Priory Ale'. A broad spectrum of ale types and strengths were available and festival goers were entertained by live music ranging from blues, folk and rock to a Welsh 'a cappella' choir. For the volunteers, it was busy yet rewarding two days yet I'm sure the festival goers had a terrifc time. Let's look forward to a second Cheshire Beer Festival in 2015!"


    The festival had available 102 cask beers, plus cider and European beers. A number of familiar Halton faces were seen on the Friday evening session.

    102 Beers plus cider and European beers

    Paul & Paul Miller & Chris

  • Branch meeting Aug 2014 - Royal Oak Weston Tuesday 19 August 2014

    Royal Oak outside viewResurgence of real ale at the Royal Oak Weston Village

    The branch meet at the Royal Oak on Tuesday 19th August 2014, this being the branch's first meeting here in recent times. The Royal Oak was taken over by Kevin Morris early in 2014; the pub had been dry of real ale for a number of years. He introduced real ale in March 2014, offering brews from Coach House and the 'house' selections from Coors.

    Royal Oak Weston - beer pumps 2014-08-19Five months later (August 2014) the pub is moving three to four firkins a week and converting larger drinkers to the real thing. Coach House's "St George" (£2.70) is very popular with the regulars, particularly the larger converts! Also available this evening was Hook Norton's "Old Hooky" (£2.70). Both were in fine condition.

    Lounge seating areaIn July Kevin provided the outside beer service (3 hand pulls) for the village fete. This is the first time the village fete has had real ale available - three firkins were sold in about eight hours. Such resurgence of real ale in a largely keg landscape is really good news and CAMRA members are urged to support this pub in its endeavours to bring a better product to our local pubs. Please remember to score your beer consumption via the What?ub link on the left.

    Royal Oak Weston - barThe pub consists of a traditional snug with a darts board and large (drop down) TV screen, a lounge connected by a central bar. Second Saturday of the month has live music and last Saturday of the month is karaoke night - all welcome! It does not offer food (at the moment) rather it aims to be a traditional-warm-welcoming "drinking pub". The welcome tonight was most certainly warm from Kevin and the locals alike and the beer was better than that found in some pubs with longer pedigrees of serving real ale. We wish the Royal Oak well!

    Membership

    The branch membership is approaching 200 - there will be a special certificate for the 200th branch member, a gift of some sort from the branch and some form of CAMRA branch publicity. So do encourage new members to join!

  • Beer news from North Wessex Downs - by Alan Haslden Saturday 16 August 2014

    George Inn
Vernham Dean
North Wessex DownsThe North Wessex Downs was graced with brilliant blue skies and endless sunshine and it was across these Downs that three colleagues and I explored 20 miles of the nation's finest countryside and rural ale hostelries. Setting out from Great Bedwyn rail station after 9am, we followed footpaths and by-ways along a southbound bearing via Bedwyn Brail, Oxenwood village and Haydown Hill, reaching Vernham Dean's George Inn by lunchtime.

    Two cocks brewery Cavalier
Flack Manor Double DropA beautiful, homely, traditional establishment with classic thatched roof, it is divided into a bar area, a lounge full horse racing posters and memorabilia, a formal dining area and a less formal dining area. We sat in the latter area and enjoyed our home-cooked meals comprising a whitebait dish, classic battered fish, chips and peas and home-made burger with chips. While the meals were superbly cooked and well-prepared, the portions could have been a touch more generous.

    Most importantly, though, three local ales were on tap: Two Cocks' 3.7% '1643 Cavalier Ale', Flack Manor's 3.8% 'Double Drop' and Hopback's 'Crop Circle'. Two of us chose the easy, golden, gently-hopped Cavalier Ale while the others opted for the Double Drop. Both ales were in great condition, but we thought the nutty, maltier Double Drop had a fuller flavour than the Cavalier Ale. Being affiliated with the Greene King empire, the George also offered the (non-local) 5% 'Abbot' on hand-pump too.

    Swan Inn
Inkpen Village
Bearings were set to the north on departure from the George, and after passing the Berks-Hants-Wilts meeting point (marked by an unassuming muddy pond!), we met up with the way-marked Test Valley Way, which guided us over secluded yet hilly, wooded terrain to Inkpen Hill. At nearly 300m high, this is Berkshire at its loftiest and it presents stunning views of the Lambourn Downs and beyond.

    InkpenFollowing the steep descent to Inkpen village, we made it to the Swan Inn by mid-afternoon, where, aside from one venerable regular, we were the sole customers. Two local ales from Great Shefford's Butts Brewery were on: the 3.5% 'Organic Jester', which possesses a wonderful, slow-build bitterness, and the tawny-coloured, well-rounded 4% 'Traditional'. These we enjoyed whilst hearing entertaining anecdotes from our venerable regular on topics ranging from his beloved Celtic football team to livestock challenges down on the local farm.

    John O 'Gaunt
HungerfordHungerford was an easy trundle from Inkpen through meadows and woodland and we reached the town's John O 'Gaunt by about 6.30pm. The ales sampled this time were Eton and Windsor's pale coloured 3.2% 'Parklife' from East Berkshire, Milk Brewery's fruity 4% 'Funky Monkey' from Wiltshire and the aptly-named 3.9% 'Smoke Bomb', a dark ale from Northumberland's Anarchy Brewery. All agreed that the ales were in excellent condition.

    John O 'Gaunt
Beer Taps
Eton and Windsor's 'Parklife'
Milk Brewery's 'Funky Monkey'To keep us going for our home-bound train journey we ordered light dishes such as bowls of hand-cut chips and a selection of salami and local cheese; one of us even went for a full fish and chips meal, which is served in hefty portions at the John O'Gaunt. The two other ales available were locals from Two Cocks and Hopback, but unluckily for us, Vale's 'Black Swan' - a delicious dark mild from Buckinghamshire - had just emptied. And to compound our heartache, its successor, the deeply luxurious 'Kitty Wilkinson's Chocolate and Vanilla Stout' from Merseyside's Liverpool Organic brewery, couldn't be served soon enough despite the staff's best efforts. Alas we had a train to catch!

    Overall it was memorable and rewarding day out and all aforementioned ales and pubs are highly recommended.

  • Beer news from Lymm and Warrington - by Alan Haselden Saturday 26 July 2014

    The Saturday morning of 26 July saw brilliant blue skies and intense sunshine over North Cheshire, where my sister, niece and brother-in-law trundled a leisurely nine miles from Walton Gardens to Lymm village following part of way-marked "Mersey Valley Way". The gentle route threaded the Bridgewater Canal towpath, open fields, shady woodland and the fringes of residential areas (even passing underneath the roaring M6 at one point).

    It was too early to call at the Walton Arms and Grappenhall's Ram's Head and Parr Arms, but we did make it to Lymm's newest pub Lymm Brewery Tap by lunchtime. The Tap serves mainly beverages yet customers are encouraged to purchase ware from neighbouring Nancy's Delicatessen. The clientele we saw comprised a mixed set of locals, visitors and longboat travellers with boats moored in the nearby Bridgewater canal.

    Lymm Brewing
Lymm Tap
Ales
2014-07-26The open-plan, dog-friendly pub is smart and comprises two areas: a front area where customers can recline on sofas besides coffee tables and a higher capacity rear area with the usual tables and chairs set-up. Half pints of Lymm's 3.8 % Bitter, the 4.5% Heritage Trail Ale, and the 4% Bridgewater Blonde - all light, admirable, easy-going ales served in good condition - went down well with our deli lunch of home-made hot pies and baguettes. The unusual option I chose, a vegetarian pie made with beetroot, White Cheshire and apricot, was surprisingly more mild and savoury than I expected but it was delicious and moreish, nonetheless.

    Moreover, my sister and I, who prefer the darker ales, were chuffed to bits to have finally experienced a pint each of Dunham Massey's award-winning 5.2% Porter, which is a wonderfully robust malty porter with a delicate smokiness. Other Dunham Massey ales were available and they were the 3.6% Dunham Dark, the 6% East India Pale Ale and a seasonal ale as well as a couple of non-local still ciders.

    Lower Angle
Warrington
2014-07-26The local half-hourly No.5 bus returned us to Warrington bus station for onward connection home, but our ale tour didn't end there: we couldn't resist a call to Warrington's Lower Angel, who were serving seven cask ales on our visit, mostly northern ones, including three Tipsy Angel ales brewed on the premises. Aidan the brewer was around and he kindly showed me the Tipsy Angel brewing facility in the back room, where a batch of the 3.6% Mild Angel was underway. He also revealed an historical document detailing a 1930s Walkers Brewery recipe that has influenced the recipe for the Tipsy's Mild Angel, an ale that is firmly in my top ten list.

    Back at the bar, I enjoyed a pint of the Mild Angel while the others enjoyed the classic Tetley Bitter (3.7%); Mallinson's 'Galaxy Columbus' (4.4%) - a steeply hopped ale with pineapple notes - and Wilson Potter's rather sweet speciality ale 'Rum in the Black' (4.2%), before boarding the Arriva X30 bus back home. Overall, it was a terrific day out for all. While country walking might not be for every ale enthusiast, I do implore that they make full use of the No. 5 bus and visit these two leading brewery taps and make a day of it!

  • Beer news from Halton - by Alan Haselden Sunday 6 July 2014

    Red Lion Moore
2014-07-06On the Sunday afternoon of 6 July 2014, my brother-in-law and I completed a nine mile rural pub ramble along the eastern fringes of Halton Borough beginning and ending at Runcorn East rail station. Heading north along the Bridgewater Canal towpath and passing Daresbury laboratory's iconic white tower, we reached Moore's Red Lion in under an hour. Smartly coordinated, traditional-looking and replete with ornaments, paintings and old movie posters, it is a food-led establishment comprising several areas - one including a pool table - and it is committed to serving serve at least two cask ales. Well's 'Bombardier' (4.1%) and Theakston's 'Black Bull Bitter' (3.9%) were available on our visit and we each chose the latter, which was on good form.

    Onward up Hobb Lane (and straying briefly into Warrington Borough), we crossed the A56 and connected with footpaths traversing the rolling fields to the back of Daresbury's All Saints church, famous for its stained glass windows depicting Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland characters.

    Across the road from All Saints church is the Cask Marque-accredited Ring O'Bells, which has undergone tremendous improvement for the better since new managment took control last year. Mainly a restaurant, there is a bar area as well as exterior seating out front and back should the weather be fair. Moreover, it maintains five local cask ales at all times, which I have always found in excellent condition and thus statistically it is Halton's leading "LocAle" hostelry. Weetwood's 'Mad Hatter' (3.9%) and Frodsham's 'Devil's Garden' (3.9%), 'Buzzin' (4.3%), 'Danny' (4%) and 'Flaxen Jade' (3.7%) graced us on our visit and my brother went for the malty yet sweet, flowery 'Mad Hatter' and I chose the deep red ale, malty 'Devil's Garden', which has hints of forest fruit. Both were absolutely delicious and on top form. Staff were friendly and hospitable and while the ale prices might be a little steep for this region, the Ring O'Bells certainly deserves support from ale enthusiasts both local and afar.

    Heading south from Daresbury, the way-marked 'Lewis Carroll Walk' trail guided us through Daresbury Delph (offering marvellous views towards Frodsham Hill and Helsby Crag), Newtonbank Farm and the M56 pedestrian subway towards Preston-on-the-Hill village, from where we continued along a quiet lane and footpath to the Trent and Mersey Canal, which leads straight to Dutton's Tunnel Top. The change of landlord earlier this year has lead to a refurbishment that has created a more spacious and open feel, perhaps less cosy.

    Big Shed's 'Sentinel' (3.8%) rather thinly-flavoured, amber-coloured, which, judging from the cloudy appearance, looked like it was an unfined ale.
2014-07-06Most importantly, Tunnel Top continues to serve up to three cask ales in addition to low-priced, home-cooked meals. Weetwood's 'Best Bitter' selling at a frugal £2.15 per pint had just emptied upon our arrival; the remaining ales were Salopian's 'Oracle' (4%) and Big Shed's 'Sentinel' (3.8%). The 'Salopian' is a golden, hoppy ale and each of us agreed it had the edge over the rather thinly-flavoured, amber-coloured 'Sentinel', which, judging from the cloudy appearance, looked like it was an unfined ale.

    Overall, it was a fine, sunny, summer's day out for the both of us and we chatted with some affable locals along the way. Upon reflection, when considering these three cask ale pubs on Halton's rustic edges alongside the many others in urbanised Runcorn, Weston, Widnes and Hale, it's a plausible assertion that this modestly-sized borough that occupies barely more than 3% of the county's area, punches well above its weight for broad-ranging quality, cask ale outlets. Furthermore, four of Halton's pubs are listed in CAMRA's 2014 Good Beer Guide, so do give Halton a visit!

  • Beer news from Kelsall, Willington and Chester - by Alan Haselden Saturday 21 June 2014

    Farmers Arms
Kelsall
Swing SignOn the summer solstice, my sister, niece, brother-in-law and I set off mid-morning on an 18-mile hike from Frodsham rail station to Chester rail station via part of the way-marked Sandstone Trail, Kelsall, Tarvin and most of the way-marked Baker Way. Inevitably we visited several of the county's finest cask ale pubs.

    Weetwood Old Dog
Farmers Arms
Kelsall
2014 - 06 - 21The first, unfortunately brief, port of call was Kelsall's Farmer's Arms, where we stopped for a half-pint round of Weetwood's 4.5% 'Old Dog', a classic bitter in prime form. 'Best Bitter' (3.8%) and 'Cheshire Cat' (4%). There were other Weetwoods available in addition to a non-local guest ale with a World Cup themed name. Clean, smart, traditional yet open plan, there are three areas - one for dining, another for lounging and smaller area for playing pool.

    Old Boot, Wheel and Hops
Old Boot Inn
Willington
2014 - 06 - 21Continuing with the hike up the lane and along a narrow, descending footpath track - presenting terrific views of Cheshire's sandstone ridge as it snakes to the south with the Welsh hills in the distance to the west - we reached Willington's Boot Inn, where a longer stop was planned for lunch.

    Beer Board
Old Boot Inn
Willington
2014 - 06 - 21Four Weetwood ales were served here: 'Old Dog', 'Best Bitter', 'Cheshire Cat' alongside the rare 'Oasthouse Gold' (5%). On the culinary front, the meals ordered were Steak pie (pastry crust only), peas and chips; Teriyaki salmon fillet with potatoes and asparagus and a spiced chicken dish served with couscous and mixed vegetables. The food was of excellent quality, made with fresh ingredients and tasted heavenly. The only contention was the salmon dish's meagre portion size, which, upon polite request, was supplemented, by generous service staff at no extra charge, with an additional bowl of potatoes. Most importantly, the 'Oasthouse Gold', 'Best Bitter' and 'Old Dog' ales here were faultless.

    Old Harkers Arms
ChesterProceeding west towards Chester, we joined the easy-going Baker Way at Tarvin passing Oscroft village beforehand (home of the Weetwood Brewery) and ambled along footpaths over fields and quiet country lanes. The final three miles followed the Shropshire Union Canal towpath and we reached Chester city by 6pm, The Old Harker's Arms in particular.

    Spitting Feathers
Dark Velvet Mild
The Old Harkers
Chester
2014 - 06 - 21
Some of us enjoyed a sneaky, swift half pint of Spitting Feathers' 4% 'Dark Velvet' - a moreish sweet black mild - at the Harkers while waiting for stragglers. Incidently, the pub was serving eight cask ales including another local one from Congleton's Beartown as well as their own Brunning and Price pub company bitter.

    Spitting Feathers
The Brewery Tap
Chester
2014 - 06 - 21Up and onward along the city wall, passing the Cathedral and the Eastgate clock, we eventually arrived at our final destination - The Brewery Tap. Given the glorious evening summer sun rays shining through its arched windows and illuminating the lofty, mediaeval interior of this former Jacobean Hall, it was surprising the Tap wasn't heaving with customers as it usually can be. But to our advantage we got prompt service.

    The Brew Tap
Chester
2014 - 06 - 21The Tap had seven cask ales and a perry on sale and I tried Cheshire Brew Brother's 3.8% bitter 'Tawny'. This was found to be rather light weight on flavour (compared with, say, its Weetwood equivalent) yet admirable and worth re-trying in future. I was greatly impressed with the Stourbridge-brewed 6% 'Portland Pale' from Green Duck brewery, whose deep, drawn-out bitterness harmonised wonderfully with robust hoppy, citrus overtones. Others were delighted with Mr. Whitehead's 5% 'Midnight Special Perry', Spitting Feathers' flagship 3.9% 'Thirstquencher' and Titanic's fruity 4.9% 'Plum Porter'.

    Given that by 7.30pm, it had been a long, active and varied day for us on this longest day, it was time to head for the rail station for home. In all, we were blessed with fine, dry weather and some memorable pub experiences. Life doesn't get better!

  • Beer news from Berkshire - by Alan Haselden Saturday 22 March 2014

    The Bell - AldworthOn the sunny, breezy Saturday of 22 March four work colleagues and I completed an 18-mile hike from Cholsey (Oxfordshire since 1974) rail station to the rail station at Woolhampton (Berkshire) via the elevated North Downs Ridgeway and the gently undulating woodlands and meadows of West Berkshire. Starting just after 9am, we reached one of my all-time favourite pubs by late morning: Aldworth's The Bell. This is a key community focal point that always welcomes strangers and less-frequent visitors alike. While there's scant reference to the modern age inside it always serves five fantastic cask ales as well as no-thrills filled bread rolls, soups and ploughman's in a warm, friendly setting.

    Maggs Magnificent Mild - Beer matWe enjoyed broccoli soup with rolls or weighty cheddar slabs in rolls to compliment a fine round of West Berkshire Brewery's 3.8% 'Maggs Magnificent Mild', which is in my top 10 for its roundedness, light hopping and the lingering charred, roasted flavour. This ale is a fixture at The Bell all year round and it is rare for a rural southern pub to commit to a black mild. The other ales comprised two from Wiltshire's Arkells, one from Oxfordshire's Loose Cannon and another from West Berkshire Brewery, to be revealed later.

    Royal Oak - YattendonFollowing the best part of two hours on foot we arrived at Yattendon's Royal Oak to order a round of West Berkshire Brewery's 3.7% thirst-quenching, easy-going, 'Mr. Chubbs Lunchtime Bitter' to accompany several bowls of chunky wedge chips. Mainly a gastro pub-restaurant with formal service, the Royal Oak does maintain a bar area for the locals and visitors who just want a pint and chat. Two other ales were served and they were from Hampshire's Oakleaf Brewery and the West Berkshire Brewery. About 10 minutes south of Yattendon is the West Berkshire Brewery itself and we did call in and some us of picked up the odd bottle of the brewery's 4.9% 'Tamesis Extra Stout'.

    After the brewery, it was through woodlands and onto the village of Stanford Dingley for a call at The Old Boot Inn. Two terrific 4% bitters were on hand pump here: Upham's 'Punter' from Hampshire and the most well-known ale from West Berkshire, the venerable 'Good Old Boy', which was also the unnamed West Berkshire ale available at the two previous pubs! And so it was 'Good Old Boys' all round and on top form it was. Furthermore, it was great to chat to Old Boot's owner John Haley, who remembered us from a jaunt last year and showed interest in our hike and our appreciation of local ales.

    Nags Head - Reading - BeerThe remainder of the hike in the late afternoon sunshine took us to the rail station in Woolhampton where we boarded a train to Reading West for a visit to the city's flagship ale pub Nag's Head, which always serves 12 cask ales of all types from all over. By early evening the place was heaving with customers yet we still managed to squeeze in and order hot pies and a round of pints. I was chuffed to have perfectly matched my beef and stilton pie with a pint of one of Cheshire's finest - Blakemere's 4% 'Black Mamba Mild', which is a subtle, velvety mild with delicate hints of dark chocolate. Others in the team enjoyed a pint of this too as well as Hammerpot's 3.7% 'Copper Bitter' from Sussex and Titanic's 4.9% fruity 'Plum Porter' from Staffordshire.

    After the Nag's we parted for home. Overall, it was faultless day out: great pubs, great locals, and, moreover, delicous ales from both south and north on top form!

    Best regards, Alan.

  • Brewdog Pub Liverpool Monday 17 March 2014

    Hot off the press I found out yesterday that Brewdog have been granted a licence to open up a pub in Back Collquitt Street, Liverpool.

    They had a 4am music licence declined but open to midnight,

    The licence application got passed by the "skin of their teeth" with slight amedments and agreements unlike what was originally reported 2 weeks ago in The Echo. And they are to serve 1/3rd of a pint on the strong ones

    See Brewdog gets planning approval.

    Gary Sleigh
    Halton CAMRA Branch Secretary

  • Darnhall beer festival - by Alan Haselden Saturday 8 March 2014

    Little Man Wettenhall pub signLittle Man Wettenhall insideA four-strong team comprising my sister, her family and I hiked eight miles from Winsford rail station following the Shropshire Union Canal, a bit of the River Weaver (just south of Top Flash), Paradise Lane and Wettenhall with the goal of visiting Darnhall village hall's first beer festival held on Saturday 8 March 2014.

    We arrived in Wettenhall around 1PM in time for a hearty lunch of home-made steak and kidney casserole with chips or chicken burger bap and chips, courtesy of The Little Man. Six ales were available yet we opted for pints of local brewery Mobberley's 'Roadrunner' a 3.8% pale, gently hopped ale served directly from the cask and the tawny, malty 'Double Dragon' 4.2% bitter from Welsh brewer Felinfoel, each in excellent condition.

    Other ales on tap were 'Special' and 'Bitter' from Youngs, Otter's 'Amber' and Old Mill's 'Traditional Bitter'. The Little Man is an overlooked gem that consistently maintains six changing ales both local and national andLittle man Wettenall menu - March 2014 always serves a selection of terrific lunchtime meals in weighty portions for under a fiver.

    Wettenhall's other ale pub The Boot and Slipper is a good source for Weetwood's ales, I believe, but sadly we had to pass this one by and press on with the hike to the beer festival at nearby Darnhall, which proudly boasts being the geographic centre of Cheshire County since 1974.

    Darnhall village hallTo raise funds for the village hall's renovation, the festival organisers made sure there were seven hand-pump ales and two still ciders, in addition to soft beverages and toasted sandwiches, ready from the word go. A fair number of customers had turned up despite the early hours and, for a languid two hours, we chatted to friendly locals and slowly enjoyed a succession of different half pints whilst the lazy afternoon sunshine beamed through the hall's large windows.

    Conwy 'Clogwyn Gold' (3.6%), Brimstage 'Trapper's Hat' (3.8%), Hornbeam's 'Black Coral Stout' (4.5%) and Sam's 'Medium Cider' (6%) were my selections and I attest that each was in prime condition. The stout topped it for me but credit is due to the cider - a deliciously dry example and deceptively subtle by way of strength concealment.Darnhall Beer festival 2014 - cider

    Darnhall Beer Festival 2014 - BeersOthers in the team got to sample Keltek's 'Lance' (4%), Dr. Morton's 'Reality Filler' (4%), Tatton's 'Best' (4.2%) and Sheppys 'Farmhouse Cider' (6%) and none of us got round to the seventh ale, which was J W Lees's 'MPA' (3.7%). In all, we enjoyed our visit so much that we forsook the long stroll back to Winsford station and shared a taxi ride instead!

    Best regards, Alan.

  • Beer news from Wiltshire and Berkshire - by Alan Haselden Saturday 22 February 2014

    Photograph by Alan Haselden
Crown Pub Albourne, Wilts
22nd Feb 2014Saturday 22 February saw five colleagues and I complete an 18-mile cross-country hike connecting Bedwyn and Hungerford rail stations via the picturesque village of Aldbourne. Starting out after 9AM we headed northbound following quiet lanes, footpaths and by-ways over the expansive rolling downs of northeast Wiltshire reaching Albourne's Crown at 12.30PM.

    Photograph by Alan Haselden
Beers at Crown Pub Albourne, Wilts
22nd Feb 2014Three terrific local ales from Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and the two big-name fixtures of Spitfire and Doombar awaited us. An extensive menu and specials list of home-cooked, inexpensive meals spoiled us yet each went for The Crown's proper "ceiling, floor, walls" pie of the day, this time slow-cooked, tender steak with stilton, and served with boiled potatoes, beef gravy and butter-drenched mixed vegetables.

    A couple of colleagues and I enjoyed our lunch with West Berkshire's 4.1% 'Fustilugs', a limited-run malty brown ale with delicate hints of treacle, while the others opted for Ramsbury's vibrant, summery 4.5% 'Gold'. The culinary experience was so marvellous that our normally garrulous group was stunned into silence as we eagerly tucked into our meals.

    Furthermore, the low ceilings, log fires and traditional furnishings certify the Crown a mandatory destination for pub enthusiasts of all stripes - Dr. Who fans included; a Jon Pertwee episode was filmed in the village some 40 years ago.

    Photograph by Alan Haselden
Bell Hotel Ramsbury
22nd Feb 2014Photograph by Alan Haselden
Beers at Bell Hotel Ramsbury
22nd Feb 2014Pressing on with the walk southbound, we reached Ramsbury's smart, spartan Bell Hotel by mid-afternoon for a round of ales from the Ramsbury Brewery. 'Gold', the 3.6% 'Bitter' and 4.3% 'That Old Chestnut' were sampled, the 'Bitter' being my favourite for its rare smoked, sour flavour suggesting, in my opinion, worn leather! Another colleague suggested traces of elderflower in there too. Nonetheless, all ales were in terrific form.

    Photograph by Alan Haselden
John O'Guant Inn Hungerford
22nd Feb 2014Photograph by Alan Haselden
Beers at John O'Guant Inn Hungerford
22nd Feb 2014The remainder of the hike continued eastwards toward Hungerford along the south bank of the swollen River Kennet, taking in the historic foundation remains of a Roman Villa on the Littlecote Hall estate. We made it to Hungerford's leading pub, the John O'Guant Inn, by 5PM. Owing to recent refurbishment, this is another tidy and spartan establishment and some have argued that it's lost some its former character. From the six cask ales, Siren's 6.5% 'Broken Dream Breakfast Stout' was dry and robust and thoroughly satisfying; colleagues expressed similar satisfaction with Rambury's 4.4% 'Grand Slam', Milk Brewery's 4% 'Funky Monkey' and Two Cock's 3.8% '1643 Cavalier Golden Ale'.

    Photograph by Alan Haselden
Nag's Head Reading
22nd Feb 2014Photograph by Alan Haselden
Beer & Pies at Nag's Head Reading
22nd Feb 2014Most of us parted company for home after Hungerford rail station, but my colleague Nick and I, each requiring a change at Reading, called in at the city's famous Nag's Head, where 12 cask ales of every type and up to 14 still ciders are always served. Mainly a drinkers' pub, the Nag's Head don't serve meals as such, except for John Thorner's proper pies (and a Sundays-only carvery).

    Nick and I opted for a chicken and mushroom pie each to go with our pints of Tillingbourne's 4.8% 'Hop Troll IPA' and Bingham's 5% 'Bricks and Mortar Porter', which served as a magnificent finishing touch to a rewarding and memorable day out.

    Hope to see you somewhere soon,
    Best regards, Alan.

  • CAMRA pub of 2013 visit - by Alan Haselden Friday 14 February 2014

    I visited CAMRA's UK pub of 2013 last Saturday: Rochdale's Baum, tucked away on the edge of the shopping precinct. First impression: open-plan-like with partial divisions; four areas, one being the stand-only bar area, the others being seated with tables.

    The fairly low light levels and absence of TV and games machines is great in my opinion. It's a pub for quiet conversation. Walls are covered with antique advertising posters and signage (paint on tin) such as Colman's Starch, Havana cigars and Drink Vimto.

    There's even a classic Singer sewing machine on display. Thus they've chosen the atmosphere to reflect something of the mid-20th century or slightly earlier.

    Food menu looks good: most main meals were £10 and under. I had red pepper and coriander soup with a whole baguette. It was generous portion and cost about £4.

    The ale selection comprised seven casks (four local) and a still cider. I tried four half pints each of Irwell Works Brewery's 'Steam Plate Best Bitter', Pictish Brewing Company's 'Claymore', Hornbeam's 'Winter IPA' and a Black IPA under the name 'Revisionist' from the Marston's empire. With the exception of the below average Claymore, the ales I tried were just about good though NOT deserving a score above three in my opinion.

    The staff were helpful and locals were easy and approachable. The CAMRA award is understandable because it looks like a lot of thought and work has been put in and it does tick many boxes regarding what characterises an all-round good pub.

    In summary then, Rochdale's Baum is worth a visit _IF_ you happen to be in that town. However, if you are in the Manchester city centre then it's much better to remain there and visit the superior Marble Arch or The Knott, which serve a better range of ales and have better interiors.

    Regards, Alan Haselden.

  • Branch Meeting Feb 2014 - GBG 2015 selection Tuesday 11 February 2014

    At the Feb 2014 Branch meeting Halton determined it's selection of pubs to go into CAMRA's 2015 Good Beer Guide (GBG). That choice will remain secret until the guide is published in September 2014.

    Unlike any other pub or beer guide (and there are lots of them) a publican cannot (does not need to) pay a fee to be included in CAMRA's GBG. Inclusion in the guide is solely down to merit determined by CAMRA's grass-roots membership - you the beer drinkers!

    Sadly (due to CAMRA procedural rules) some of our existing entries in GBG 2014 cannot be considered for 2015. If you think that your local serves consistently good real ale and should really be a candidate for inclusion in the guide, then please take a look at the GBG selection page, because if not enough Beer Scoring is being done by CAMRA members then sadly your local is not going to stand a chance of being selected.

    The GBG selection page provides more information about the selection process and how you can contribute to the 2016 selections.

  • Branch Meeting Dec 2013 Tuesday 10 December 2013

    Branch meeting attendees 10th Dec 2014 at Norton Arms, RuncornA great time was had by the six attending members at the branch meeting held at the Norton Arms, Runcorn on 10th Dec 2014. LocAle beer from Frodsham and Norton Brewing were available along side two national brews. The landlady was most welcoming and provided mince pies to nibble on.

    The meeting determined the 2014 calendar for the branch (see Branch Diary) and awarded the Tunnel Top with the accolade of Branch Pub of the Year 2013.

  • Big Berkshire Ale Hike - by Alan Haselden Saturday 30 November 2013

    Olde Bell HurleyOn the last Saturday of November, a team of four work colleagues and I completed another of our "Big Berkshire Ale Hikes". This time it was a 15-mile route connecting Wargrave and Cookham rail stations via meadows, quiet woods and river paths. Setting off from Wargrave at 9am we ascended the tree-covered gentle slopes of Bowsey Hill and Ashley Hill in golden Autumn splendour before heading down the Thames Valley to Hurley village. At 11.30am we found Hurey's Rising Sun closed, but neighbouring historic Ye Olde Bell Hotel warmly welcomed us into the bar lounge and serve us a terrific round of Rebellion's 'IPA', which was on good form and a great starter to what was to come.

    The Ship MarlowOnward along the Thames path, an excursion into Buckinghamshire took us onto Marlow's The Ship, which is a friendly, convivial locals' pub equipped with TV screens beaming sports channels. For lunch we ordered delicious home-cooked pizzas and enjoyed a couple of rounds of Rebellion's 'Smuggler' and 'Roasted Nuts', each on terrific form; the latter having the edge for me for being fairly low in hop content yet stronger on the malt flavours.

    A fair jaunt followed once we crossed Marlow's famous bridge back into Royal Berkshire: Quarry Hill and Winter Hill north of Cookham Dean, and then a hillside descent to the Thames Path, eventually reaching The Bounty, a pub listed in CAMRA's current Good Pub Guide.

    Bounty CookhamIt's a hospitable idiosyncratic and perhaps non-traditional pub whose walls are replete with hodgepodge memorabilia, humorous nick-knacks and various flags of the world. It welcomes dog-owners and there were many in there, each with their well-behaved pets. Most importantly we ordered a round of Rebellion's 'Mutiny', which was refreshing and well-earned. The other ales served at The Bounty were Rebellion's 'Smuggler' and a guest ale. After the Bounty, it was a short walk in the twilight dusk to Cookham station for the onward rail journey home. Overall, we got to explore some fine countryside in East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire and were privileged to have experienced several different ales from the admirable Marlow brewery in good form in three different cask ale pubs.

  • Regional meeting Oct 2013 - the Tunnel Top - by Alan Haselden Saturday 26 October 2013

    Tunnel Top Bar & Restaurant
Northwich Road
Dutton
Cheshire
WA4 4JY

    Though not a large turn out, a great day was had by those who were there. Alan Haselden wrote the following of the day for OIC December 2013 - Halton.

    Dutton's Tunnel Top excelled beyond duty's call in late October as host to the Merseyside and Cheshire CAMRA regional meeting, which was attended by the various branches' members and leaders.

    In addition to the regular agenda items were two CAMRA-endorsed guest speakers: one keenly urged a stepping up CAMRA's promotion and outreach activities with a particular emphasis on the under-30's and the other detailed the challenges and benefits of the "Asset of Community Value" registration scheme that aims to grant pubs and communities the opportunity of saving establishments from self-serving developers.

    Furthermore, Tunnel Top's landlord Kevin introduced delegates to the new QR-code scanning technology (see QR codes at the bottom of the Beer Scoring page) that allows speedy, immediate submission of beer scores to the national beer-scoring site via suitably-equipped mobile telephones and local MP Graham Evans dropped by despite a busy schedule to re-iterate his commitment to real ale, responsible drinking and the vital role of pubs in the community.

    Selection of the excellent beers served at the Tunnel Top on the occasion of the Oct 2013 Regional Meeting hosted by Halton CAMRA Branch.

L to R - Spitting Feathers Thirstquenched 3.9% - Woodlands Mild 3.5% - Woodlands Old Faithful.During the break, the Tunnel Top's chef treated all to a delicious complimentary lunch, which was chilli con carne or chicken curry.

    And perhaps most importantly, the Tunnel Top graced us with a heavenly selection of Cheshire ales on top form: Woodlands' superlative dry, roasted 'Midnight Stout' (4.4%), Woodlands' malty session bitter 'Old Faithful' (3.6%) and Spitting Feathers' 'Special Ale' (4.2%).

    In fact, the demand on the Midnight Stout was so high that it finished rapidly and was prompty succeeded by a reserve ale, which was Woodland's rich, creamy, traditional 'Mild' (3.5%). Likewise, Spitting Feathers' 'Thirstquencher' (3.9%) succeeded 'Special Ale'!

    Overall it was a productive and informative afternoon and I'm sure everyone enjoyed the hospitality, meals and drinks served by the Tunnel Top staff.