Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Good, The Bad And The Commended – 3


And at last the Crewe Beer Blog survey arrives at the town’s best pubs, counting down from fifth best to the winner, or in this case, winners. As with the pubs at the other end of the scale, there is one gap in the line-up, thanks to Punch Taverns (long may they rot in hell) imposing closure on one of the best locals’ venues. But enough of mocking the afflicted – on with the countdown.

All of these pubs offer cask ale: some offer several choices. And all try that little bit harder.

5 Nag’s Head This tiny street corner pub just north of the town centre has retained its separate tap room – the temptation to knock through to make more space must have been very strong over the years – and has one regular cask beer with a rotating list of guests for backup. There is acoustic music in the lounge from Wednesdays most weeks. It can be a squeeze when busy, but it’s worth a visit.

4 Hop Pole Interesting room layout, smartly presented, an island bar, three regularly changing cask beers, good service, happy regulars, and a covered terrace for smokers. Welcoming to everyone, and much improved under the current management. No wonder it’s doing well.

3 British Lion Well, if it were open, it would be. A traditional locals’ pub on Nantwich Road, it had been run down of late and had closed once when I visited. Having not been reopened for long, it was already proving popular and a real effort was being put in by the new manager. And then it closed again, and Punch are trying to sell it for a Very Silly Price Indeed. This kind of PubCo behaviour makes me bloody angry. It should annoy you too.

1= Borough Arms Sorry, I couldn’t make one of the last two entries second and just one first. So it’s an equal top. The Borough puts a staggering nine cask beers on, as well as lots of continental stuff. Some concession to nitro-keg is made: you can get Guinness and “smooth” bitter. They brew their own on the premises, although the availability is a little hit and miss.

1= Hops This “Belgian Style Cafe Bar” offers five different cask ales, one of which is brewed especially for them. A range of keg and bottled continental beers are also offered, and the only concession to ad-mans’ land is Becks Vier, which adheres to German beer purity laws. No nitro-keg stout or “smooth” bitter here. It’s friendly and different.

And that’s the end of our survey. But there will be more from the blog later.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Good, The Bad And The Commended – 2

So now we come to the most difficult choice – not to make, but to publish. Because the time has come to reluctantly say which are, in my opinion, Crewe’s worst pubs. There are five names, and they appear in order of awfulness, ending with the pub which I reckon takes the wooden spoon as the grimmest in the town. It goes without saying that none of these offers its customers a cask beer choice.

5 Bridge Inn Despite advertising cask ales not once but twice, the Bridge does not actually offer them, and looks like it hasn’t done for a while. The locals ranged from indifferent to hostile, the service was provided only grudgingly, and the whole place was tatty at the edges. Not impressed.

4 Rockwood This pub has since closed, but that is nothing to crow about: nobody wants to see these places go to the wall, especially given the town has lost far too many of them already. But the wave of hate coming from the locals set the tone for a less than welcoming interlude. At least the barmaid smiled, but the place seemed dark and doomed. And so it was. A pity.

3 Cumberland Arms No cask beer, and they’d run out of two other offers when I looked in on the night the Alex won their play-off semi-final. While other pubs did a roaring trade that evening, there were less than ten punters here. At least the Guinness was OK.

2 Victoria Almost deserted midweek, a barman who appeared and served me a pint of Guinness and then piled off, and the discovery that the beer was off. Badly. With the Gaffers Row (Wetherspoons) just a couple of minutes’ walk away, this place is on a hiding to nothing – unless it raises its game.

1 Raven They’d run out of bitter completely, the handpumps hadn’t seen service in months, if not years, and the Guinness was the most appallingly rank bad pint I had in all the pub visits made. And it was 50p more than at the Cumberland Arms. Anyone on the Brookhouse estate who wants a decent pub and a decent pint goes to Ye Olde Manor. As I did straight afterwards.

Those three worst pubs are all under the control of the all-pervasive PubCos. As Beckermann’s widow tells Charlie Croker in The Italian Job, it wasn’t an accident.