The top 16 pubs in the country have been announced by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) following a year of rigorous judging in its National Pub of the Year competition.
Covering the entire UK, the regional finalists battled it out with thousands of pubs across the country to be crowned the winner in their area.
The cream of the crop will now go forward to the grand final for the National Pub of the Year 2023 crown – the highest accolade afforded to British pubs. The final four will be announced in October, before the overall winner is announced early 2024.
Pubs in the competition are scored on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, inclusivity, overall impression, but most importantly – the quality of live beer, real cider and perry. Last year’s winner was the Tamworth Tap, Staffordshire which has once again reached the final 16.
In the wake of the demolition of the Crooked House, CAMRA recently declared the issue of unlawful conversion and demolition of pubs in England a ‘nationwide scandal’. In 2017 planning law was changed so that pubs in England could not be converted or demolished without planning permission, but shocking figures published by CAMRA last week show that over 30 pubs may have been demolished or converted without planning permission in the last six months. The recognition and celebration of top-quality pubs has never been more important in the fight to ensure that locals across the country are thriving and kept safe from demolitions such as these.
Andrea Briers, National Coordinator for the Pub of the Year competition says: “I am delighted to announce this year’s final 16 pubs. I would like to congratulate each and every one of them for their hard work against a difficult backdrop for the trade with increasing energy costs, business rates and the cost-of-living crisis impacting on people visiting pubs.
“It is testament to the winners that they are facing these challenges head on and they are a shining example to what can be done. I would also like to thank their loyal customers who continue to support them in these difficult times.
“There are thousands of amazing pubs across the country and I would encourage everyone to visit their local and seek out others where they live. Not only will that support local businesses, but pubs play a vital part in communities which we want to both protect, promote and see them thrive.”
The top 16 regional winners
Butchers Arms, Balscote
Hook Norton beers and a monthly guest are served straight from the cask behind the bar in this cosy parlour pub. Owned by the brewery since 1878, the building was once an abattoir and still has an icehouse in the garden. A roaring fire in winter and a lovely beer garden make this an all-year destination. Open all day at weekends and from late afternoon Monday-Friday.
Cosy and friendly community pub, not far from the city centre in the popular Springfield Road area. Three rooms offer a welcoming atmosphere in which to enjoy a selection of regularly changing casks ales. The pub hosts mini beer festivals, tap takeovers and regular charity events. There is a suntrap garden and the pub is dog friendly.
Horse & Jockey, Stapleford
Known locally as ‘The Jockey,’ this welcoming free house offers a choice of 13 real ales, including at least one mild or stout/porter, five of which are LocAle. A split-level pub with the main bar area featuring sofas and high tables and warmed by a wood burner, the upper seated area has tables and perimeter seating, a fish tank and sports TV. large gathering. The pub is dog friendly, with water and doggy treats being provided. Photographs of local landmarks and Stapleford from previous eras decorate, along with whisky water jugs hanging from the ceiling, a yard of ale (if you wish to attempt it) and many CAMRA publications and publicity material. Occasional brewery showcases highlight a range from a LocAle brewery along the bar while occasional beer festivals offer an extended range from temporary stillaging.
Owned by its customers and totally free of tie, this community pub is ‘by beer enthusiasts for beer enthusiasts’. Two regular ales and five rapidly changing guest ales are supplemented by craft keg beers. There is a piano in the conservatory room but no fruit machines, TV or music. The pub has several times been either CAMRA’s Greater London Pub of the Year or the runner-up.
Fox & Pine, Oldham
A new and very valuable addition to the previously sparse Real Ale scene in Oldham Town Centre, the Fox and Pine is a real ale lovers delight. 10 hand pumps serving varied beer styles (there will always be at least one dark beer on) plus 6 Real Ciders. The pub also features 5 ABK fonts for those who like traditional Bavarian Beer. The Bar is downstairs with an open seating area, whilst upstairs are two linked rooms. It is all decorated with a Fox and Pine theme (The name referring to the origins of the owners from Leicester and Oldham).
Nelson Arms, Tonbridge
Situated in a quiet residential area within easy walking distance of the railway station and High Street. A range of six to eight beers across a range of styles representing national and local independent breweries is usually served. Up to 15 real ciders are also available along with craft keg beers.
Merseyside – Cheshire
Turks Head, St Helens
Attractive Tudor-style 1870s pub near the town centre. Real ales and real ciders are on 14 hand pulls, and there is a large whisky and gin selection. The upstairs Tower Lounge serves cocktails plus craft and continental beers and hosts live music on Saturday evening. There is a large beer garden to the side and rear with an outside bar and wood-fired pizza oven.
Grey Horse, Consett
Traditional pub dating back to 1848, the oldest in Consett. The interior comprises a lounge and L-shaped bar, with a wood-beamed ceiling. Open log fires are welcoming in winter. Consett Ale Works Brewery is at the rear. Beer festivals are held twice a year, a quiz each Wednesday and open mic on Sunday. The Coast-to-Coast cycle route is close by. A repeat local CAMRA Town Pub of the Year, including in 2022.
Scotland & Northern Ireland
Hillend Tavern, Dalgety Bay, Fife
A community-focused village pub near Dalgety Bay, with cosy coal fires, a beer garden and real ales all adding to the friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The Tav, as it is known, has a traditional bar and a spacious area at the rear that is ideal for larger groups or functions and also hosts many village events
Halfway House, Pitney, Somerset
An outstanding hostelry serving eight to 10 regional ales on gravity alongside many bottled beers and four real ciders. The inside is traditional with flagstone flooring, old solid wooden tables and benches, and three real fires. This rustic but busy pub deserves its many accolades and has been in this Guide for over 25 years, gaining the ultimate award of CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 1996.
Surrey & Sussex
Watchmaker’s Arms, Hove
This micropub has a small outside seating area on the pavement with two tables, which are well-used. The pub generally has four cask beers on sale, served from a cold room behind the bar, rotating fortnightly. Cask beers are almost always from small breweries, with many from Sussex, Hampshire, and Kent. Real cider is also always available, mainly sourced from local producers.
Magic Dragon Brewery Tap, Wrexham
Single-roomed pub that is the tap for the Magic Dragon Brewery, based just outside Wrexham. The pub is on the edge of what was known as the Beast Market, in a building that was originally the Elephant & Castle and after several changes of use is now pleasingly back as a pub. Its compact interior features bare brick walls and a wood-panelled bar. Six handpumps dispense at least three Magic Dragon beers including a dark ale.
Barking Cat Alehouse, Poole
Popular, vibrant two-roomed alehouse serving an interesting choice of beers, mainly from small breweries around the UK. There are eight real ales and six traditional ciders or perries on handpump alongside 10 craft keg beers.
Tamworth Tap, Tamworth
An elegant building, home to Tamworth Brewing Company and its tap. The cosy upstairs rooms have Tudor features, the historic courtyard beer terrace to the rear offers striking views of Tamworth Castle, and there is café-style seating to the front. Eight hand pulls usually feature one Tamworth ale, the rest from near and far. Various snacks are offered, plus a wide range of ciders, gins, wines and bottled beers. There is a ‘CAMRA corner’ at the bottom of the stairs which includes a rare, complete set of Good Beer Guides. The courtyard features regular live music with local performers, bat watch evenings, and the occasional screening of cult films on a large screen.
Trafalgar Hotel, Ramsey, Isle of Man
A long-standing real ale pub on the harbour, now owned by Odin and usually serving four of the brewery’s beers plus two guests. There are unobtrusive TVs showing sport. Outside is a small area of wooden bench seating that overlooks the harbour.
Beer Engine, Skipton
A well-established micropub in a tiny street between the town centre and the canal, with a friendly and welcoming ambience. Six handpumps dispense varying beers, always including one blonde or pale ale and one dark brew, plus a character beer. Extended in 2022, the bar now includes craft keg fonts. A still cider and a fruit cider are also on tap alongside a selection of bottled beers, cans and wines.
See all the winners on a map here