Like most, if not all CAMRA Branches, we have a Pub of the Year (PoTY). Last time it was the Baum in Rochdale, which to its immense credit went on to win CAMRA's National Pub of the Year. A great accolade not just for them, but for our Branch too. Everyone got something out of that. It brought us great satisfaction,the town a lot of visitors and publicity and the Baum a lot of new business.
But things move on. This year we have a new Branch PoTY and despite it being selected by our members, I had never been there. A shocking admission for a Branch Chairman you may feel, but we have 582 pubs and oddly enough, I haven't been in them all, though maybe I should try to? It is a lot of pubs to look after and I sometimes envy smaller branches that get away with a couple of hundred. Or less.
The Carrion Crow in Oldham is a locals pub. It is owned by Marstons and sells anything they can get their hands on from the entire Marstons range. This is a pretty good choice really, with beers from Banks, Jennings, Brakspear, Ringwood, Hobgoblin and of course Marstons themselves. With the amount of seasonal brews, as well as core ranges, this gives landlord Tony a lot to go at and when we called on Saturday, the display of pumpclips showed that he takes full advantage of the range. A couple of beer festivals a year adds to this as there is permission to buy guests from non Marstons breweries for these events.
With E in tow, we enjoyed the pub which is a simple open plan design with nooks and crannies to break it up. A cheerful bar with four handpulls will soon be augmented by two more. Cask beer is selling. There was a hardcore sprinkling of locals in and we enjoyed their easy banter with each other and the way they slipped in and out, combining a drink with whatever other business they had outside. It reminded me a lot of my old local in Liverpool, which of course endeared it to me even more. The landlord is very proud to have won the award as he has only been there three years and while he set out to build up the business, he feels he is ahead of his own schedule in doing so. The brewery agrees and is so impressed it is doing a bit of a refit and makeover for him.
I'm looking forward to the presentation night on the 15th May, when the pub will be jumping and we'll get the local press along. Of course there are those that say CAMRA awards are meaningless. The Carrion Crow wouldn't agree.
I reckon some of the best beers in this group are coming out of Banks'. They seem to know what they are doing there.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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