The Hertfordshire CAMRA region is made up of 4 branches, these being Watford & District, South Herts, Herts & Essex Borders, and us – North Herts. Each year each branch selects a “pub of the year” from their branch area. In North Herts we start with a short-list of the 8 eligible pubs that have the highest average NBSS results over the previous 12 months then we ask our members to visit as many of them as possible and submit score-sheets that mark the pubs in a variety of categories. These scores are brought together and the highest scorer wins. It’s about as democratic as we can make it – though we wish more people would get involved! Any CAMRA member can submit NBSS scores, and any member in our region is eligible submit score-sheets for the finalists. (Note that the method for selecting branch pub-of-the-year varies between branches.)
This year our winning pub was The Half Moon in Hitchin – North Herts pub of the year for the third year running. The Half Moon has been on quite a winning streak and was also last years Hertfordshire pub of the year. North Herts branch Chairman Tony Driscoll presented the award to Howard and Wendy during their excellent 7th anniversary beer festival on the 30th of April. (Terribly convenient timing that.)
As a new feature this year we’re also announcing the two closest runners-up in the branch area in an effort to spread the recognition around a little more (but not too thin!) The Pub-of-theYear award is a tough competition and some pubs have come close for several years but never quite got there. For 2011 the runners-up were: Strathmore Arms in St Pauls Walden and the Lordship Arms in Bennington – congratulations!
It doesn’t end there however – once all four Hertfordshire branches have selected their respective pub-of-the-year winners the competition is on for Hertfordshire pub of the year! In this case CAMRA members from throughout the region are invited to visit all four pubs and score them on the same categories we use for our finalists in North Herts. To aid in this we run a minibus trip that goes on an arduous circuit of four of Hertfordshire’s best pubs where we enjoy the hospitality and beer in each venue (trying not to make it too obvious what we’re up to to begin with in the hope we get a true feel for the place – but this is difficult.) This year our trip took in the four fine pubs below – I’m not going to waffle on about how good they all were, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t! You can find more information about the pubs from their respective branches in the June/July Pints of View newsletter.
The Land of Liberty Peace and Plenty, Heronsgate
The Queen’s Head, Allens Green
The Woodman, Wildhill
And our own Half Moon, Hitchin
Since our trip all the scores from all four branches have been submitted and collated and the winner is… The Woodman! Our congratulations to them on their achievement and all the best in the East Anglian regional competition!
Scoring pubs for this award is truly difficult. Take my personal case: I’d never been to two of the pubs before, one I used to go to regularly and loved several years ago, and our own branch area pub is one of my locals. How can I score these fairly? What if I catch one of the pubs I don’t know on a bad day or at a bad time? Plus we visit the pubs in one day – say: one early in the trading hours, one in the lunch peak, one in the mid-afternoon doldrums, and one in the busyness of evening. How do you rate these pubs against each other on factors like clientèle and atmosphere? You just have to do your best! Importantly it comes down to statistics, which should even out any bumps – as I said at the beginning of this post: the more people who get involved the better. So next year, when it comes time to judge our pub of the year please come along – we had a few empty seats on our minibus this year.
There’s more information on all these great pubs in the June/July Hertfordshire Pints of View newsletter – which is now being distributed around pubs in our region and will be made available on the South Hertfordshire website in due course.