Pub Awards

Pub of the Season - Spring 2017

'Little' Plough - Town Pub of the Season

The 'Little' Plough is a fine example of a type of traditional pub which is becoming less and less common. And now it’s Doncaster CAMRA’s Doncaster Pub of the Season for Spring 2017.

Congratulations are due to licensee Nick Griffin for his third POTS award in eight years at the Plough. The others were for Autumn 2010 and Winter 2012-13. In fact, Nick is one of a select band who’ve won this award at two different pubs. His previous pub, the now defunct Red Lion at Braithwell, was our District Pub of the Season in 2007.

The “ Little” Plough ( Does anyone know where the big one was? ) opened in the 19th century and is featured in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. It is largely unchanged since a refurbishment in 1934 by its then owners Hewitt’s Brewery of Grimsby. It consists of two rooms, a bar and a lounge, which are both accessed from a passage at its entrance on West Laith Gate. Both rooms feature photographs of old Doncaster. There’s also a small courtyard which gives access to the men’s toilet and is also used by smokers.

Details of the pub’s interior are dealt with at length in Dave Gamston’s excellent book “Yorkshire’ Real Heritage Pubs”. In any case, the reason for a CAMRA award is the quality of a pub’s cask ales. The Plough has always had a good reputation for this and Nick has kept up the tradition. Three real ales are always available : Acorn Barnsley Bitter is a permanent feature while the other two are regularly-changing and often sourced from local breweries. The Plough is a member of CAMRA’s LocAle scheme which encourages pubs to sell locally brewed beers.  In addition, the Plough regularly holds its own beer festivals and took part in the recent Doncaster Town Beer Festival.

The pub has recently undergone a renovation. Its frontage is being restored, with the Bass Yorkshire sign currently taken down and the old Hewitt’s sign visible. The pub’s sign is being restored by local artist David Venables who is painting a new pictorial in 1930s-style retro lettering.  The men’s toilet is also being renovated. 

The Scarbrough Arms, Tickhill - District Pub of the Season

Sat in front of an open coal and log fire, with a pint of Stancill Blonde (3.9%), having just devoured a fresh sandwich from one of the local butchers shops, it’s nice to be able to chat to a few regulars on an afternoon without children or music getting in the way. I’m in the barrel room of the Scarbrough Arms in Tickhill, one of the few ‘drinks only’ pubs that stay open all day, every day.

Rose and Steve Walters have been the licensees at the ‘Scarbs’ for 11 years now and have expended much time and effort into making this pub an attractive focal point of the town (yes – it’s been upgraded from village status). For a start they have fully refurbished the front lounge and rear bar areas – both now have welcoming log-burning stoves, whilst the cosy middle ‘snug’ retains its furniture made from barrels, and some old pictures of Tickhill. There are also four letting rooms upstairs and the lounge is available for private functions when catering can be provided.

This pub has been in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide since 1990 and the range of real ales available has steadily increased from one to the current five. They include John Smith’s Cask, Wychwood Hobgoblin, Taylor’s Landlord, Greene King Abbot Ale and a guest beer which is generally sourced locally – hence the LocAle accreditation. Recent
examples have been Bosun’s Mate (Wakefield), Glentworth Early Bird (Doncaster) and Cavendish (Welbeck) to name but a few. This selection is much enhanced for the twice-yearly Beer Festivals held at end of May and in mid-September when the outside smoking shed becomes an additional real ale bar.

Other pub events include Quiz Nights on Monday and Thursday evenings and Music Nights on the second and last Tuesday of the month. Outside events, apart from the Beer Festivals, will include the Tickhill and District Lions Club Annual Charity Summer Bash to be held on Friday 23rd May and the Tickhill Town Gala at the beginning of July for which the ‘Scarbs’ provides the space and sells the tickets.

Children are allowed in the lounge, dogs are welcome anywhere as long as they keep off the furniture. Food, other than snacks, is not served but customers are welcome to bring their own sandwiches. Wi-Fi is available – a code is required – and BT Sports is on the television in the bar. Rose and Steve are lucky to have a knowledgeable and hard-working team working with them including Carl, Andy, James and Curtis, who not only serve beer and bottle-up, but also chop logs, water plants, look after the cellar and numerous other jobs.

Pub of the Season - Winter 2016/7

The Yorkshire Grey - Town Pub of the Season

The Yorkshire Grey has been nominated for Pub of the Season several times without gaining enough votes, but this time it’s a winner! It was originally known as “The Hogshead”up until l 9 years ago when the name was changed. The premises was once a shoe shop before being granted a licence for a change of use to pub and restaurant. I remember a branch social earlier this year, when we paid the Yorkshire Grey a visit. Several members were already inside enjoying a pint. One, a person who is not a regular on our social events, said to me “I really like this place, they let me sample all the beers before I have to buy one”. This is a true observation ; the staff here are really friendly and helpful.

All the beers, 4 usually, have a small sample bottle on display to allow you to have a good look at them before you choose . Wychwood Hobgoblin is a regular, but by no means permanent as we shall see. Neil, the manager, is a keen real ale drinker himself, though not on duty of course, and comes from Sheffield where he is familiar with all the best pubs.

The Yorkshire Grey has always given cardcarrying members of CAMRA a discount of 20p making the price of a pint here a real bargain. The “Grey” is one of two pubs in Hallgate which are owned by the same pubco – Stonegate. Sport, on large screen TVs, is very popular here, so don’t expect a quiet time if there is an important Football or Rugby match on when you visit! Daytime, though, is a different matter during the working week. then you will find a quiet corner to sit in and enjoy a well-kept pint of real ale. The manager is very keen to promote local breweries and has on occasion had four different beers on from a single brewery such as Stancill. On one magic visit I found they had four beers of my preferred type, blonde, including Hobgoblin Gold, and Acorn Blonde, plus Moorhouse White Witch, definitely three of my favourites. The other one has slipped my mind but it was another excellent golden ale.

Outside at the back there is a decked area with tables (and TV screen) where smoking is permitted. There are no tables outside at the front. In the summer, if there is hot weather, the front windows are opened, allowing a cool breeze to blow through the bar. The Yorkshire Grey has participated in The Doncaster CAMRA beer festival for several years now. I am, of course, referring to #DN1BeerFest in which town centre pubs become a network of real ale outlets. The idea being that those taking part put on something special e.g. an unusual range of real ales, maybe with free snacks or hot food. In return we supply window posters and banners plus a web presence on our website, advertising the various venues and encouraging drinkers to visit during the festival, hopefully trying pubs that they wouldn’t normally go to. Recent beers have included Thwaites Wainwright, Stancill Barnsley Bitter, Lancaster Bomber and Bosun’s Maiden Voyage. 

The Crown, Belton - District Pub of the Season

“Difficult to find but well worth the effort”
“A haven for the discerning drinker”

These are just two descriptions applied to the Crown at Belton in editions of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide over the years. Now another one can be used as it has been named our Doncaster District Pub of the Season for Winter 2016-17.

This is by no means the first CAMRA award this excellent rural pub has won. Its reputation for consistently good cask ales goes back many years. Since current owners John and Lynn Green took over in 2008 the pub has maintained those standards. The Crown was our District Pub of the Season in Autumn 2010 and Pub of the Year in 2013. This latest title is a fitting reward for a pub which shows what can be achieved despite being off the beaten track.

Situated behind All Saints Church, the Crown can’t be seen from the main road through the village and there’s little to suggest that there’s a thriving pub close by. Closer investigation finds a large car park and an attractive village local with a lively atmosphere. Even more surprising is that the pub is open from 1:00 pm on weekdays. These days many rural pubs, even ones situated on main roads, don’t bother to open until evening during the week. Some don’t even open every day. Yet the Crown thrives: I visited the pub to research this article on a Monday afternoon and there were 15-20 customers.

Under John and Lynn the Crown has become a real part of the community, offering a variety of events to attract a whole range of customers. These include live music, a tapas night, a cheese and wine evening, karaoke and twice – yearly beer festivals.

Of course, it’s the beer which has won the Crown its CAMRA awards. The pub is a genuine freehouse. Six cask ales are always available, from larger breweries such as Jennings, Bradfield, Thwaites as well as local ones such as Tom Wood and Glentworth. In fact, this pub has always been a strong supporter of Glentworth ales, which are featured on a rotating basis. When I visited the ales on offer were Thwaites Wainwright, Jennings Cocker Hoop, Glentworth Wishing Tree, Ringwood Boondoggle, Bradfield Farmers Blonde and Brakspear Bitter. The usual beer range tends towards lighter, hoppy ales but during the pub’s beer festivals there’s a wide choice of beer styles. This really is a cracking pub which is well worth a visit. 

Pub of the Season- Autumn 2016

Flying Scotsman Tap - Town Pub of the Season

In 2014 the local Chantry Brewery from Rotherham did Doncaster a great service, they bought the old Garage pub at the end of Silver Street (The Old Volunteer Club for those of us of a certain age), gave it a complete make-over then, in November, re-opened and re-named it The Flying Scotsman Tap.

They were actually on the verge of being nominated for Pub of the Season last year but a change of management meant they no longer met our strict criteria for the award. Luckily for all of us, Stephen Lines took over and the quality of the beer has remained as good as ever so it gives us great pleasure to award Steve and his staff the Doncaster Pub of The Season award for Autumn 2016.

The Flying Scotsman Tap obviously feature their own excellent Chantry beers, with 5 of them featuring regularly on the bar, alongside a changing guest beer, with yet another handpump dedicated to an ever changing real cider. Or if you fancy a bottled beer you won't be disappointed as they also have a large selection of beers in the fridge behind the bar.If that is not enough choice you will also find draught craft beer and draught Belgian fruit beer available on the bar. Even with an excellent price of between £2.25 and £2.60 per pint they also give card-carrying CAMRA members a discount of 10p per pint off their Chantry beers.

When you come into the Flying Scotsman Tap, you will find the bar straight in front of you. There is a stage to the right of the bar at the rear of the pub, where you can watch live bands on a Saturday evening, Enjoy the free jamming session on a Friday from 7pm, or come and listen to, or join in, the open mic night on a Sunday from 6pm. There is also a free juke box on a Monday and Tuesday so this successful pub really does have something for everyone.

Along the right hand wall you can appreciate the large works of art, especially the floor-to ceiling mural by the window of the magnificent Flying Scotsman itself, in all its glory. You could also turn up to one of their many fund-raising evenings as The Flying Scotsman Tap does a lot of work to raise money for charity.

On 6 August they opened their inaugural mini-beer festival, with 16 guest ales, the next one being around Christmas time. To keep up to date with what's on when, all the details of their forthcoming fundraisers, beer festivals etc. will be on their Facebook page as they are finalised.

The Harvey Arms, Finningley - District Pub of the Season

Winning a CAMRA award isn’t easy, especially for our rural pubs where there’s stiff competition. Congratulations are therefore due to the Harvey Arms, Finningley, which for the second time is our Doncaster District Pub of the Season.

Situated in a picturesque setting by the village green, this is a pub which has seen many changes. There’s been a pub on the site since at least 1822 and for much of the 20th century it was run by the same family. It became a thriving village local which was popular with locals as well as servicemen from the nearby RAF Finningley (Now Robin Hood Airport ). It was certainly a factor which influenced our decision to move to Finningley in 1993.

Current licensees Warren and Sandra Kennedy have been in charge since May 2011. They took over after a difficult period which saw several licensees come and go and even resulted in the pub closing for several months. When Warren and Sandra arrived many locals, myself included, had lost the habit of going to the Harvey Arms. Since then there have been major changes. The interior has been refurbished, the partition wall between the former public bar and lounge has gone and the pub’s surroundings have been transformed into a beer garden. The pub also has a good reputation for food. It’s an attractive venue which draws customers from all over the area.

However, Doncaster Branch's criteria for an award is solely to do with the beer. This is another aspect which has improved under the present ownership. Cellarman Dan Wilson, who joined the staff shortly after Warren and Sandra took over, is a key player here. Four cask ales are usually available with Timothy Taylor Landlord, Leeds Pale and the excellent Cooper and Griffin Vulcan Bomber (Why don’t more pubs sell this one – it’s superb! ) as mainstays.

The pub is owned by Punch Taverns and takes full advantage of its permitted beer range. Recent cask beers on offer have included Wadworth 6X, Sharp’s Atlantic and Moorhouse Blonde Witch. It’s a testament to Warren’s and Dan’s work that the beer quality is consistently good. I’d been telling our members about this for months. After a recent CAMRA social visited the pub they agreed, hence this award

Pub of the Season - Summer 2016

The Corner Pin - Town Pub of the Season

The beer – what other reason can there be for The Corner Pin gaining the Summer 2016 Pub of the Season award. Consistently good, a wide variety and happy faces both sides of the bar. Dave and Ruth put their heart and soul into keeping the pub at its peak and that’s no easy task considering it’s just outside the main centre of town.

Doncaster CAMRA’s Pub of the Year in 2011, 2014 and 2015 is something of a statement when it comes to the appreciation of our members for this gem of a pub. 5 hand pumps that are usually in full use with an array of beers that are ever-changing to tempt you to try something different or go for an old favourite.

In April 2015 it was named as one of CAMRA’s top 200 pubs nationwide and one of the top 16 in Yorkshire as part of the Community Pubs Month campaign, highlighting the important role pubs play in community life. There’s certainly a diverse mix of customers who add character to the pub. There’s a darts team led by landlord Dave who do battle weekly, a fun quiz every Sunday evening but with a lot of very serious contestants, and that’s not to mention the food…

OK then, I will mention the food as Ruth’s chip butties have become a thing of legend with visiting CAMRA branches writing about them, community groups who meet there insisting on them, and that’s only one item on the menu. I’m one who actually prefers eating here to many of the other pubs around. Everything is prepared on the premises. No reheated freezer mush or skinny fries.

A very popular Sunday lunch venue too. It’s all freshly made and it’s wise to book in advance or you’ll probably not get a place. During the rest of the week Ruth does an excellent fry-up, amongst other things, but check that the kitchen is open before you visit mid-week as she does need some time off to go get the shopping.

Another tick on the CAMRA great pub list is gained by the use of lined glasses, pints and halves, for the real ale on offer. For those who insist on the fizzy cold stuff there’s also a range of lagers and keg beers to be had. It’s a traditional bar with a wooden floor and has loads of character.

At the time of writing, Leeds Pale and Stancill Barnsley Bitter were the regular real ales, leaving three pumps to be filled by guests. If you find a guest beer you like then make the best of it as once it’s gone it could be some time before it appears here again, unlike some pubs whose ‘guest’ beers stay the same week after week.

I travel to many places for beer festivals or just a day with friends but always enjoy coming back to the Corner Pin.

Shoulder of Mutton, Kirk Smeaton - District Pub of the Season

Not for the first time has the Shoulder of Mutton been awarded the District Pub of the Season following a popular vote by members of Doncaster and District CAMRA. It has previously won the award in Autumn 2011 and prior to that in Winter 2005/06. Also in 2007 it was voted District Pub of the Year. Congratulations are therefore in order, again, to Christine Sanderson, the longserving manager and her staff for continuing to serve quality real ale. Two real ales are always available on the bar. The first, the regular beer for many years, is Black Sheep Best Bitter delivered direct from the brewery. A fact that no doubt contributes to the excellent condition in which the beer is always to be found. The second, a guest beer, currently Theakston Best Bitter, has over the years been provided by breweries as varied as Old Mill, Wharfe Bank and Dark Horse from Hetton in North Yorkshire.

At one time a Whitbread house, the pub was purchased free of tie many years ago by two local businessman who wanted to ensure that the village retained a working pub at the heart of the community. Located in the centre of the village, the pub comprises a small oakpanelled lounge and a somewhat larger and more popular public bar area, both served from a single central bar. It has a large car park and a substantial beer garden in which is to be found a covered and heated smoking shelter. An additional outside seating area is also available. Although no hot food service is provided a range of freshly-made sandwiches are available at the bar.

In addition to the quality ale, what really makes this pub stand out is that it offers a fine example of what a good traditional village pub should be. It serves as a hub for the community that is the village of Kirk Smeaton. It's a very friendly pub. Whether you're eighteen or eighty, a local born and bred or an incomer to the village or indeed just passing through the village, the pub is very welcoming. As in any good pub there's usually a conversation to be had with someone from among the diverse group of drinkers to be found at the bar. Walkers are also welcome, with the pub offering an ideal start and end point for several circular walks of varying length in and around the area of the Went Valley and Brockadale Nature Reserve. A quiz is held every Tuesday evening.

Essentially the Shoulder of Mutton is what I and, I suspect, many other drinkers think of, as a great example of what a good local pub should be. It's also, regrettably, an example of a type and style of pub that is slowly disappearing from national life