A pub that was boarded-up five years ago has won the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) pub of the year competition.
The Cricketers Arms in St Helens, Merseyside, was taken over in 2013 by Andy and Denise Evans, and hadn’t served cask ale since the 1980s. But now it serves 13 locally-sourced cask ales as well as 20 ciders during the summer months.
The Evans plan to launch a microbrewery in the next few months and have tasked regular punters with naming the pub’s brews. It also hosts regular beer festivals, karaoke and jam nights, as well as quizzes. A new whiskey and gin bar has also been launched.
The pub won the regional CAMRA awards in 2015 and 2016 before taking home this year’s national competition.
Paul Ainsworth, CAMRA's national pub of the year coordinator, said: "What impressed me the most is that the Cricketers is a genuine community pub where people from all walks of life come together to socialise. It is a shining example of how a pub, which seems destined for closure, can have its fortunes turned around when in the right hands."
Owner Andy Evans said: "We are over the moon to be named the top pub in the country after just a few short years of renovations. We've done everything we can to make this a welcoming community pub and still have exciting developments ahead of us.
“As well as expanding the beers available, we created a beer garden and put greens in the ground, and have big plans to install a microbrewery this year. We are very proud to be part of the cask ale scene and look forward to celebrating with our locals!"
Runners-up for the pub of the year award include the Wigan Central in Wigan, the Stanford Arms in Lowestoft, and the Weavers Real Ale House in Kidderminster. Pubs are judged by CAMRA volunteers on atmosphere, décor, service, community focus – and, of course, the quality of its beer.