Pub of the Year Award 2018

My third annual beer ticking pub awards.

As I’ve said in the past,  I’m a beer ticker – I like to try as many different beers as possible and as such I’ve ranked my top ten pubs in order of the number of ticks that I’ve had there.  I’ve not included beer festivals.  Ticking isn’t the be all and end all of pub life, but it just so happens that I rather do like most of the pubs I’ve visited.

1.  The Queen Crafthouse & Kitchen, Doncaster  (3rd in 2017; opened during 2016)
Not the biggest selection of beers in my favourite ticking pubs, but a combination of great beers and absolutely brilliant staff.  I want to write more, but there’s not much else to say – fantastic beer, even more fantastic staff and…

2.  Friends of Ham, Leeds  (1st in 2017, 2nd in 2016)
Bit of a turbulent year for FoH – after a few business troubles earlier in the year, they’re now owned by someone else and sadly, the beer list isn’t quite what it was, although it’s still great.  I understand that the current owner is looking at selling it on, so let’s see what next year has in store.

3. The Corner, Huddersfield  (9th in 2017)
Climbing up from 9th last year, they’re still their with great beer and staff.  Huddersfield’s a strange place for beer – pop along for a beer in any of the decent beer bars on a weekday afternoon and there’s always folk just there enjoying beer in a chilled atmosphere.  The Corner is certainly one of these bars.

5= Doncaster Brewery Tap, Doncaster  (6th in 2017, 11th in 2016)
Climbing slightly from last year, Doncaster Brewery Tap don’t really focus that much on guest beers, but more on being a tap for their own brews.  However, with a regular guest, some amazing keg guests and beer festivals throughout the year, they’re still in my top ten.  If I could work out a way of factoring in a way of staff personalities instead of number of ticks per pub then they’re be way up the list.  Incidentally, if I’d had just one more tick here, they’d be in joint 3rd , and another 4 then in second.

5= Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House, Leeds  (new entry)
I’m not really sure why this is Foley’s first time in my top 10, but again, the combination of great staff and a good range of keg and cask beer prevails – there’s often up to 30 boxes of battery acid (sorry, cider) for those who like to indulge in such beverages.  Outside of peak hours, they have a really chilled vibe – even in the week leading up to Christmas, I popped in one afternoon and there was a real cool vibe with just some really chilled out music instead of Jingle Bell Rock being played in a loop.
Sadly, they went into administration late in 2018 but have since been bought by Black Sheep Brewery.  The bar has a brilliant location and the ‘concept’ is fantastic – I just hope they don’t start messing around too much.

6. Arcade, Huddersfield  (7th in 2017)
Climbing slightly from last year, this non-cask ale pub still never fails to impress.

7.  The Draughtsman, Doncaster  (opened during 2017)
Now they’ve been open a year, they’ve climbed up to 7th place.  Always a good stop off to sup beer elsewhere!

8.  The Sportsman, Huddersfield  (8th in 2017; 6th in 2016)
Still in 8th place with good beer and the pies.  Oh my, you must try the pies!

9. Turks Head, Leeds  (new entry)
It’s only recently that I’ve started frequenting the Turks Head, but once again, good beer and knowledgeable staff seem to be the key.  Oh – and brilliant food with just that bit of a classy feel.

10.  Tapped, Leeds  (2nd in 2017; 1st in 2016)
Well – they’ve fallen from from being in the top one or two down to 10th.  Why?  For me, the biggest problem is that they don’t serve thirds (unless the beer is quite pricey).  There’s only so much beer you can consume in one day, so I’ll generally go to places that serve thirds, and once I’ve ‘cleared up’, then might go to Tapped before the train home.

11.  Head of Steam, Leeds; Bundobust, Leeds; Box Social, Newcastle, Crown & Kettle, Manchester; Maison du Biere, Elsecar
Well, I’ve always included an 11th place, but give or take a beer or two, these are all on a similar tick rating so I’ll say a few words about them all
Head of Steam Leeds – great beer.  Nuff said
Box Social, Newcastle – too many great beers!
Crown & Kettle, Manchester – an amazing pub.  It’s not chrome and trendy but has fantastic staff and beer and some of the best prices in Manchester
Maison du Biere, Elsecar – another of those places I ‘just like’ but included especially as they won a Barnsley CAMRA Pub of the Season even though they don’t serve cask ale.  Well done!

Once again, only three pubs are in my home town of Doncaster – it’s a bit sad really that I have to travel so far from my home town.  Well done to the Doncaster guys – you’re passionate about what you do, but can’t you work miracles and do something about the dire state of beer in the town?

Oh – and if any of the winners would like to buy me beer, I wouldn’t say no!

The Draughtsman, Doncaster

Sheffield’s got one. So does York. And Dewsbury and Huddersfield. What’s he talking about? Station pubs.

When I heard that Doncaster was getting its very own station pub I was quite excited and then became sceptical when I learnt that it was on one of the platforms. Other station pubs tend to be in the concourse area so there’s some passing trade although to be fair, Doncaster station isn’t really the sort of place you just pass (but may be after the improvements have been done).

So – April came and The Draughtsman opened. Russ, one of the owners did all the work converting it from a disused store room back to its glory of when it was originally built. It’s not big inside, but there’s some seating outside on the platform. I prefer to stay inside to look at the brilliantly restored tilework and chat to Russ and Luke, his son who helps run the bar.


They’ve a better beer range than many of the bigger pubs in town with 3 handpumps, 5 keg lines, bottles and GIN! They’ve had 160 different cask beers in the first 6 months or so and I’m told that turnover is so good, beers are rarely on the pumps for more than 2 or 3 days.

So – what’s the secret to their success? Location may have something to do with it after all, but quite often I’ve heard of people making a special trip to go there and not just when they’re passing through the station. I’ve blogged about it before, but I think one of the key reasons of their success is the guys who run the Draughtsman – their knowledge and outstanding customer service – good beer comes naturally after this. 

Well done guys!

Pub of the Year Award 2016

Seeing as it’s that time of the year for my local CAMRA branch to award their Pub of the Year 2017, I thought I’d look back over the pubs I’ve visited over the last year and choose my favourites.

I’m a beer ticker – I like to try as many different beers as possible and as such I’ve ranked my top ten pubs in order of the number of ticks that I’ve had there.  I’ve not included beer festivals.  Ticking isn’t the be all and end all of pub life, but it just so happens that I rather do like the pubs I’ve visited.

1. Tapped, Leeds
Since it opened, Tapped has been in my top ten ticking pubs but has never made number 1.  Knowledgeable staff, good range of beers – some brewed on site, excellent home made ‘real’ pizzas and a clean and bright environment.  What more could you ask for?

2. Friends of Ham, Leeds
Since they opened, FoH has been my top ticking pub each year but sadly, pipped to second place by their friends round the corner.  What have they got going for them?  Again, knowledgeable staff, brilliant beers and perhaps the big selling point for me – they do a taster tray of 3 or 6 beers for a set price, and that can prove quite economical for the dearer beers.

3. Piw Paw Parkingowa and Piw Paw – Foksal – Warszawa – Top non-UK pub
Both these branches of Piw Paw are entitled to their own place in my beery top ten, but as they are very similar, I’ve included them as one.  If I were to combine the number of ticks from both then they would have smashed number one place.

Both have a really good selection of beers (Parkingowa have 64 and Foksal have 90-odd).   Staff can be a bit surly at times but the absolute best thing they do is tasting glasses – just a mouthful – for 1zl – about 20p!

4. Cask Corner, Doncaster – top Doncaster pub
Often features in my top ten and usually have a good range of beers.  Only thing that lets them down in my opinion is the loos and the music.  They have a lot of live rock which really isn’t my cup of tea but there’s nowhere to get out of the way of the bands and because of the layout of the pub, the bar gets crowded when a band is on and it can be difficult to get served.  One big plus point is the staff (there seems to be a theme here…)

5. Brunswick, Derby
Great brew pub – ever changing range of beers and convenient for Derby station.

6. Sportsman, Huddersfield
I really enjoy coming to the Sportsman.  Usually the first port of call in Huddersfield, a nice spot to drown my sorrows after not managing to meet Felix the Huddersfield Station Cat.  Great beers, third pints, brilliant staff and has this strange sort of atmosphere.  It’s a traditional pub, but doesn’t seem to attract the sort daytime drinkers that a lot of pubs do.  It’s a bit like the Belgian vibe where couples, friends and folk on their own pop in to try great beers, have a couple and then move on.

7. Red Lion, Doncaster
JDW spent a fortune refurbishing this pub and I like it.  One of the only decent outside drinking areas in Doncaster and used to have a really nice, warm indoor fire pit until some idiot decided to wreak it.  Only downside is that the fairly narrow channel between the front of the pub and the main area at the back is where a lot of drinkers congregate.

8. Sheffield Tap
Very convenient stopping off point between trains.  Took a long time to convince the wife that we did actually have to change at Sheffield!  Sister pub of the number one place, it too has good beers and staff.

9. Marketplace Alehouse & Deli
Quirky little place in Doncaster Market place and yes, you’ve guessed it, great beer, great staff and brilliant food.  Only a small range of beers compared to some others in the top ten but a constantly changing selection.

10. Gatehouse, Doncaster
I suprised myself at Gatehouse featuring, but it does.  I dont seem to frequent as often as I used but but clearly do.  As with all JDW branches, quality seems to depend on the latest manager.  There’s been a change here at Gatehouse but still seems to be up and down.

11.Doncaster Brewery Tap
I decided to also include the 11th place pub as I thought it was worth a special mention.  For a while, they’ve only served their own beer but now do have one guest on the bar.  They don’t produce a different beer every week (much to my dismay!) like some places do, but concentrate on brewing the beers they do really well.  It’s probably one of the only pubs in Doncaster that I will call in when I know there isn’t a tick – why?  I don’t know – just a good blend of ambience with good cheer thrown in from customer and manager / brewer alike.

Tour de France 2011 – possible non starter?

Looks like this year could be a Tour de France free year again this year.  Mustn’t make a habit of it.

The main problem is trying to fit in when I can visit with the Tour’s route with my work schedule and whether the towns are served by train.

This year, I’m scuppered, especially that the Grand Depart is in Britanny and their rail service isn’t the best…

The possible days I can visit are

  • Stage 10 – Tue 12 July. Aurillac – Carmaux.  Rail engineering work means that it’s a 2 hour bus ride from Toulouse.  Not a major problem in itself, but when the rest of the region is trying to get to the event…
  • Stage 11 – Wed 13 July.  Blaye-les-Mines – Lavaur.  Same as above
  • Stage 12 – Thu 14 July.  Cugnaux – Luz Ardiden.  Local town doesn’t know yet what bus services are available so might not be able to get anywhere decent.
  • Stage 16 – Tue 19 July.  Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux – Gap.  No hotels in Gap or in reasonable sized towns within a 90 minute radius
  • Stage 17 – Wed 20 July.  Gap – Pinerolo.  No hotels in Gap.

My last remaining possibility is a visit to Grenoble on 23 July for the Time Trial, but seems a bit far to go just for one stage.


As a follow up a post in 2007, I’ve updated my Tour de France diary…

I’ve been to the Tour for the last few years and I’ve think I’ve worked out which stages I’ve been to.  When at a stage finish, I always try and get as close to the finish line as possible and have always been in the last kilometre or so.

A foray to a Grand Depart in another country!

Prologue – Rotterdam.  Wet, miserable, rubbish photos.
Stage 1Rotterdam – Bruxelles.  Near the finish in Bruxelles
Stage 2 – Bruxelles – Spa.  By the start in Bruxelles

Another good vintage

Prologue – Monaco.  Fairly near to the finish and managed to get some decent photos, including a certain Manx Missile!
Stage 1 – Monaco to Brignoles.  Watched the race pass on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
Stage 2 – Marseille to La Grande Motte.  Saw the Depart by the port in Marseille
Stage 3 – Montpellier – Montpellier time trail.  Just up from the start point

Unable to go.  🙁

Possibly one of the best years…  3 countries, 4 stages in different 5 towns

Prologue – London.  200 m from finish on the Mall.  What a location!
Stage 1 – London to Canterbury.  Marshalled on the stage and then chased the race to watch the events unfold at Stone Street (poor Cav!).  Joined the Caravane on the boat across to France…
Stage 2 – Dunkerque – Gent.  Stood on the finish line in the rain but missed the end of race crashes.
Stage 3 – Waregem – Compiegne.  Saw the Depart from Waregem

Prologue – Strasbourg. Near to finish line
Stage 1 – Strasbourg to Strasbourg. Watched the ‘pre race’ – the riders just trundle by through the town until they are in the open road then the race starts properly.  Then moved to the finish line to wait for the race.

Stage 3 – La Châtaigneraie to Tours. Near the finish line
Stage 4 – Tours – Blois.  Team Time Trial.  About 1km from the start so wasn’t too busy.  Conveniently found a bar where I was able to sit and wait for the teams to finish – along with quite a few other folk!

Stage 3 – Waterloo to Wasquehal. Near to the finish line
Stage 4 – Cambrai to Arras.  Team Time Trial.  About 1km from the start on a good bend.  Remember this stage as it chucked it down all day!

Stage 11 – Narbonne to Toulouse. Near to the finish line, but nearly wasn’t.  After standing for a couple of hours, the police decided to move a group of us as we were “in the wrong place”.  After a great deal of persistance, we were able to stop.
Stage 12 – Gaillac to Cap’ Découverte. Individual time trial. Just by the starting ramp.
Stage 13 – Toulouse to Plateau de Bonascre.  Watched the race start at the Cité de l’Espace

Stage 5 – Soissons to Rouen.  Near to the finish line

Did not attend.

Stage 13 – Avignon to Draguignan.  Near to the finish line

Stage 14 – Castres to Saint-Gaudens.  Near to the finish line.  Remember being not too well this year – had been away in Poland the week prior and picked up a bug leaving me with severe trots!  The day previous I was pretty bad but managed to hold out when it was time to watch the race.

Stage 14 – Valreas to Grenoble.  Near to the finish line

Stage 19 – Montbeliard to Dijon.  Near to the finish line

Stage 19 – Hendaye to Bordeaux.  Near to the finish line

Wouter Weylandt

On 9 May, Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt was descending along the Passo del Bocco, a steep mountain pass during stage 3 of the 2011 Giro d’Italia.

He looked over his shoulder to see where the riders pursuing him were and he lost control of his bike, crashing face down.  It’s not been said how fast he was going, but around 60kph may be a good estimate.  Medical staff tried to resuscitate him, although he had died instantly.

The tributes paid to him the following day were quite touching.  The race carried on, but at a reasonably sedate pace – for those riders anyway!  Each team took a stint on the front of the bunch before passing to the next.  Even though there wasn’t any ‘exciting’ cycling to see, the roads were still jam packed with spectators not cheering, but just clapping and many of them holding up the number ‘108’ – the number Wouter carried during the race.

At the finish line, Leopard Trek, the team he rode for, went ahead of the other riders and crossed the line with their arms round each other’s shoulders.  They even called forward Tylar Farrar from the Garmin team to join them.  He lives in Belgium near to where Wouter lived and they were best friends.

That’s one of the things I like about cycling – the camaraderie.  Even in the face of adversity, the guys rally round and help each other.


Wouter Weyalndt.   1984 – 2011.  RIP.

Euro beer trip day 3 – Praha

Jerry was heading towards Germany today, leaving me for an extra day in Praha, but first, a quick visit to

U sadu

Škroupovo náměstí 5, Prague 3
222 727 072
Mon-Fri 08-04, Sat-Sun 09-04

The first thing you’ll notice about this place is the opening hours! 8am during the week and 9am on weekends, staying open till 4 the following morning! Again, a decent selection of 8 beers, including unfiltered Gambrinus 10. Oh – and free wifi! It’s not the easiest place to find in the middle of a housing estate.

Jihoměstský pivovar

Podjavorinské 1601/8, 149 00 Praha 4
222 352 242
Mon-Thu 11-23, Fri 11-24, Sat 12-24, Sun 12-23

Make sure you have a good map! Located a few minutes walk from Háje metro station in Jižní Město, Pragues biggest panelák housing estate appears to be just a grey concrete building from the outside, but inside is a German beer hall-esque restaurant and bar. They brew 5 of their own beers and the food’s rather good too!

Pivovarský Klub

Křižíkova 272/17, Praha 8
222 315 777
Daily 1130-2330

‘Only’ 6 taps, but bottled beers from 30 or so Czech breweries and even more from further afield. Quite a light, airy place that doesn’t allow smoking (!?!). Again, didn’t eat this time but have done in the past and it’s been fine.


Last year, me and Jemma got married.  For various reasons, our third attempt at a honeymoon (which I never seemed to blog about at the time…) was a holiday in Sete in the South of France.  This year, we were meant to do something ‘special’ as a replacement, but because of neither of us pulling our finger out and biting the bullet, that seemed to go by the way too.  In a way, that was possibly a good thing as one of the ideas was to visit China, and one of the areas we were looking at was quite badly affected by the monsoon rains.  India was also a possibility but again, they didn’t get away with their rainy season lightly either!

In the end, we cut our choices down to Mexico or Tunisia.  The hotel we’d seen in Mexico looked absolutely stunning – the ‘swim up’ rooms in particular!  The only down side is that there was nothing in the area outside of the hotel.  Cancun was around 25km away, so a bit far away for a quick trip should we want to pop out.

This left Tunisia and the resort of Hammamet as this was in the centre of one of the big tourist areas and close enough to Tunis for a visit there.  After a few tries at booking and then finding out that they were actually fully booked, we ended up with the ‘Le Sultan’ which didn’t look at all bad – rated 9 out of 120 hotels in Hammamet on Trip Advisor.

Apart from a stupidly early start (no Thompson, I’m not going to arrive 3 hours before an 06:30 flight when 1 will do!), the journey was pretty uneventful until we landed in Monastir.  I say uneventful – once we’d left UK airspace, there was very little cloud all the way to Africa and the views were breathtaking, especially over the French Alps.

Once we’d landed, the fun began.  Upon arrival in Tunisia, one must go through Customs and Immigration, and being out of the EU, controls are a little stricter, including filling in a landing card which is scrutinised by the authorities.  Multiply this by five plane loads of holidaymakers who’d all arrived on the first wave of flights from Manchester, Paris and wherever else and you end up in a queue for an hour.

After fighting through this queue, we were soon on our way to the hotel in a what seemed to be an underpowered mini coach.  The driver was really having to thrash the engine to keep up with traffic on the motorway, and from where I was sat, I could see the temperature gauge creeping up.  Finally, he pulled onto local roads for the last part of the journey and thankfully the dial dropped.

Check in at Le Sultan was swift – so swift in fact that we’d not even been up to the rooms before being ushered off for lunch in case we missed it!

Soon after, we were sat by the pool on the grassed area, enjoying the pool and the drinks served to us by the waiters, and this combination seemed to suit us for the rest of the week.

Several highlights / ‘points of interest’ during the week were

1 – Hammamet Medina.  On our first night we decided to pop into the centre of Hammamet and visit the Medina.  No sooner had we left our taxi did we bump into someone who was from our hotel.  He offered to show us around the Medina (which he did – very briefly) and we ended up at his “brother’s” shop.  After 20 minutes of him attempting to sell us overpriced, forged tat, he could see that he was getting nowhere and got very cross with us.  We left rather quickly.  Evidently, this is the latest scam in the area.  The strange thing was that we never did see him working at our hotel…  Later on, we did enjoy a German style beer brewed at the Brauhaus Gerbere.

2 – Tunis.  We went by train to Tunis and it was mad.  There was probably no other word for it.  We wondered around the Medina, or rather just went with the flow of the people and visited a few touristy sights.

3 – Scuba diving.  I went scuba diving and it was great.  I probably looked a bit of a treat on the practice session, wearing a wet suit and flapping my flippers by the hotel pool, but there you go!

4 – The Sultan Hotel.  Couldn’t complain.  The room was good, the pool excellent – especially with waiters bringing drinks and above all the food was first rate.  It seems to cater towards Tunisian and French tastes so no chicken nuggets or other rubbish!

5 – Mint tea.  It’s everywhere – tasty, and drunk in huge quantities.

I could be tempted to go back again…

Paris – Roubaix

I’ve visited a number of cycle races over the years, but never the Paris – Roubaix.  It’s one of the spring one day classics, over a duration this year of 259km – 53 of which were on cobbles!  Ow!

So, a short ride from Lille saw us in the small town of Orchies, and after a walk we were at ‘Secteur 12’ – a 1.7km stretch, graded difficulty 3 out of 5.  To get a good spot, we were there a couple of hours early and then waited.  Just over the cobbled road, the local town council had set up a refreshment area with some rather good local beer on sale!

Soon, the caravane came past, throwing their usual collection of tat publicity gifts to the masses.  Unfortunately, things then started to get busy.  Our ‘good spot’ gradually got worse until we were crammed in with quite a few other folk.  The riders came past in their usual blur, but as is the nature of this type of race, they were well spaced out with the rear most ones the best part of half an hour behind.

By this time, Jem had already popped across the road into the beer tent to secure a good seat to watch the rest of the race on the giant screen in there.  Judging by the volume of cheers in there, I assume most of the spectators were Belgian when they showed Tom Boonen break away and then go on to win the race!

It was a great day out – might have to pop it into next year’s diary…