The 300-year-old Red Lion Inn at Newton has roared to success in the Grantham Campaign for Real Ale 2018 top pub awards.
Beerheadz in Watergate, Grantham, was declared Town Pub of the Year and the Ancaster Sports and Social Club was judged Club of the Year.
Grantham CAMRA branch chairman Neville Lomas said the winners were judged over the year based on member visits to the premises, with some 800-900 surveys done overall, to gain a final tally.
The premises are rated on the reception given when customers enter, the service given, the price, whether you would like to return, and, of course, the beer.
Neville said of the Red Lion, which won the overall award: “He (landlord Phillip Beetham) keeps his beer immaculately. It’s always a good temperature and when he pours a pint, it’s a clear as a bell.”
“The pub has Black Sheep bitter on all the time, plus two hand pump beers which vary all the time. They do good food as well, but that is not in our remit. You always get a good welcome. They have a great rapport with their clientele.”
Mr Lomas said the competition is very keen and very little separates the winners.
“Some landlords look after their pubs and guard them very closely, whereas others are less interested, which shows in the product.”
Beerheadz, he continued, was still relatively new to Grantham, but has been well-received, with it being Town Pub for the second year in succession.
“You always get a good welcome. The bar is obviously something Grantham people appreciate. Certainly the CAMRA members hold it in high regard. It’s small but very friendly and within ten minutes you are in conversation with somebody.”
The Ancaster Sports and Social Club has been a regular winner for five years.
Mr Lomax commented:“It’s a very friendly club. They always look after their beer and their membership seems to keep growing.”
However, Mr Lomas warned the Railway Club in Grantham was “creeping up” and there was “not a great deal of difference between them.”
At the Red Lion, landlord Phillip Beetham and partner Sharon Bratton said they were ecstatic to win, saying it was a surprise.
The couple have leased the pub since April 2016, though they did manage it several years previously before they took on a pub in Torver, Cumbria, before being asked back to the Red Lion by its owner.
Phillip is originally from Bradford and spent 28 years in the army and Sharon is originally from Glasgow and worked in the NHS as a facilities manager. The couple met at school in Yorkshire and when Phillip retired from the army, they decided to take on pubs so they could work together.
Phillip said: “I have to thank the three local breweries, Newby Wyke, Oldershaws and Brewsters. They are good, consistent quality beers and the customers like them. We also have Black Sheep and I bring down beers from Cumbria.”
He continued: “This pub is well-known. It has squash courts and is famous for its carvery on a Sunday. It is also famous for being used to film an advert for Castella cigars.”
Situated eight miles from Grantham and Stamford, The Red Lion also presents “a nice ride out,” with it also attracting customers from Boston. Special events such as themed nights, such as Murder Mystery, Michael Buble or Jazz nights, also prove propular.
Sharon commented: “The Red Lion is more of a destination dining pub. You have to drive to get here. It’s a bit of a gastropub, with really good food thanks to our local produce and everything is home made. We have two really good chefs, local lads Phil Espanosa and Ollie Blessett.
“From our reviews, we see people coming back for good food and good beer. Our staff are told to make sure the customers have a great experience. Business is fantastic.”
Back in Grantham, Beerheadz bar manager Bryony Sparrow said: “I was thrilled to win it for a second year for the second year, just before our secpond birthday. I am really proud of our whole team. We are successful because we are offering rare and high quality products to the discerning CAMRA members.”
Alan Hudson, recently-elected chairman of Ancaster Sports and Social Club, commented: “The key to our success is it’s hard working staff, and the dedication of the committee that supports it, and, most of all, the great members that support us!”
He added: “We have a unique combination of living in a fine little village with great people. The clubhouse is in a nice location on the village playing field, all run really well with a good selection of fine beers, run with enthusiasm, good humour and we always look forwards to new events coming up.”