The Campaign for Real Ale’s ‘National Pub of the Year’ award, won last year by the Salutation Inn, is staying in Gloucestershire. The 2015 winner is Cheltenham’s Sandford Park Alehouse.
The town centre pub, which only opened its doors in April 2013, is now officially the best real ale pub in Britain. The winning pubs are judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, value for money and customer mix, but most importantly – quality of beer. The award usually goes to a ‘traditional’ pub. However, the ‘Alehouse’ is a modern, light, town centre pub which appeals to traditional and younger customers alike across all social, gender and age groups.
Located at the far eastern end of the High Street, the pub has a main U-shaped bar area with a separate snug at the front and an upstairs function room. The rear beer garden backs onto the river Chelt and Sandford Park.
“Sandford Park Alehouse owner-manager, Grant Cook, said: “This is fantastic news for us. The whole team is thrilled to win this most prestigious of pub awards and we really appreciate the recognition. We know that many hundreds of people in more than 200 CAMRA branches around the UK were involved in selecting and evaluating candidate pubs for this award and it is, frankly, amazing to emerge from this process on top.
“The Alehouse doesn’t easily fit into this or that “type” of pub and in many ways is not traditional but we feel we offer a pleasant, sociable environment, loads of beers of all types and aspire to high standards of cellar management and customer service. If we are a bit quirky then it’s all the more gratifying that CAMRA evidently likes our sort of quirkiness!”
Grant Cook and his team have built a strong reputation for quality and choice: the number of different draught real ales served has passed 1,400. In addition to the regularly changing real ales there are 16 craft keg ales and 80 bottled world beers, as well as a good range of food.
CAMRA Regional Director, Gareth MacDonald, said: “It’s a great honour to host the National CAMRA pub of the year for the second year in a row in the South West region of CAMRA. The pub has something for everyone and is very deserving of this recognition; from an excellent, warm welcome to a great choice of ales and ciders. I am delighted for Grant and the team at the Sandford Park Alehouse.”
Cheltenham Branch Chair, Rob Coldwell, said: “This is the third time a Gloucestershire pub has won the National Pub of the Year award in nine years, since the Old Spot Inn, Dursley, won in 2007. It’s fantastic news for Cheltenham; the last few years have seen big improvements in the trade. There are so many good pubs here now, and the range and quality served in Cheltenham rivals the established real ale destinations of Bath and Bristol.
“It’s hard enough to achieve success with an established pub, but Grant opened the Sandford Park Alehouse as a brand new pub. Starting completely from scratch to reach the level of National Pub of the Year (in less than three years) requires tremendous hard work, a commitment to quality products and unflagging customer service.
“As a Branch we hope that Grant’s fantastic achievement will act as a spur to all the other great pubs in Cheltenham and act as a challenge to them to up their game even more and fight for top spot. It’s a great time to be a real ale fan in Cheltenham.”