I’m in Cheltenham finishing off northern Gloucestershire. It is a mixed experience which I’ll tell you about tomorrow. The CAMRA national Pub of the Year is as good as you could hope for though.
Looking back, quite a lot of POTYs seem to win the award a couple of years from opening, having first won the regional award. That must be true of the Sandford Ale House, which I’d never seen before, and I’ve been to Cheltenham a fair few times.
I don’t now how busy it was before the award, but it was packed on Thursday night (which is scarily quiet in Cheltenham). There’s a fair few young professionals on the keg, but otherwise it’s an ideal mix of customers, and the billards table adds to the feel of a proper pub, even if it takes up a bit of space.
It’s a classic ale house design, though with more keg beers than most of its POTY predecessors. I’ve seen a few comments about repetition of beer range, but to me that’s a good thing. If you like Oakham Citra or Wye Valley Butty Bach in great condition you ought to be able to get it next time you visit.
Most people on Thursday night seemed to be trying new beers, things like Arbor and Saltaire rather than tiny micros, so fairly reliable small breweries in the main.
As you know, I rate beer quality highest, and a well-priced Oakham and an Arbor were NBSS 3.5 and 4, which is generally enough to persuade me to stay for the night, except that I had a Spoons to tick off.
It was also a little crowded to be honest, and I had to enjoy the outside garden with the smokers. I quite like the smell but the quality of debate was very poor. No, we wouldn’t have won the 2002 World Cup if Seaman had saved Ronaldinho’s 40 yarder.
The only negative is it’s success. It’s no fun standing, and the upstairs area felt a bit soulless. The service was friendly, though very slow with food orders getting in the way of the core business. Go after 9pm to get a quick pint, but do go.
NB I recommend looking at the manager’s response to a few negative comments on Trip Advisor; that’s how to run a business.