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Cheers! Shropshire pubs and breweries in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide

By Mark Andrews | Dining out | Published:

Fifty-one Shropshire pubs and 20 county breweries have been included in the latest edition of a prestigious beer connoisseur's guide.

The Campaign for Real Ale's Good Beer Guide sees 16 new pubs in the county for the 2020 guide, as well as five new breweries.

Now in its 47th year, the guide is considered by many to be the definitive guide to the best pubs for beer lovers.

A dozen pubs and two breweries just over the border in Powys also make it into the latest guide.

Bridgnorth is once again well represented with six pubs recognised, with the Golden Lion and Bell & Talbot making their debuts.

Jon Brown, who took over as manager of the Golden Lion two years ago, said he was delighted to have been recognised.

"We narrowly missed out on last year's guide because you have to be open for 12 months, so I am absolutely over the moon to have made it second time around," he said.

"I know I have got a good following, and I am always being complimented on my beer, that is my thing. I'm very proud to be included."

Michael Young (left) and Emma Dean (right) celebrating the opening of The Coracle pub last year with former councillor Nicola Lowery

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The Castle Hotel in Bishop's Castle is a new entry, along with the Royal Hill at Edgerley on the Welsh border.

Ellesmere has two new entries, with the Vault, which opened in 2017, featuring alongside the White Hart, which returns after a 12-month absence.

There is also a return for The Bear at Hodnet and the Mytton Arms at Habberley, which return after missing out last year.

Ludlow gets two new entries, with the Blood Bay – which has a ban on the use of mobile phones – and the Church Inn making it into the guide. The Railway Shed, which serves as Ludlow Brewery's tap and visitor centre, maintains its place.

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The Coracle Micropub, which opened in Ironbridge last year, makes the guide, but sadly The Platform micropub at Albrighton station is absent following its recent closure.

The Black Swan at Jackfield, near Ironbridge is another new entry.

Shrewsbury continues to be well represented with 11 pubs making the guide, including new entry Loggerheads in Church Street. The Prince of Wales in Bynner Street, Belle Vue, is also the West Midland regional finalist in the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) Pub of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced in February.

New breweries include All Nations at Madeley, Church Aston, Severn Valley at Bridgnorth and Finney's at Wellington. The new Evolution brewery, at the former Battlefield brewery site, is also listed, although it only produced keg beers which are not classified as real ale.

Writing in the guide, the Camra's Tim Hampson voiced continued concern about the rate of pub closures, saying the number of pubs in the UK had fallen from 52,500 in 2001 to 38,815 last year. He said pubs on the outskirts of large cities were most vulnerable.

Licensees of the Prince of Wales at Shrewsbury, Vicki Payne and Ian Payne (front row, centre) celebrate being crowned Camra West Midland Pub of the Year

"It's the smaller, community pubs that have bore the brunt of this mass extinction," said Mr Hampson.

"Analysis shows it's the small pubs that are disappearing, as the big pub chains consolidate their businesses around bigger bars.

Mr Hampson also accused pub companies of 'riding roughshod over new rules to give licensees operating under 'tied tenancies' a fair deal.

The Pubs Code regulations were introduced in 2016 to offer protections to licensees who lease their pub from a brewery, with a contract preventing them from buying beer elsewhere.

Mr Hampson said: "Evidence is growing that pub companies are using every trick in the book to stop tied tenants taking advantage of the code."

He said one bright spot was the success of pubs being run by their own communities. The Pheasant at Neenton, near Bridgnorth, reopened in 2014 after being taken over by a community society, and last month the Boot Inn at Orleton, near Ludlow, also reopened after being saved by such a group.

"Community-run pubs are stronger than ever and people's enthusiasm for running one is growing," he said, referring to a report by the Plunkett Foundation which provides support to such groups.

He said more than 120 pubs across the UK were now owned by community groups.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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