Sunday, 1 January 2012

My top 10 pubs of 2011

By the time you are reading this you will have probably wasted at least one of your festive evenings vegetating in front of the television watching some drawn-out drivel called something like ‘Top 100 moments/highlights/gaffes/adverts etc.
You flick on to Channel 23,000 by accident and, realising it is one of those pointless shows hosted by a ‘funnyman' on the wane, you resolve to change the channel immediately.
But something gets you and you decide to hang on to see what number 83 will be.
Before you know it 3am has come and gone.
Bleary-eyed, you sit nervously waiting through a 30minute advert break to find out what the Number 1 moment of the year has been.
‘Bloody hell, it was the Royal Wedding after all that'.
After investing all of that time and passive energy slumped on your settee you trudge up to bed feeling angry and cheated.
While I cannot guarantee this roundup of my favourite 10 pubs of the year will not leave you with a similar bubbling sense of dissatisfaction, at least it will not take up your whole evening.

Old Black Bull, Friargate, Preston
For real ale drinkers around central Lancashire, this pub is an absolute must.
And during the past year landlord Stan Eaton has been able to vastly expand the breadth of his offer, after breaking his ale tie with the brewery.
With something like 10 pumps it has allowed him to bring in lots of rare beers from micro-breweries across the country as well as hosting numerous beer festivals.
It is also a major draw for sports fans who can watch every live game on big screens.
The Saddle Inn, Sidgreaves Lane, Lea, Preston
A couple of years ago The Saddle was closed down, boarded up and overgrown.
With large grounds in a scenic rural location, it looked almost certain to be wiped off the landscape and replaced with a clutter of houses.
But instead, Graham and Angela Rowson took up the challenge of rebuilding the pub from scratch. After lots of hard work The Saddle Inn was named the nation's ‘Best Family Pub', in the Great British Pub Awards 2011.
One of the main key factors behind the pub's impressive gong has been its beer garden which includes a large seating area, children's play equipment, a toddler changing area and assorted pets.
If you are short of somewhere to take your children on a Sunday afternoon, the park facilities would give most play parks a run for their money and you might just be able to sneak in a pint of real ale. 
Black Horse, Friargate,  Preston
Despite being wedged next to a huge discount home store and opposite a huge shopping centre, the BlackHorse has long been one of the city centre's most thriving pubs.
People are drawn to the pub because its heritage and character have been so pleasingly preserved. After Graham and Angela Rowson, recently took over the pub I would also have it down as a pub to watch over the next 12 months.
The couple who also run The Saddle Inn, (see above) have lots of plans to improve the pub, including a better range of real ale, proper scrumpy, food being served upstairs and a ‘showcase' cellar.
The Continental, South Meadow Lane, Broadgate, Preston
This is another pub which had once been shut down and looked likely to become flats but today it is not only a thriving pub offering fresh food and real ale.
It is also one of the area's main hubs for culture and the arts. Since reopening, Ruth Heritage, who runs the ‘They Eat Culture' arm of the business, has branched out with a range of events and activities, from theatre productions, to cinema, writing classes and vintage fairs.
Such is the pub's contribution to Preston's social and cultural life, it is difficult to imagine what we did without it.
Mad Ferret, Fylde Road, Preston
Preston's best live music pub. If anyone has not been before, I would advise checking the website to find out what is on and you are sure to find something you will like.
During the week entry is usually free and the standard of the live acts is generally excellent but the real ale offer is limited.
Fox and Grapes, Fox Street, Preston
This is another pub which puts on a live event which is unrivalled across the city.
The pub's free monthly comedy night ‘For Fox Sake' gives any of its bigger rivals a real run for their money.
I was last in the pub for the ‘Christmas Special' where Archie Kelly who played Kenny Senior in Phoenix Nights was headlining – another great night.
The Wheatsheaf, Water Lane, Preston
Unlike some of the pubs on this list which stand out for events, tradition or location, the Wheatsheaf does not have any one feature which leaps out above the others.
It's strength is doing simple things very well. The pub is large, clean and airy with lots of screens for live sport and has an excellent range of  well-kept real ale at very reasonable prices.
It can get very busy in the pub but I have always found it to be very well run and the atmosphere is always jolly.
Running Pump Catforth Road, Catforth
This was one of the first pubs I visited during my tour of Lancashire's pubs and it remains a favourite. Cosy and warm with open fires and lots of authentic character, it is the perfect place to spend the evening with friends on a cold winter's night.
Th'Owd Tithe Barn, Church Street, Garstang
Set on the bank of the Lancaster Canal, this pub is all about location and on a sunny, summer's afternoon, it is the perfect spot for a pint of ale or a bite to eat.
The Wellington, Glover's Court, Preston
While most pubs at this end of the city centre have become over-run by chrome bars, disco balls and over-priced cocktails, this pub has managed to hold on to its character and charm.

Please feel free to leave a comment and let meknow what you think of my 10 and if there is a pub you think is worth a try in 2012, just point me in the right direction.