Tuesday, 25 September 2012

39 British Lion

Visited On 3 July 2012
Here's the photo ...

... and here's the map

So do you want the good news or the bad news? Well, as the good news is longer, let’s have that first. Because it is, if only briefly, very good news indeed.

To finish off the evening that had seen three pubs out of three offering cask beer, I walk past Crewe station, and across the traffic lights at the crossing of Nantwich Road and Mill Street, to find the British Lion (aka “The Pig”) open for business. I hadn’t been sure whether it would be, having read that this well-established locals’ pub had closed. There is, ominously, a “For Sale” sign outside.

It’s a very traditional, narrow fronted pub with some seating in the front window and a games area further back, a beer garden outside and the bar side-on. The interior is basic but clean. And there are no less than four cask ales on offer this evening: Tetley Bitter and Mild (both sold nowhere else in Crewe in cask form), Black Sheep Bitter, and once again Shepherd Neame Spitfire.

Heck, I’ve not had Tetley cask mild for decades, so it’s one of those. There are plenty of punters in, and the locals are a friendly crowd, a sharp contrast with one or two of the places I’ve visited over the weeks doing the survey. The pub has been reopened by a bloke called Sean who is not only enthusiastic, but very knowledgeable about beer and cellar craft.

Food is on too – they’re doing filled baps for a quid a go. The mild is not bad, and there are a few others drinking it: this too is a contrast with all those sad souls at nitro-keg only pubs seemingly happy to sup whatever bland liquid is served up to them. There is a screen and news, sport and the rest, but you can hear yourself converse. It’s what a locals’ pub ought to be like.

And just to make sure, I have a pint of the Tetley bitter as well, and this too is very good, as good as what they serve in the Ship Victory in Chester. Sean and the regulars I had been chatting to say I should come back and visit again soon. This pub is a shoo-in for a top five spot. Except, except, except.

Yes, there is also the bad news. The British Lion had been closed once again a few weeks after this review was done. Why this happened is thus far unknown. But what I do know is that the folks selling the pub are – you guessed – Punch Taverns, and they want a price for it, including VAT, of a whopping £210,000. For the potential turnover, that looks prohibitive.

Crewe has lost quite enough pubs in recent years, and Nantwich Road has its fair share: the Bank has become a restaurant, the Earl was forcibly closed and is now the subject of a supermarket planning battle as it sits and deteriorates, so we can ill afford to lose locals’ pubs like the British Lion that are popular and serve decent beer. This shows all that is wrong with PubCos – read it and weep.

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