wrexham and welsh area news and reports

Fox & Hounds  (September 15th 2014)
Bad news from Eyton. A planning application has been spotted to convert the hamlet's former cosy pub, the Fox & Hounds, into a private dwelling. Seeing as it's been closed since the autumn last year and is now a rather dilapidated eyesore, we can't possibly imagine there being enough locals prepared to object let alone put up a fight to save it.

Enough defeatist talk, if anyone's interested search for case no P/2014/0668 on the planning applications page on the Wrexham Borough Council website.

Wrexham Planning Applications >>

Overton Fezza  (September 9th 2014)
Overton Community Council will be staging a beer festival on Friday October 3rd (7:30pm - midnight) at the Village Hall. This is to help raise money to buy a new playground in the village. Admission is by ticket which includes half a pint of beer and a gourmet sausage in a roll. They can be purchased at £6 each from the Corner Shop and Woodlands Café or alternatively from Pene Coles 710598 or Peter Lynch 710556. The beers will all be from local breweries - Big Hand, Axiom, McGivern's, Cwrw Ial and Stonehouse. 'Bandjack' will be playing live music on the night. Please try and attend to support this worthy cause.

Buck Stops Here  (September 5th 2014)
Well, that was bad timing. No sooner has the 2015 edition of the Good Beer Guide been popped through the letter box than we need to submit a GBG deletion notification to CAMRA HQ. Sadly the Buck House Hotel at Bangor-on-Dee has closed suddenly. A notice pinned outside thanks customers for their support over the last 25 years but they have ceased trading forthwith. While the local gossip is all about financial reasons, it is rather poignant that this has happened almost a year since popular landlord Alan Hayes died. 

We presume the Buck now goes on the market. With Bangor race track down the road, surely it has a viable future so we're optimisitic we'll see it back in business sooner rather than later. In the meantime, Bangor's other pub - the Royal Oak - continues to be worthy of a visit not least for its riverside location and guest ales typically from Stonehouse and Purple Moose.

Gone for a Burton  (August 27th 2014)
A sad sight currently in the hamlet of Burton Green, tucked away in farmland at the back of Rossett, is the boarded up Golden Groves. Despite a (uncomplimentary) review on the pub as recently as August 17th, judging by the state of the weed-strewn car park, the place has been shut longer than that. After a succession of managers and temporary closures, local residents think this time the allegedly 13th century inn, complete with low beams and flagstone floors, is doomed. They believe Marstons have sold the property and it is lined up for conversion into a private residence. It was summed up as a painful, lingering, inevitable death thanks to a combination of relative isolation, drink-driving enforcement, the smoking ban and poor management. The days when cars queued up down the lanes to get there are but a distant memory. Shame. Let's hope it's not the end. 

Trevor Arms, MarfordMarford / Llyn-y-Pwll (August 24th 2014)
It's good to see the eye-catching Trevor Arms in Marford back trading after a worryingly lengthy period of closure. Extensive refurbishment has seen little alteration to the rambling multi-room interior. What you see now is lots of the expected pine / parquet / tile floors, plush seating and enough pre-laid tables (wine goblets de rigueur) to make one suspect they've got an advance booking to cater for the feast of Belshazzar. Cask wise, it looks to be still tied to Star Inns (ex S&N, Heineken etc) with Theakstons Best and a house brew called Lady Blackbird ("ghoulishly good ale") which is from Caledonian.

Meanwhile, up, down and along several roads but still relatively nearby, a reminder to not necessarily whizz past the Holt Lodge Hotel when you're driving along the Wrexham - Nantwich Road. The extensive modern bar continues to sell two cask ales with Stonehouse Station Bitter usually as regular and an alternating guest often from Purple Moose.

Black Lion Revisited  (August 22nd 2014)
We've got to admit to having consigned the Black Lion in Newbridge to history as far as real ale was concerned. It used to be in the GBG yonks back but then ran into neglect and decline with the cask ale - surprising for a Lees tiedhouse - becoming an early casualty. Happily, while we've had our backs turned, things have been steadily on the up since new owners arrived about two years ago. After lots (and lots) of hard graft and TLC the pub is now looking a lovely, cosy, three-roomed affair. Even the side garden, buried under weeds and rubbish, has been restored. The transformation is all captured in a photo album that's kept behind the bar. Also enjoying a revival is cask ale - usually Lees MPA. It's still Lees despite the Lion now being free of tie. This is because the regulars are hooked on the Manchester brewer's Smoothflow and it would kill trade to get rid of it! Despite this the cask still sells well. Keg or cask it's marvellous to see the pub postively back on an upward curve.

Award for Community Run Tyn-y-Capel  (August 19th 2014)
All smiles from the some of the folk behind the re-opening of the Tyn-y-Capel in Minera as they are presented with the branch runner up certificate in this year’s Welsh Pub-of-the Year competition. Following a two year period of closure, locals fought a long and ultimately successful campaign to get the pub reopened and, in April 2013, the Tyn joined a small but growing group of pubs in the UK that are owned or leased and managed by the community. To have achieved an award in such a short time says much about the enthusiasm and commitment of the management team, some of whom are featured in the photo. From left to right; Kath Jones, Dai Tilston, Sarah Luckett, Carol McIver.

Internally the pub has several seating areas served by a split bar, and also has an outside seating area with spectacular views of the adjoining hillside where you can watch the distant sheep grazing while supping your ale. In addition to the house beer, there are up to four changing guest ales, mostly from local breweries. Good quality food is available at most times, and the Tyn features band nights on some Saturdays. Great atmosphere, and so good to see it progressing from a closed pub to where it is now.

Long Live the King  (August 9th 2014)
Good news for a change on the pub front. The King's Head at Bwlchgwyn has re-opened meaning the residents of the self-proclaimed Highest Village in Wales finally have somewhere to walk for a drink. 

Even better news is that the King's is now a freehouse having been bought, free of tie, from Hydes by locals Ray & Carole Miller who used to run the Royal Oak in Coedpoeth (now alas a kebab shop). It's all early days at the moment but plans are simply to create a community focused pub, maybe with darts and doms teams, plus the possibility down the line of Sunday lunches. For the opening night the pub served two real ales - Big Hand Melyn and Cwrw Ial Limestone Cowboy. Wrexham lager was the biggest seller but Ray says, even if the cask doesn't take off, he'll always have one on if only for himself!

Erddig Brewery  (July 20th 2014)
What Silicon Valley does for computer industries Wrexham Industrial Estate surely does for the art of brewing. Becoming the fourth micro on the business park, joining near neighbours Sandstone, Big Hand and Axiom, are Erddig Brewery. Launching their website they have revealed that their first two ales will be Squire's Best and Penny Farthing - both names having connections with the eponymous stately pile and National Trust gem just south of Wrexham. 

Needless to say, as with all our local brewers, we wish them the greatest success with their venture and look forward to sampling their wares in the near future.

Erddig Brewery >>

Local Brewers >>

Swan Wrexham  (June 25th 2014)
Interesting developments at the Swan on Pen y Bryn in Wrexham. The pub, until recently part of the Marstons estate, has been bought privately and re-opened earlier in the month as a freehouse heavily promoting cask ales. Early beers to feature have come from Marstons, Big Hand and (by request) Black Jack. All very encouraging and let's not forget that near neighbours the Bowling Green and Oak Tree also serve up the proper stuff. 

Swan Twitter >>

Big Hand Wind Down Weekends  (June 24th 2014)
Replicating the popularity of similar events at Offbeat and Peerless, Big Hand Brewery is to launch Wind Down Weekends on the first Friday of the month commencing this 4th July. Dave from the brewery based on Wrexham Industrial Estate explains the concept:

"Our inaugural monthly brewery open evening is free entry. We're open from 3pm to 11pm with at least four ales on draught at ex-brewery prices. There will be free soft drinks for Designated Drivers so why not car share and save the environment whilst having a beer. Bar nibbles and other snacks will be present. Sorry no debit card facility so good old fashioned hard cash. Quiz the brewers on why they left perfectly decent jobs to start a microbrewery!

The brewery address is Abbey Close (Off Abbey Road), Redwither Business Park, Wrexham LL13 9XG. You can get the bus from Wrexham - 41A / 41E / 42 services  (GHA bus timetables)- get off Redwither Tower opposite Hoya. A shared taxi ride from town wont cost you too much.

Big Hand Facebook >>

Aqueduct Discount  (June 19th 2014)
Commencing weekly from the 7th July, the Aqueduct in Froncysyllte will be launching Mad Monday and Crazy Wednesdays. From 6-8pm all cask ales will be £2.50 which not only apply to the regular ales from Stonehouse but also to the recently introduced guest ale.

Anchor Update  (May 27th 2014)
Some pleasant news for a change. It seems the threat to the Anchor in Saltney (reported Oct 3rd 2013) has abated as the pub has been bought locally from Admiral Taverns and is now operating as a freehouse. A spokesman for the Anchor commented "It has been a long haul but now the customers know that there is a positive future for 'their' pub which stocks a variety of lagers, Bass Bitter, Guinness and the increasingly popular Stowford Press cider. There is also the facility to re-introduce some real ales should the interest be generated."

Stocking cask ale is the least of our concerns when a pub's very survival is at stake so we're positively delighted that this community local hasn't yet been added to the litany of pub closures.

Head on the Chopping Block  (May 25th 2014)
In 2011, the Boar's Head at Ewloe was a rare outlet for Draught Bass and was listed in the Good Beer Guide. Fast forward three years and now we find its name in far less happier circumstances on Flintshire.gov.uk's planning register for prior notice of demolition. And, sure enough, root around and you'll discover Lingfield Homes and Property Development have designs to turn the site into affordable housing after the pub was off-loaded by a heavily debt laden Punch Taverns.

Is there strong enough local feeling to launch an objection and campaign to save this local landmark, dating back to 1703, from the bull dozer? What a shame it would be to lose this cosy local just because, as one suspects, Punch was more interested in property speculation rather than running the pub as a business. It deserves a chance as a freehouse run by savvy, enterprising new licensees. Updates to follow.

More on Deeside.com >>

Prince of Wales  (May 14th 2014)
Good news from Llangollen where we learn that the Prince of Wales on Regent Street - shut since early this year - is soon to re-open. It will be operated by Llangollen brewery who are based at the Abbey Grange hotel at the foot of the Horseshoe Pass. They also own the Railway at Pontybodkin and the idyllically located Sun at Rhewl.

Long Live the King?  (May 3rd 2014)
Hopefully good news from the highest village in Wales. Apparently the King's Head in Bwlchgwyn has been bought by a local man from Coedpoeth. The rumours have it that, once the necessary form-filling has been completed, work can commence on re-opening this former Hydes tied-house. Currently it's a rather sad sight with the pub name abandoned in the car park and accessible to any light-fingered collector of large pieces of breweriana. At least there's some hope for the Kings. As for the Westminster Arms, further up the road and derelict for years, this pub is surely doomed.

Bangor Bike Ride  (April 30th 2014)
Another glorious spring day gave an opportunity to cycle out to a couple of my favourite pub gardens. The first stop was at the Royal Oak in Bangor-on-Dee. Whilst the ‘garden’ isn’t exactly an oasis of green it does boast a splendid setting right next to the River Dee with fabulous views of the old Bridge and Church. It’s a great place to soak up the sun and watch out for grey wagtails and dippers on the river. On the beer front the Stonehouse Station Bitter was very good and the landlady was also keen to let me know of the upcoming ales from Purple Moose. 

Just next door is the Buck House Hotel. No spectacular views here but still a nice outside courtyard where you can soak up the rays. Four ales were on the handpumps of which I went for the Cambrian Gold and Monty’s mischief. Look out for their Beer & Blues festival May 9th and 10th, they’re offering generous discounts for CAMRA members too.

After a leisurely wander along the glorious lanes of Cloy and Overton (White Horse wasn’t yet open) I was running a little late so sadly skipped the Cross Foxes at Overton Bridge. This is another pub with a fabulous setting beside the Dee though, for me, it doesn’t beat the Boat at Erbistock for magnificence. There are picnic tables lined up all the way alongside the pub so you can’t miss out on the spectacular riparian setting (pictured right). Inside were Weetwood Cheshire Cat, Weetwood Best and Black Sheep. Hard to beat this location on a sunny day.

Surprisingly steep lanes then took me up to the main road and to my final destination the Bridge End at Ruabon. Sadly I had 20 minutes before the train back so only had chance to down a very good pint from Offbeat. A quick taster of the McGivern’s new Spring Ale shows that should be popular with the regulars, drinking very easily at 4.5%. All in all a fabulous day out but time doesn’t half fly when daydreaming by the river. (Mr W)

West of Mold Social  (April 26th 2014)
With strong interest in a minibus trip from Deeside CAMRA members, we decided on a route which would take in the rural pubs around the periphery of Mold. It was a good turnout from the Central Hotel in Shotton and it was a full minibus that headed up the hills into North Wales.

The first stop of the night was at The Oak in Hendre. This is a lovely old inn and many must drive past it along the Mold-Denbigh road without realising what a gem it is. Beers were the light Conwy Hop Infusion and dark Hafod Moel Famau ale. Good to see all the CAMRA-supplied info here alongside many Welsh tourist information leaflets. If you’re planning on walking in the Clwydians this is a great place to have a pint afterwards.

White Horse, CilcainA short drive away we next came to the White Horse at Cilcain (pictured). This is a long-standing destination pub for walkers and now also looks popular for the food. For once we didn’t stay in the bar but went over to the ‘posh’ side and took advantage of the comfortable lounge. On the bar were Frodsham Buzzin’, Banks Bitter and a very good Adnams Ghost Ship.

Handpumps at the CrownWe then crossed the River Alyn and up the very steep climb to The Crown at Pantymwyn. This was a new pub for me and it was great to see it packed out. The pub is split into three distinct areas – a dining room, bar and games room - and each was very busy. Locale beers were represented by Facers with Splendid and the house beer Crowning Glory. Brains Reverand James and Thwaites Nutty Black were also available.

There was a complete contrast at the We Three Loggerheads when our coach party turned out to be the only customers! This would normally have us worrying for a pub’s future but I’m sure their weekend and lunch trade make up for the quieter times. No issues with the beer as the Hafod Hoppy Extra was very good. Look out for their excellent Loggfest again this year from June 6th to 8th.

A short way up the hill was our last stop at the Colomendy Arms in Cadole. This has been a many-time CAMRA Pub of the Year winner and remains a cracking place to drink. Five beers were available as usual including my beer of the night – Heavy Industry Diawl Bach (Little Devil). This was a superb brew with good hop character and a fitting way to round off an excellent social trip. It was great to meet our new friends from Deeside and hope they enjoyed it as much as the rest of us! (Mr W)

Llangollen Closure  (February 3rd 2014)
Feedback from WhatPub tells us that the Prince of Wales on Regent Street (aka the A5) in Llangollen has shut. Hopefully it's only temporary but signs are up advertising it for sale.

Meanwhile there are rumours that Wetherspoons are contemplating opening an outlet in town. Maybe they've got an eye on the HSBC bank scheduled for closure this month. Any info on this will be gratefully received.

Hanmer Re-Arms  (January 10th 2014)
It was a shock when the Hanmer Arms in Hanmer closed last year so it was something of a relief that it re-opened at the end of 2013. Custodians Andy and Emma took over after a successful stint at the Sportsman's Arms in Tattenhall and seem to have hit the ground running. Eight handpumps are on the bar, of which two are for cider, with most of the beers supplied by Thwaites including a house-badged brew. Also on this visit was Conwy Telfords Porter and Stonehouse Station Bitter. The spicy aromas from the restaurant were fantastic on what was a trial Thursday curry night. Judging by the number of diners it wont be a one off. The pub may be at the southern end of the branch between Overton and Whitchurch but is well worth a visit if you're down that way. It’s great to celebrate a once-closed pub thriving again so please support them.

Details are updated on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/hanmerarmsinn.

Wrexham Wanderlust  (December 14th 2013)
Granted. A stroll on a late Saturday afternoon around the pubs of the north Wrexham suburbs in gusty winds and slanting rain probably lacks appeal. But then again, anything, anything, to escape the town centre with its frenzy of Christmas shoppers and seasonal drunks in Yuletide fluffy sweaters. 

We begin in the Pant-yr-Ochain which, despite being seemingly set in a rural idyll, is in fact a short walk via footbridge from Borras Park. As expected the pub is frightfully well heeled and busy with diners including a group of Eleven Day Prematurists wearing paper hats tucking into Christmas meals to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus. A flawless, delicious pint of Hawkshead Windermere Pale is enjoyed before moving on from this exemplary Brunning & Price establishment. 

The Cunliffe ArmsThe umbrella takes a ferocious battering but makes it intact to the Cunliffe Arms. A strange looking modern community pub, it consists of two halves. The split level lounge with carvery is quiet but the spacious bar side is bustling with punters including a post-match assembly of Borras Park Albion FC players and staff. A reliable Marstons outlet it offers Banks Bitter, Ringwood Fortyniner and Ringwood XXXX Porter. The latter is absolutely gorgeous. The temptation is to stay but the mission presides. 

The Greyhound, RhosnesniNext, heading into Rhosnesni territory, we enter a very quiet mock-Tudor Gate Hangs High - a Marston outlet partitioned into two parallel areas one with darts room at the rear. Apparently the regular cask drinkers often select which ale they'd like on and that the current choice of EPA is one of their favourites. Looking at the pump clips, they're also partial to the Jennings range. After overhearing a selection of amusing Tommy Cooper jokes it's off to the Greyhound (pictured) which is another thoroughly agreeable Marstons pub. Good to see the traditional two room layout of (totally empty) lounge and public bar where a slightly older clientele discuss issues of the day. We weren't sure whether we could expect it but cask is on. Banks Bitter. Not brilliant but we like the place with its red and black chequer floor tiling and plush red bench seating. 

Off down the Holt Road now to the Hand Inn which is a pub with an "Oooh. You don't want to go in there." reputation. Nevertheless this was rare unexplored licensed territory and simply had to be done. The redundant handpumps here have probably seen as much action as Anne Frank's drum kit so, when in Rome and all that, it was half of Carlsberg. Gassy as hell but drinkable. Then the floor show began as a rowing couple went outside for a punch up culminating with the "rum lass" shattering one of the windows. 

Quitting while we were ahead it was a long meander across Acton to pop our heads inside the Four Dogs. No real ale, and not fancying any more FKS (work it out yourself), we finished off our peregrination virtually next door at a large and packed Acton Park. Fair play to the Ember Inn group of which this pub is part; they're very keen on their guest cask ales to supplement Thwaites Original and Wainwright. Of the two guest ales we had a rip-snorting Great Western Edwin's Ruby Porter.

So there you have it, an odyssey that might not float your boat but certainly did ours.

Trevor Arms  (December 14th 2013)
Turbulent times at the Trevor Arms in Marford. This attractive gothic looking pub at the foot of Marford Hill was closed around the turn of the year, re-opened in March but has been closed again since the autumn. It's now back on the market to let with Star Pubs and Bars (previously Scottish & Newcastle Pub Co), the leased pub division of Heineken UK. 

Pant-yr-Ochain, nr. GresfordGresford Gadabout  (November 1st 2013)
With a temporary break in the poor weather it was a chance to wheel out the bike for a mini tour and check out some of the pubs around Gresford. The Pant-yr-Ochain was on its usual good form with a good selection of ales, although the Purple Moose Snowdonia wasn’t quite tip top, presumably nearing the end of the barrel. The dark Hawkshead Brodie’s Prime was superb though, just the ticket when the cold weather gets you moving away from the summery blonde ales.

A short pedal along Pikey Lane (soon to be renamed Gentle Travelling Folk Lane) and across the old Wrexham Road took me past the Wonder of Wales Gresford Bells and onto the Griffin. The usual offerings from Courage and Adnams were supplemented by Caledonian Autumn Red for this visit. I went for the latter two ales and both were very nice, indeed I must have lingered longer than intended as it was suddenly dark when I got outside!

With lights on it was then time to play dodge the pothole whilst speeding down Marford Hill and onto the Alyn in Rossett. With it being Halloween all the staff and many punters had dressed up in spooky outfits and even several of the six ales were themed too. I went for the single hopped Wakatu which was a good session ale, but more interesting was the Marston’s Howling Wolf, a darker ale with a nice citrusy hop flavour.

The final stop was just along the road at the Nag's Head in Lavister. This has appeared on the radar for selling much-loved brews such as Salopian Shropshire Gold and Wye Valley HPA. Sadly on the evidence of this visit the beers are not reaching the heights we know they’re capable of, so it’s one to keep an eye on.

Sandstone Brewery Sold  (October 24th 2013)
Trading for over five years, and having brewed almost one hundred and fifty gyles, Sandstone Brewery now has new owners. The Deeley family have acquired the business from the original founding partners, but will continue to brew and sell beers from the same Wrexham premises, and plan to carry on brewing the award-winning Sandstone Edge, Onyx and Postmistress beers, whilst introducing some new styles and names along the way.

Commercial Partner Keith Porter remarked, "it has been a lot of fun and hard work to take Sandstone to where it is today, but we now feel the time is right to hand over the business to new owners who will have the drive and enthusiasm to take it to a new level."

The new owners’ debut beer, Racing Dragon, will be on sale shortly alongside the well-known regular beers, and plans are in hand to develop a wider customer base.

Matthew Deeley, Marketing Director for Sandstone Breweries, commented "Everyone is very excited here about moving the company forward with both new and existing customers and would like to thank the previous owners for their work and commitment so far, and in the future. The founders will continue working with the new management for the time being to help ensure the consistent high quality and continuity of product that the Sandstone customers have come to expect."

The new owners would also like to encourage anyone who would like any information about the current range of products or the future plans for the brewery at Sandstone Breweries to contact them on 07581001118.

Anchors Away  (October 3rd 2013)
Bad news is emanating from Saltney in the shape of rumours about the imminent demise of the Anchor on High Street. Apparently Admiral have put the one time Greenalls outlet up for sale and three companies have shown an interest and looked around the premises. There's no sale yet. Rumours are that these include a developer whose intention is to demolish the building and replace it (and the big juicy car park) with some lovely new flats. One of the would-be new owners are alleged to be Bell Developments who have achieved local notoriety for their involvement in the controversial plans for a student village on green belt land between Blacon and Mollington. The pub remains open for now.

Trevor Walkabout  (September 8th 2013)
Aussie Rooster, TrevorHad a stroll from Trevor along the Llangollen Canal to Llangollen and back via the Offa's Dyke the other Sunday. Intermittent showers broke out about a mile from completing the round trip forcing an unplanned pub crawl. Yomping downhill from Garth it was into the Aussie Rooster on the main Llangollen-Ruabon road for cover. Shame it was empty. It's an incredibly tidy pub done out in green decor with a rooster and poppy theme plus a few pop star pics above the fancy looking juke-box. The barmaid says there's always one ale (occasionally two) and that usually it's Brains SA Gold. Very pleasant too.

Another deluge forced me - fortuituouly as it transpired - into the Duke of Wellington set back off the road on the edge of Acrefair. What a cracking, friendly, genuine, little local this is! Only two small rooms so on busier days I suspect you tend to get involved in the chit-chat. The landlady told a few good yarns inbetween serving up the Sunday roasts. Wells Bombardier sells well apparently but opted for the Brains Bitter which was very good. Delighted to see the pub has a rare outside toilet. Get a preservation order on it! 

Mill, Cefn MawrNot too far away, but a bugger to find if you don't know the area, is the Mill in Cefn (left). CAMRA bods know where it is as it's GBG listed. The 'B' stands for beer as the pub hardly has any creature comforts. It's just a cluttered, scruffy, three room mess and all the more endearing for it. More unusual, basic bogs. Accessed through a colourful plastic strip curtain they had a trough urinal with perspex splashback. All gents should have them. The landlady at the Duke said Colin has "a reputation for a perfect pint". True. Just one ale - Facers Clwyd Gold - but it was faultless ... and only £2 a pint.

Last pub was the Telford standing prominent at the Trevor canal basin. It's OK but you feel it really ought to make more of its location as a tourist honeytrap with all the narrowboat activity and Pont Cysyllte aqueduct so close by. They sell a changing guest ale, usually from one of the bigger brewers (this time Gales Seafarer), and a house ale called Telfords Tipple (from 'Tetleys' wherever 'Tetleys' is made these days). A good impromptu crawl that. Well done rain. (Reg Cobham)  

Vaulting Ambition  (September 6th 2013)
Well, it's happened. The rumours, as far fetched as they seemed, were true after all. The Roundhouse in Ruabon was at times an uninviting, noisy, keg-only, local scoring high on stare factor. It's closure earlier in the year was greeted with apathy and  inevitability. Talk of a comeback as a cask house seemed utter piffle but that's precisely what's happened. It's now been re-born, returning to its former name of the Vaults and real ale is indeed its raison d'être.

Inside it's a tidy, single-roomed, rectangular affair with plenty of shiny, polished wooden floorspace between the tasteful, chintzy furniture around its periphery. Always an attractive and well appreciated feature is a collection of framed local prints decorating the walls. The bar, complete with wooden bar-back, is set at the rear and here you'll find two regular ales in Thwaites Wainwright and Brimstage Trapper's Hat backed up by changing guest ales on the handpumps. On this occasion they were .... 

It would seem the new owners have taken the gamble that they'll pick up a fair bit of passing trade from their nearest neighbouring freehouse. This so happens to be the immensely popular, multi award winning Bridge End - CAMRA's national Pub of the Year in 2012. (And lest we forget the Bridge End was itself once a down-at-a-heel lagering hole the Pub Co couldn't wait to sell off.) The logic seems sound so hopefully the Vaults will do well and thus further enhances Ruabon's reputation as a real ale hot spot resulting in a similar spin-off in footfall to the village's two other deserving pubs - the Wynnstay and the Duke of Wellington.

Wheel Spins Again  (September 1st 2013)
Coming as a bit of a surprise we've been told that the Spinning Wheel in the Old Warren near Broughton is back up and running. It's still owned by Mike and Maggy Vernon, as it had been for the past few decades. It seems they had no interest in a prospective buyer when they closed the pub and put it on the market and, now they've got bored with retirement, its doors have re-opened once more.

Initially they are just selling drinks, but if all goes well they'll probably start doing food again should things go well. Reports are that they have had two cask ales on and these were Wychwood's Hobgoblin and St Austell's Trelawnyn. Why not call in especially as there are some pleasant country woodland walks from here through Bilberry Wood and Hawarden park (and on to the pubs of Hawarden).

Rossett Roving  (August 25th 2013)
Being hardwired for adventure, and wishing to avoid the inevitable self-loathing were I to stay in to watch football on a sunny Sunday afternoon, it was decided to head off to Rossett to see what its three hostelries had to offer by way of titillation.

First up was the Butchers Arms looking very attractive in red-brick and bedecked by colourful hanging baskets. Alluring on the outside maybe but not so seductive inside. A quick glance in the public bar revealed it to be lorded over by boisterous lads shouting amongst themselves so as to be heard above the jukebox. The separate small lounge was marginally quieter but it was to a vacant trestle outside where I supped the only cask offering of Jennings Cumberland. 

Golden LionMore or less directly opposite is the similarly eye-catching, white-washed Golden Lion. This belongs to the Woodward & Faulkner chain (cf Goshawk, Stamford Bridge et al) who do a good job of trying to emulate Brunning & Price without ever reaching the latter's giddy heights of excellence especially with their beer range. The pub comprises dark wood floors and a veritable warren of low-lit rooms, nooks and crannies for the all-important diners to squeeze in. As with B&P the walls were covered with attractive prints (albeit of little local reference) and pleasant food aromas suffused throughout. At the bar, mainstream brewers featured - a mix of familiar and seasonal offerings including Greene King Hurdy Gurdy, Old Speckled Hen, Theakstons Bitter and Caledonian Fringe Benefit. Ale of choice though was a thoroughly pleasant Shepherd Neame Whitstable Bay Pale. Meanwhile, outside amongst the lawn gardens, wasps were dying by their hundreds. Sugary deathtraps on the tables were presumably intended to stop the blighters from pestering you but merely served to attract them in giving the dubious pleasure of watching their frantic, futile attempts to avoid drowning. The Bhuddist in me rescued a few before moving on. Hymenoptera pogrom aside, an enjoyable visit.

A short walk down the main road led to the Alyn with its lovely terraced garden alongside the eponymous river. Lots of attractive chintzy / Laura Ashley style fabrics and furnishing in here as well as diners waited on hand and foot by an army of enthusiastic youthful bar staff dressed in black. On the pumps beers are usually from the Marstons portfolio and this included a very, very good drop of Wychwood Thrasher. That half, enjoyed in a quieter side patio watching a flotilla of butterflies on the buddleia, swayed it for me. Pub of the Day! (Aubrey Sheringham)

Axiom BrewingWrexham Micros - Now We Are Three (August 14th 2013)
Wrexham Industrial Estate is transforming itself into the brewing capital of Wales.
First brewery to set up there was Sandstone in 2008 and then, in spring 2013, along came Big Hand. Well now there's a third.

The latest addition is called Axiom and is the brainchild of James Bendall. If you weren't aware, James is very much a local aficianado on beer and brewing in all its guises. He's also been heavily involved at neighbour Sandstone since its inception. 

James calls his venture a micro "in the true sense of the word" and his aim is to produce both traditional and idiosyncratic beers destined for cask, keg and bottle. There will be a few small batches finding their way into the wild from the end of August but main production isn't scheduled to start until November. Cask and keg first, bottles around the start of next year.

The set-up involves a 4BBL [British Brewers Barrel] kit, but with a large mash tun enabling him to do strong beers if he ever feels the need with "as much variable control as I can fit in with an aim of getting more consistency than most micros of the same size".

Starting beers will be "New Dawn" and "Dusk" respectively in cask format only while "Red Mist" will be turning up at a couple of festivals in August 
(again cask only) although a keg might find its way to Kash in Chester at some point. Other beers will depend on season and hop availability. Keg beers will be mainly naturally carbonated, unfiltered and unpasteurised (but not cloudy). Bottles will be naturally conditioned, but not in the bottle.

Web-Ed footnote: The branch would welcome a volunteer to serve as Brewery Liaison Officer with Axiom.    

Award to Heavy Industry  (June 15th 2013)
The presentation of Champion Beer of North Wales has taken place at the Heavy Industry brewery in Henllan near Denbigh. Heavy Industry Collaborator was chosen by a panel of beer experts at the North Wales Beer Festival held in the Centenary Club at Wrexham FC in early May. 

CAMRA's Wales Regional Director Ian Saunders did the honours and he is pictured alongside Tom McNeil of Heavy Industry receiving the Gold award. Phil Blanchard from Mold-based Hafod brewery was also present to accept the bronze award for Hafod HE.   

Offa Without Prejudice  (May 23rd 2013)
The Offa's Dyke in Broughton has been declared the branch's Outstanding Community Pub for 2013. The estate pub on Broughton Hall Road is part of the John Barras group and hosts many sports teams including football, darts and pool.
On Wednesday evening there's a free pool table with Poker League on Thursdays. It also stages quiz and karaoke events plus occasional live music and always show premier sporting events on TV. It is especially popular amongst the racing fraternity.

Built in the 1970's along with the surrounding estate, the pub comprises an unusual timbered effect, low-ceilinged bar designed to fancifully resemble a fort on the Offa’s Dyke. The lounge is typical estate comfort with a large conservatory style extension slapped on. There's also a large car park plus lawned garden.  

Easily accessible by buses from Chester and Mold, it has three handpumps on the go. Recently they were Ruddles County, Abbot Ale and Adnams Broadside with Morland Brewery's Old Speckled Hen and Theakstons Old Peculier on sale next week replacing of the first two. 

Champion Beer North Wales  (May 21st 2013)
On the Friday afternoon, prior to the opening of the first North Wales Beer Festival held at the Centenary Club, Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium [Wrexham Football Club] a panel of judges set to the task of selecting the winner in the Champion Beer of North Wales competition for 2013. Entries were welcomed from all North Wales breweries with eleven ales submitted froma cross the region. The Gold Award went to the Heavy Industries brewery from Henllan near Denbigh for their Collaborator which is a 5% deep red best bitter with chocolate and liquorice aromas. Silver went to a brewery from our branch, McGivern ales from the Bridge End pub in Ruabon. Bridge Pale, weighing in at 3.9%, was described as being brewed with plenty of intense American hops with a pleasing residual sweetness. Bronze was award to the Mold based Hafod brewery with HE - a 4.3% light straw coloured ale dry hopped to give it a freshly hopped aroma and flavour but without the intense bitterness of an IPA. Well done to all.

Well done too to all the organisers and staff for all their hard work in hosting this inaugural event which featured 44 beers and 12 ciders with around 700 people attended the festival over the weekend. Live music was provided at all sessions, and both hot and cold food was available throughout. Pub games, and tombola added to the fun. Feedback from visitors suggested that the event was hugely enjoyable, and everyone is looking forward to seeing the event repeated next year.

Aqueduct Revived  (May 19th 2013)
The good folk of Froncysyllte are said to be happy. As from this weekend (commencing May 25th) they don't have to fork out on taxi fares to go for a pint as their local pub, the Aqueduct, boarded up since late last summer, is to re-open. 

In fact new owners, Paul and Steve, have consulted Fron residents as part of their plans to run the place with the community very much in mind. It will be interesting to know if they agreed on the new outside colour scheme though which is now a vivid lemon yellow - intentionally unmissable to passing motorists on the A5 or for day-trippers looking up from the Llangollen canal and eponymous Pontcysyllte aqueduct. The initial plans for real ale are to have Greene King IPA and Hancocks HB on handpump - the latter a 3.6% session bitter originally brewed by Hancock's but now contract brewed at Everards with the possibility of a proper west country cider also appearing. Food will be of the hot snack variety. There are no internal changes to the three room layout. 

For the first 72 hours following the re-launch there will be a "discount drinks promotion" (i.e. a very big happy hour ) with beer at £2 a pint
. We're sure Paul and Steve would be happy to see you. We wish them success.

Royal Oak, Bangor on DeeRural Wrexham Ramble  (May 3rd 2013)
With fine spring weather finally here it was time to take advantage with a cycle round some of rural Wrexham Borough pubs in the branch. Sadly my first stop revealed that the Hanmer Arms Hotel at Hanmer is now closed. Local chatter informed me that it closed a week after Easter due to a change in circumstances of the previous managers. Hopefully new managers will be found soon to get the hotel opened again. 

A quick change of plan and it was off to Overton, by now gagging for a beer. With it being a little before opening time I took the opportunity to stop at the church and recreate a photo by Albert Winstanley on his cycle tour of the Seven Wonders of Wales (Overton Yew Trees). That’s one for the real cycling buffs amongst you! The White Horse is always a welcome rest stop and with the bike safely locked in the courtyard a pint of Joules Blonde was soon flying down in no time at all. The other two beers were the Pale and Slumbering Monk, while a new Joules seasonal ale will be trialled sometime soon (a strong IPA by the sounds of it).

A delightful downhill stretch past Bangor-on-Dee racecourse brings you to the door of the Buck House. Six Bells Taurus, Stonehouse Station Bitter and Stonehouse Cambrian Gold were waiting for me on the handpumps, with the Cambrian Gold being an excellent choice. Meanwhile close neighbour, the Royal Oak (pictured top) was serving up Tetleys Gold Cask and Stonehouse Sunlander. 

Worthenbury Arms Some stiff uphill sections next into the village of Worthenbury and what a sad sight the Worthenbury Arms (left) makes. Five years closed and with planning for development into houses (rejected but subject to appeal) it is a huge shame to see. Some lovely country lanes then took me across the border to the Queen’s Head at Sarn. Shamefully in my thirsty rush for the excellent Tim Taylors Golden Best I didn’t notice what the other beer was. The peaceful large garden area was a great place to take in the late evening sun while hoping for the quick flash of azure blue as a Kingfisher speeds along the brook. Sadly none obliged so it was back on the steed and returning to Wales for a final stop at the Peal o'Bells in Holt. The light was beginning to go so a very quick half of Robinsons Dizzy Blonde rounded off a very enjoyable evening of sun, cycling and beer. (Mr W)

Bar manager Rob receives the award at the GlynneHawarden and Ewloe Bus Dawdle  (April 25th 2013)
With a relatively late 9pm Pub of the Season presentation scheduled at the Glynne Arms in Hawarden, it seemed a no-brainer to pop into some other near by hostelries beforehand. And so, making full use of an Arriva bus Deeside Day Ranger ticket, it was off on the X44 with first disembarkation at Ewloe Green. After confirming that the Boars Head alas remains firmly tinned-up, and by-passing the Marston's new-build Running Hare, it was a case of re-tracing the bus's tyre tracks to the GBG listed Crown & Liver. Marstons beer range here where a leisurely half of Ringwood Old Thumper was enjoyed surveying the quirky, eclectic somewhat decadent decor before lazily hopping on board the No.4 for the short ride back into Hawarden. 

Fox & Grapes, HawardenFirst of the Hawarden Three was the Fox & Grapes (left). A pleasant spacious and contrasting three-room layout with bare-boards and half-panelling, it was selling Hobgoblin, Bombardier and Weetwood Cheshire Cat. The latter was on very good form. Right next door, and unlike before, now independently owned from the F & G, the Blue Bell was a very strange affair following a re-fit that has seen the bar shifted over to the front window. Decor was, shall we say, open plan and minimalist with a purple decor theme. Surely designed with the local youth in mind, music and TV was prominent. Surprising therefore to see cask ale being plugged with one handpump continuing the no doubt coincidental purple theme with Purple Moose Glaslyn Ale. Bit hazy but tasted OK. Hope it lasts but see it being a struggle.

And so finally, to the warm atmosphere of the Glynne Arms which was busy throughout its rambling interior which includes separate dining room, rear informal seating, snug and a round bar where several ales were on including Conwy Rampart, Spitting Feathers Thirstquencher and Stonehouse Sunlander. Eventually bar manager Rob found the time to listen to a few informal words of commendation from the branch chairman before accepting the branch's Pub of the Season award on behalf of owners and staff (main pic). A well deserved accolade to what is now a great asset to Hawarden. And, after a few more slurps, it was all aboard the bus home which stops virtually outside the front bar door. Bravo.

Y Tai, BrymboWhat to Find in Brymbo  (April 22nd 2013)
First of the four pubs in this community synonymous with its sadly now closed pits and steelworks to the west of Wrexham, is the Y Tai on Railway Road. This cream coloured, low-lit Marstons pub is a regular outlet for Brakspear Bitter. Inside you'll discover a typical lively bar with pool, darts and TV. The cosier quieter lounge, with less obtrusive TV and fish tank, has some older fittings and a stone fireplace. 

Alas the only keg pub in the village is the Miners Arms on High Street. Unattractive and dour on the outside it's nevertheless a pleasant, welcoming single square roomed local with sports TVs. It also has a big darts following with some of the big names from the arrows world making regular guest appearances. 

The Railway, BrymboThe Railway Tavern, another with unprepossessing exterior, is tucked away off High Street and is a surprising outlet for cask ale as well as traditional cider - on this occasion it was Conwy Welsh Pride. This is an American bar in the Wild West of NE Wales. A roomy affair of little areas and Brewer's Tudor remants, darts, pool and foreign Sports Channel. A fantastic little stove in the corner of the offshoot lounge is particularly charming. An apricot-coloured pub with splendid valley views, it is also the home to Brymbo Invitation Pigeon Club. 

Finally, the one-time Good Beer Guide listed George & Dragon on Ael-y-Bryn. A Lees tied-house, it was serving Lees Bitter and Drayman's Promise from the pumps. A stone-built, smallish, two room pub showing foreign Sports Channel, it consists of a lounge and cosy bar with an iron stove. An airy bay area looks onto the pretty beer garden from which there is a spectacular view over to Hope Mountain. Centralised servery, stuffed trophy cabinet & entertainment every Saturday. The pub is on CAMRA's Heritage Pubs Regional Inventory for its 1930's remnants (click here and search via North East Wales). 

Back From the Near Dead (April 19th 2013)
The Tyn-Y-Capel at Minera, a 13th century coaching inn, was one of the oldest and finest pubs in the region. It was an historical pub with records dating to 1250AD. described as a 13th century monks retreat. The monks on their pilgrimage from Valley Crucis Abbey would visit the site and it is thought that they would stop to feed the lepers who lived on Minera mountain in the caves, through the mullion window in the wall of the pub. The oldest part of the pub is the stone flagged porch entrance. Unfortunately this historic traditional local was closed overnight in February 2011 by the owner/landlord and was converted temporarily into a Day Care centre. An application was then made for a change of use. Local people set up an action group to get the pub reinstated, and considered trying to buy it and run it as a community pub, but the owner was resistant to this.

A high profile Action Committee against the planning application with support from a number of other groups including CAMRA, ultimately resulted a successful appeal against the planning application for conversion of the building, and following on from this the committee sought to lease or buy the building and reinstate the pub. Much help was provided in examining the feasibility of this venture by the team who re-opened the Raven in Llanarmon-yn-Ial a few of years ago. The owner rejected this approach but was required to put the pub on the open market in order to demonstrate its alleged non-viability, and appealed against the planning decision. The appeal went to central (Wales) government in Cardiff and was rejected.

At this point, the committee set out to raise funds to buy the pub, and, with the help of The Wales Co-Operative, created Minera Community Limited (MCL), an Industrial Provident Society, as a vehicle to progress this. This idea was that shares in the venture (nominal value £1 per share ) would be issued, making the pub a truly co-operative owned venture. It did not prove possible to raise enough funds to buy the pub at this stage, but the owner, Keith Roberts, agreed to lease it for a period, with the option for MCL to buy at some future point. 

Over 90 shareholders have raised in excess of £39,000, including shares issued to Co- Operatives UK. This together with a substantial grant of £48 000 from The Village SOS Lottery fund, (which specifically supports rural areas to battle back and keep their local services running) and a European Funded, Tourism Grant from Wrexham Council have resulted in an agreement to have the lease assigned to MCL

After a lot of hard work by the community, MCL are very pleased to announce that The Tyn will reopen the bar at the Grand Opening on the 20th April 2013 at 1.00pm April. The restaurant will open a few weeks later. The Tyn is to be staffed mostly by volunteers and run as a not for profit venture. It is intended that the pub will be put to a wide variety of uses for the benefit of the community.

We thunderously applaud everyone who brought the Tyn back from the dead. Now it's time for us all to use it.
(Pics l-r: petitioning - the onset of the campaign; piping in the new sign in readiness for the Grand Opening)

Tyn y Capel Facebook 

Forty Years Special Award (April 7th 2013)
The party balloons festooned the Griffin in Gresford last Friday as the branch made a presentation of flowers and a certificate to Jean Williams to mark her 40th year as landlady. A tremendous achievement and an outstanding act of loyalty to a pub and community she loves.

It's really no great surprise Jean entered the licensed trade. She's been around pubs since the age of eight when her father ran the White Lion in Hope. When she took over the reins of the Griffin with her husband the price of a pint was 13p. It was also the onset of what Jean considered the boom years of the 1970s and the 80s when shift workers would drink their way through an astonishing ten times thirty six gallon barrels a week. Folk would come from miles around for a choice of Greenalls Bitter or Mild. 

Over the intervening years Jean has weathered turbulent times in the industry having seen pub ownership change hands from Greenalls to Nomura, Pubmaster and currently Punch Taverns. She also nearly lost her licence when, following separation from her husband, Greenalls decreed she could not run the pub on her own. Made to attend an interview in Warrington she was delighted to learn regulars of the Griffin had flooded Greenalls with letters of praise and commendation to prompt a change of heart. 

And thank heavens for that. The Griffin today is pretty much as it was all those years ago. Cask ale remains its principal seller while there's no food, juke box, or TV sport. It's all about warmth, conversation and conviviality which you get in bucket loads plus of course excellent ale as reflected by the pub's long unbroken run in the GBG.

Well done Jean. We salute you, keep pulling those pints ... and many thanks for the lovely sandwiches! (Pics l-r: the Griffin; Jean with father; with her certificate)

Here Comes the Sun (April 7th 2013)
Coming as a great relief to all who know this delightful Grade II listed 200 years old drovers' inn, the Sun at Rhewl has re-opened. We had feared the worst - "holiday let or second home for the idle rich" - when it shut up shop in February 2012 and it was stripped of fixtures and fittings.

All's well that ends well though as the new owners are from the nearby Abbey Grange hotel, home of Llangollen Brewery. Inside, it's still the same small intimate three-roomed pub retaining the small counter in the public bar and range fireplace in the lounge. As you'd expect for now, the decor is bare and spartan but this will quickly change as work gets underway adorning the walls with maps and what not plus new outside signage. There will also be a new website while the ramshackle garden gets a major overhaul. On the beer front, two ales are stocked from the Llangollen range with plans to install a further handpump.

The Sun truly is in an idyllic setting in a comparatively quiet backwater of the Dee Valley and surely the pub, which is back selling food, will exploit the area's popularity with walkers. Indeed we recommend the scenic 3.5 mile stroll from Llangollen (slightly more if you follow the off-road Dee Valley way) which takes in the Chainbridge Hotel en route (now selling cask ale - Stonehouse and Purple Moose - since the turn of the year) and you could even visit the Abbey Grange pub itself. 

Brilliant the Sun is back. Visit it.

Plough Flattened (April 2nd 2013)
Coming hot-foot after the Beeston Castle pub was razed to the ground, we've sadly lost another local to the wrecking ball and bulldozer. This time it's the Plough at Rhosymedre which is no more after Wrexham Borough Council granted consent for demolition.

As drinkers continue to drink elsewhere or consume at home, we expect more such lamentable outcomes to follow. Nearby the Jolly Masons remains open.

Seasonal Delights at the Glynne (March 25th 2013)
After a tough (well for me anyway!) cycle up to Hawarden from Chester, the Glynne Arms was a very welcoming stopping point at the top of the hill. It was also a chance to visit the branch's worthy winner of the Spring 2013 Pub of the Season award. There are always four great ales to choose from, as usual featuring beers from Purple Moose, Stonehouse, Great Orme and Conwy and today’s offerings were Snowdonia Ale, Off the Rails, Great Welsh and Welsh Pride.

Having been closed for around four years the pub reopened in May 2012 following a massive refurbishment. Split into multiple areas the style is “modern traditional” with quirky retro posters on the walls. The theme goes further with collections of old radios, coloured glass bottles on the shelves and a set of seven small antlers (from which animal I’m not sure!) mounted on the wall. Owned by the Gladstone’s who also own the nearby Hawarden Estate Farm Shop, much of the menu contains dishes using their produce along with additions from local Welsh and Cheshire businesses. Being on our bikes we didn’t stop off at the shop this time but it’s well worth a visit for its range of bottled ales as well as foodie delights. (SW) (see Branch Awards)

PS The branch hopes to make a presentation to the Glynne on April 19th. (Web Ed)

Welsh Pub of the Year 2013 (March 22nd 2013)
Traditional Welsh costume stovepipe hats off to the Royal Oak in Wrexham for winning the branch's Pub of the Year from amongst our patch of Wrexham Borough, Flintshire and Denbigshire pubs. It is the first time this Joules tied house on High Street has won the title although it was recently the recipient of a seasonal award. So, in a simple cut and paste job, this is what we said of the pub back in January ...

 Known locally as "The Embassy" due to its association with the Free Polish Army garrison during WW2, things had become a bit extreme by 2007 when it was a very run down, seedy bar known as the Ambasada serving bottled Polish lagers to migrant workers. Luckily Market Drayton based brewers Joules took over the reins and, after a marvellous restoration which involved installation of wood-panelling, etched mirrors and stained glass, the Royal Oak re-opened in 2009 serving cask beer. Nowadays you'll find the Joules range on the handpumps as well as a free-to-choose guest ale (recent examples being from Salopian, Ossett, Titanic and Waen) plus Weston's Old Rosie cider.

Best wishes to the Oak as it advances on to the Regional PotY competition. (see English PotY Winners 2013)

Tyn y Capel to Open Soon (March 19th 2013)
After a few recent scare stories about committee resignations, leases not being signed and the possibilty of a £48k grant being lost, the latest facebook site for the Tyn Y Capel community organisation reports that they now have the keys to the Minera pub and plan to host a re-launch opening party on April 20th. As one post says "It is so important that we spread the word and make this venture a success. We all wanted the doors of the Tyn to re-open so let's show our support!"

Indeed so. Let's hope the branch and its members make an effort to attend the opening or, if not then, in the near future. This has been a marvellous effort (with a few inevitable fractious moments) from the community to resurrect a pub that was, lest we forget, closed suddenly with ghastly plans for conversion into a nursing home.

Tyn y Capel Facebook 

Fat Lady Sings for the Cat (February 27th 2013)
Some say it's been on the cards for a while; others that it was a failed attempt to compete with Wetherspoons food trade ("Two meals from £5.95! All Day Every Day!"). Whatever the reason, the Fat Cat in Wrexham has closed with immediate effect and therefore, almost in its true literal sense, decimated the number of pubs on the town centre selling cask ale. This is a shame. The Fat Cat, next to the bus station, was a modern, open plan bar with regular DJ music nights. On warmer days, the roof beer garden made for a pleasant and unusal place to enjoy the likes of Purple Moose, Conwy and Plassey served from the one handpump. 

Other bars in the Fat Cat chain are unaffected including the one in Chester. 

Seventh Heaven (February 20th 2013)
The Welsh Beer Festival held at Saith Seren / Seven Stars in Wrexham on February 15th / 16th has been judged a great success by the organisers. Eight Welsh beers were available with Monty's Sunshine and Llangollen Bitter on tap in the bar both quickly selling out . On gravity flow, were Tiny Rebel Fubar and McGivern's Bridge Pale, selling out by Saturday night, and also Chilli Plum Porter from Y Waen, Hafod Moel Famau, Sandstone Onyx and finally Snowdonia Madog which were all but polished off by Sunday night last orders.

The festival was attended by many lager drinkers, including Saith Seren regulars, with several of them admitting to never having attended a beer festival let alone tasting real ale before. They were all very curious as to what was going on in their pub. They read the tasting notes and tried tasters of the beers choosing pints of those they liked. This made for a very pleasing result in the attempt to publicise or (preach the gospel of) Real Ale !

The pub was very busy on Saturday night and the Paul Sturman Band were excellent. This will probably not be the last real ale festival in the pub. There is talk of another in August with Welsh Folk Music and even an Octoberfest with a Welsh emphasis. (Pene Coles)

Live in Hope ... (February 16th 2013)
As you travel south from Deeside along the A550 section that hugs the escarpment looking out towards the Cheshire plains and the border country lying along the western borders of our branch area you come to the busy village of Hope (Y Hob). On entering the village you have to cautiously pass two lions standing guard over its approaches protecting the villagers from unwanted marauders. Both are there though to welcome the friendly and weary traveller, to quench their thirst and satisfy their appetite, and for those that wish you could first of all visit St Cynfach’s church that keeps a caring eye over both lions.

White Lion, Hope But is this a game of Punch and Judy? No it’s not. It’s Punch and Admiral. The older White Lion, owned by Admiral, pull's no punches. Standing on higher ground and looking down on its counterpart, it is thought to be much older than the 1828 date stone suggests. You enter the pub from the road, up a small flight of stairs, and into a small lounge with fire place, timber features and leaded windows. There's also a bar area where you can watch telly. The same bar serves both sides and although it has three handpumps one is in use. The landlord tells me that this is because he can’t move his beer quick enough to have two or more pumps on the go. When I was there a fine brew of Thwaites’ Wainwright beer was available. My overall impression was of a cosy hostelry with lovely ambiance.

The Red Lion, back in the 1800’s, was originally a low thatched building but was later expanded and rebuilt in brick with a tiled roof. It has changed hands a few times over the years and, at present, is owned by Punch. After a long period of closure it's had refurbishment carried out making it more of a pub/restaurant now. As with pubcos the beer changes every so often and when I was there Jennings Cumberland and Wychwood’s Hobgoblin were on sale. The Cumberland tasted a bit tired to be honest. (Elved Gray-Jones)

Phoenix in Penley? (February 16th 2013)
Is a new pub to rise from the ashes of the Dymock Arms in Penley? This 16th century inn - grade II listed no less - was gutted by fire in an arson attack in January 2010 leaving nothing but a shell behind. It has since been subjected to weather damage, vandalism and even a visit from metal thieves.

Some good news at last though. Planning permission is currently being considered by Wrexham Borough Council over plans to repair and rebuild the pub and restore it, despite the loss of the original oak timbers, as faithfully as possible. According to the planning applicant “Some consequential improvements will be made in the course of the reconstruction, but these should not impact the historical or architectural significance of the building."

The vast majority of villagers are keen to see the building restored as a public house. With their nearest pub being the Hanmer Arms in Hanmer 2.5 miles away, let's hope they get their wishes.

New Soul for Former Lees Pub (February 14th 2013)
There's a new look and a new name to the Albion on Pen-y-Bryn in Wrexham. It's now re-opened as Soul Suite and, according to their website, "is unique in Wrexham as it is the only bar / venue solely dedicated to bringing you Motown, Soul Club Classics, Northern Soul Oldies, Funk Anthems and R & B Dancers, EVERY Friday and Saturday evening from 6.00 pm until 1.00 a.m."

The pub had previously belonged to Lees Brewery and for a while was a regular in the Good Beer Guide being a relatively rare outlet for cask in the town. It closed in 2010 and had been boarded up until now. It might not have real ale any more but it sounds an interesting enterprise so we wish it the best of luck.

Gresford Has the Bottle  (February 5th 2013)
We have finally found an off-licence in the Wrexham area to challenge those in Chester! The Clear Black Wine Company in Gresford High Street has a minimum of 45 different bottled real ales and ciders, including Vegan and Organic.

Peter Minshull is passionate about real ales and he sources his ales from the length and breadth of Great Britain, but never forgets the local breweries. He's so enthusiastic about it he will be taking a stand at the Wrexham Food Festival in May to try to persuade others to join us in our love of real ale.

Of course, a wine shop needs wine and there's lots of it, as well as spirits. Once you've sampled those and are feeling peckish, speciality cheeses and biscuits are also on offer.

Consider calling in to stock up if you fancy a few beers at home in front of the telly. (David Samuels)

Royal Oak Presentation  (January 18th 2013)
A few hardy souls braved the cold and the snow to support the presentation of Winter Pub-of-the-Season to Sean Corcoran and Tracey Johnson at the Royal Oak, High Street, Wrexham during the January branch meeting last week. Most will know how the Oak was rescued from a dodgy past by Joules’ Brewery, who have created a warm, comfortable town centre pub with lots of wood panelling, traditional pub mirrors, blazing real fire, and of course friendly service from Sean and Tracey.

It is sometimes difficult to define a good pub, but most pub goers will recognise one when they come across it. The vital ingredient is the enthusiasm and professionalism of the licencees, and these two have it in abundance. Add in splendid, no frills beer from a non-nonsense brewery, and there is the magic mix for a great pub. Sean has been able to persuade the brewery to permit the occasional guest beer, and it is this dimension which adds greatly to the offering of the Oak; fine as Joules’ beers are, a modicum of choice is always welcome amongst discerning drinkers, and very few brewery-tied-pubs offer this, understandably in view of their investment in their estates. 

Our pic shows Tracey and Sean with their certificate (muggins of a branch chairman forgot to bring the frame). Many thanks to them also for serving up a marvellous warming chicken hot pot - a perfect antidote to the brass monkey weather ! 

Seven Stars Beer Festival  (January 11th 2013)
The Saith Seren (Seven Stars) in Wrexham will be holding a beer festival over the weekend beginning Friday 15th of February. As you'd expect for an establishment set up to promote the Welsh language and culture, the eight guest beers are all sourced from within Wales. Brewers you can expect to see are Y Waen, Montys, Purple Moose, Hafod, Tiny Rebel and Sandstone. Llangollen ales are on tap regularly at the bar and reportedly selling well.

That's all folks. Anything roughly over six months old is entered into our archived records and not available on the website.