Great Gloucestershire Pubs: The Royal Hop Pole, Tewkesbury
Think of a "real ale pub" and what comes into your mind? Probably somewhere small, independently run, with great beer of course.
The Royal Hop Pole in Tewkesbury certainly ticks one of those boxes. The beer's really good.
But that's where the stereotype ends. Because it's also enormous. And it's owned by J D Wetherspoons, a chain with more than 800 outlets across Britain - a giant of the national pub industry.
Now while there's no arguing with the quality of the beer in these types of pubs or the bargain prices, I've always felt they've lacked atmosphere. I've also found the food average, to say the least.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
The Royal Hop Pole's no exception. Despite the fact that the building, in the heart of historic Tewkesbury, is old, with wooden beams all over the place, it just doesn't feel like an old pub.
Maybe that's because it isn't - six years ago it was a hotel and it's only after a £4.2 million investment from Wetherspoons (no, you didn't mis-read that figure), that the pub exists as it does today.
So it feels a bit sterile, lacking in any real character. Even the river bank beer garden feels featureless and is bordered by a dull wooden fence.
And despite the presence of a specials board alongside the standard Wetherspoons pub menu, you have to question the cooking methods of anywhere that can serve up a beef madras just five minutes after it was ordered. Even the mango chutney came in a foil, covered plastic tub.
But that's not necessarily what Camra award-winners are about - the most important thing is the beer, after all.
And this is where the Royal Hop Pole does excel. Landlord Stuart Coxshall is keen to support proper brewers, even though he admits that the size of the pub and the resulting buying power is a big reason behind the competitive prices.
Still there is a Battle of the Brewers held for a week every three months, with the beer which sells most being featured permanently on the Royal Hop Pole bar for the following three months.
Indeed there are some fine tipples on sale at the Royal Hop Pole, probably for unbeatable prices. It just feels like the rest of the competition for the award of best real ale pub in Tewkesbury is getting squashed out of even having a look-in.
I'd rather support somewhere smaller and less corporate - I'd even pay extra for it. It's just a shame that, if Camra are right and this is the best real ale pub in Tewkesbury, that there isn't anywhere more worth of the title.