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Brunswick Inn named Derby CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016
Article by Beer columnist Colston Crawford of the Derby Telegraph
That’s an exceptional achievement for two outstanding pubs which may be close to the railway station but geographically at least, are a step away from the city centre.
It’s also an achievement that licensees Alan Pickersgill and Philippe Larroche unashamedly targeted when they took on the iconic old hostelry in spring 2014.
They’ve achieved it in just under two years – they had targeted three.
I remember Alan telling me it was his intention when he first moved in and, for sure, I wasn’t the only one he told.
In fact, he made it the pub’s mission statement, as a sign for staff behind the bar testifies.
“We aim to be the best pub in the East Midlands for cask ale and real cider. We will provide the best in customer care we can and always have service with a friendly approach,” it states.
There’s more, things about clean tables and knowledge of the beers – basics, but basics too often ignored.
Alan is a driven businessman. I think Philippe is too, but he’s the quiet one, analysing Alan’s ideas and working in the kitchen.
Alan’s front of house and it suits the garrulous Yorkshireman that he is.
“I was speechless when they told me we’d won,” he insisted, “I couldn’t find words.”
I had eight pages of his words in my notebook at that point!
And there’s no doubt, they have done a wonderful job in revitalising a pub which had slipped a little.
There’s been much attention to detail and a full embracing again of the pub’s own brewery, where James Salmon has now been producing cracking beers for 13 of the 25 years it has been active.
“I told Derby CAMRA when we first met that we intended to win pub of the year,” smiles Alan.
“I think they were surprised but now it’s me who’s surprised – I honestly didn’t think we’d win it this time around.
“The level of competition in Derby is far higher than I realised – and it’s a big job, is this pub.
“It didn’t need massive changes but it did need a new lease of life and some more passion being breathed into it.
“I think we’ve done that.”
The Alexandra, next door, is among this year’s runners-up and the co-operation between the two is evident.
“It was good for both of us. We’re a little bit off the circuit and it brings people to this part of the city.
“I thought, if we don’t win this time, it should be them again.
“We spin off one another and we meet monthly to discuss what beers we’ll be ordering so that we don’t cross over.
“It’s exceptionally important that, between us, we give people the biggest choice we can.
“The award is testimony to how hard the staff have worked, to the customers for their exceptional support us and the extent to which we’ve turned round the fortunes of the pub.
“And honestly, even though I said we wanted to win it, I was shocked – I’ve really had to pinch myself!”
Brewer James is thrilled too. He has much more freedom now, with every beer he brews getting an airing at the Brunswick– it wasn’t always the case.
“I’m stoked,” he says.
“In my 13 years here, we haven’t been recognised like this.
“Alan and Philippe have steadied the ship here and it’s so good to get a pat on the back for what you do.
“The stars are starting to align for this pub and we’re back where we belong, I think.”
What next, then, for this fabulous pub?
Well, the Derby winner goes forward to the East Midlands competition.
Does Alan want to win that? Do you need to ask? Don’t bet against it!