by Chris Simm
Andy Evans: Man or Myth?
Successful pub landlord, or stark raving mad (he has been known to sing to his casks in the cellar)?
Well that's for you to decide. Whatever he is, he's managed to achieve what no other pub landlord has achieved in this town before. Andy and his wife Denise, along with all the staff who have worked (and continue to work) at the pub over the years, have helped the Cricketers Arms on a steady rise to the top since 2014. Not only does the pub champion ales on both the light side and the dark, it also champions a wide range of ciders and perries ranging from dry to sweet, and has been known to serve up to 20 ciders during the summer months.
Of course, it didn't start out like this. With only a small number of handpulls in the beginning, they slowly built their way up to what would eventually become an entire rugby league team on the bar (13 handpulls). As the quantity of ales on the bar increased, so too did the range of ciders and perries. At one time it was pointed out by a very eagle-eyed pub goer that they had more real ciders/perries available than real ales. Having so many ales and ciders is easy, providing you have the space of course; looking after them correctly is another matter entirely. Because the beer and cider was so well kept, the pub began to attract attention and slowly picked up awards from the branch (and later the region) for both their real ale and cider, thanks to word of mouth and people scoring their beers on https://whatpub.com/. Their ultimate goal being the top pub at national level, and more determined with each award earned, the pressure was incredible when they achieved a spot on the list of four finalists nationwide.
Over the years the pub has gone through several changes, and there is no sign of this progress slowing any time soon. It's not known where the ideas come from, or indeed the space required to implement a lot of them. It's as if Andy has stumbled across the Dummies Guide to Gallifreyan Technology, with the subtitle of It's Bigger on the Inside. Many notable events have taken place at the Cricketers, including the pub being invaded by 'pirates' on more than one occasion.
Not too many pubs in St. Helens can say that. On one particular visit from said pirates, Andy was briefly made captain, as the picture will attest to.
The town of St. Helens has never before achieved recognition for any of its pubs this high up the scale, until now. Earning the awards they have done over the years, it is now in the Discworld Year of the Justifiably Defensive Lobster, 2018 that the Cricketers Arms on Peter Street has reached such dizzying heights, making it CAMRA's number 1 pub in the country. The rise of the pub and the achievements along the way have at times been described as meteoric, and likened to making an album. I'm not going to mention any band names that may have been used in previous speeches for accepting awards, as I'm sure they'll be blasting out of the pub at some point during the day. What I will say is that we don't want a certain song by a popular british heavy metal band playing, or bugles sounding as it may excite the horses. But here's hoping Andy and Denise, and all the staff at the Cricketers Arms, have found what they've been looking for.
Congratulations to The Cricketers Arms for winning the 2018 CAMRA National Pub of the Year!
The Cricketers Arms in St Helens, Merseyside, has won the prestigious Pub of the Year title from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) just five years after it was boarded up for closure.
When owners Andy and Denise Evans took over the running of the pub in 2013, it was boarded up and hadn’t served cask ale since the 1980s. The Cricketers Arms is now a well-established local community pub with an excellent selection of 13 locally sourced cask ales and up to 20 ciders in the summer.
Alongside an impressive ale and cider range, plans are in the making for a microbrewery to open in the next few months and customers will be tasked with naming the pub’s beers. Visitors can also take part in a number of social nights including regular beer festivals, dominoes, jam nights, pub quizzes, karaoke and pool teams, as well as enjoy a new whiskey and gin bar.
The Cricketers Arms regularly wins local CAMRA awards, but this is the first time it has won a national title. Paul Ainsworth, CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year coordinator said: “After winning the regional award in both 2015 and 2016, it's a well deserved third time lucky for the Cricketers to be named CAMRA’s national Pub of the Year.
“In less than five years, Andy and Denise have converted a boarded up pub on the brink of closure into a true destination pub for beer lovers across the country. What impressed me the most is that the Cricketers is a genuine community pub where people from all walks of life come together to socialise. It is a shining example of how a pub, which seems destined for closure, can have its fortunes turned around when in the right hands.”
Owner Andy Evans said: “We are over the moon to be named the top pub in the country after just a few short years of renovations. We’ve done everything we can to make this a welcoming community pub and still have exciting developments ahead of us. As well as expanding the beers available, we created a beer garden and put greens in the ground, and have big plans to install a microbrewery this year. We are very proud to be part of the cask ale scene and look forward to celebrating with our locals!”
Runners-up in the competition include the Wigan Central in Wigan, the Stanford Arms in Lowestoft and the Weavers Real Ale House in Kidderminster. Pubs in the competition are selected by CAMRA volunteers and judged on their atmosphere, decor, welcome, service, community focus and most importantly – quality of beer.
The Cricketers Arms will be presented with an award for its achievement at an event open to the press at 1pm on Wednesday 28th February 2018. This will be followed shortly afterwards by CAMRA’s Club of the Year presentation at the neighbouring Flixton Conservative Club at 6pm.
It's that time of the year again. Time to enter scores for our Pub of the Year! All entries must be submitted by email by the 28th Feb, or dropped off at the Union on 5 Mar at 8pm. The form and the scoring guidelines can be downloaded from the links in this article. Happy scoring!