Earlier this year I met MARK CASTRO-GARCIA in a 'lively' online debate about local pubs. Mark, who lives in Bedfordshire, is a real-ale lover, and I persuaded him to write a feature on his top 10 real ale pubs in the Hemel Hempstead area. And here they are... with No.10 teasingly left blank as a readers' choice:
1. THE GLOBE, Winfield Street, Dunstable
(12 miles away from Hemel town centre. Brewery: Banks & Taylor)
CAMRA South Beds Pub of the Year 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, as well as Bedfordshire Pub of the Year 2009
If you are willing to travel that bit further, the Globe is a real Mecca for ale lovers (one punter who reviewed the Globe on beerintheevening.com travelled all the way from south London on a train to Luton, then a bus to Dunstable! He hadn't heard of Globe before.
They have 10 real ales on tap and do a fantastic deal where you can purchase five 1/3 pints for £4.50 - so you can try all their ales in just two rounds! They have a twice yearly beer festival (the largest independent one around), serving 50 ales, ciders and perries. The next one is 22-25 April 2010.
Website: www.globe-pub.co.uk View: Image on Flickr
2. THE HARPENDEN ARMS, High Street, Harpenden
(8 miles away, Fullers brewery)
Fullers Cellarman of the Year 2008
Four ales on tap, plus four bottled ones on offer. This pub always has sport on TV on the go, and boasts a Thai restaurant at the back. Handy for the high street and the railway station.
Visit The Harpenden Arms website View: Image on Flickr
3. YE OLDE FIGHTING COCKS, Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans
(7.6 miles away, brewery unknown)
This is reported to be England's oldest pub and currently holds the official Guinness Book of Records title. Also reputed to have accomodated Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War.
It boasts a beautiful interior, very good service, and is a lovely walk down from the Cathedral, past the park, down to the lake. They have three ales on tap, nice food, and they have baby changing facilities.
Website: www.yeoldefightingcocks.co.uk View: Image on Flickr
4. THE SILVER CUP, St Albans Road, Harpenden
(7.5 miles away, Wells and Young's)
A traditional coaching inn, with a bar at the front and decent food served at the back - it also doubles up as a 4-star AA bed & breakfast.
5. THE WATEREND BARN, St Peters Street, St Albans
(7.3 miles away, Wetherspoons)
Two former listed barns from 1610 were dismantled and re-erected in the middle of St Albans in 1938. Being next to the Alban Arena, this is a good starting point before moving on to the annual CAMRA beer festival. (St Albans is also the headquarters of CAMRA.)
The decor and features are breathtaking, with plenty of sofas, alcoves and roaring fireplaces. They have five ales on tap, including guest ones, and at Christmas they had no less than 18 winter/Christmas ales on rotation.
Visit The Waterend Barn website View: Image on Flickr
6. THE BOAT, Gravel Path, Berkhamsted
(5 miles away, Fullers)
Four ales on tap with large premises, plenty of seating inside and outside, and a terrace offering views of the canal. There's TV and music, helpful and friendly bar staff, a weekly quiz night and barbecues in the summer.
Visit The Boat's website View: Image on Flickr
7. THE THREE HORSESHOES, Winkwell, Bourne End
(2.6 miles away, brewery unknown)
Another canal-side pub, this one dates from the 16th century and offers three ales on tap - my favourite bar is the tack room.
They have a weekly quiz, a fortnightly chill-out music session, a monthly comedy show and they sponsor the annual firework display. They also have a 'Santa Sails to Winkwell' event every Christmas.
Visit The Three Horseshoes Winkwell website View: Image on Flickr
8. THE LEATHER BOTTLE, Leverstock Green
(2.5 miles away, brewery unknown)
A traditional village pub, located opposite the cricket ground and boasting a low beamed ceiling and fireplace. It usually has four regularly changing real ales from a selection, including two premium ales and guest ales.
9. POST OFFICE ARMS, Puller Road, Boxmoor
(1.5 miles away, Fullers)
Known locally and affectionately as 'the Patch', this is a cosy, family-run pub. It's a bit of a Tardis, looking like a cottage from the outside - it has two bars, the larger of which leads back onto their patio and garden.
Visit The Post Office Arms website View: Image on Flickr
10. READERS' CHOICE
Do you have a favourite real ale pub you'd like to see on this list? It must be within 15 miles of Boxmoor, serve real ale and have a pleasant atmosphere. Bonus points for pubs in Hemel and ones that are family friendly. Add your choices to the comments box below or email victoria AT bohoboxmoor.com. Mark Castro-Garcia will pick the winner.
A big thank you to Mark Castro-Garcia for this article. Visit his blog at markcastrogarcia.blogspot.com and his website at www.yewhew.com. Mark is a fan of Boho Boxmoor on Facebook. Article © Mark Castro-Garcia 2010.