St Helens pub crowned best in the country

The Cricketers Arms
The Cricketers Arms

A St Helens pub has completed an astonishing turnaround after being named the country's finest beer venue.

The Cricketers Arms won the Pub of the Year contest organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) after judges were wowed by its place at the heart of the community.

The team at the Cricketers Arms celebrating the national Camra award

The team at the Cricketers Arms celebrating the national Camra award

The country's biggest pub prize marks an amazing reversal of fortunes as when owners Andy and Denise Evans took it on in 2013 it was boarded up.

Five years later the Peter Street venue attracts residents from all walks of life and has a bar laden with 13 cask ales and up to 20 ciders in summer.

The whole building has been given a massive renovation and a regular programme of social events introduced while there are plans to start a microbrewery.

The Cricketers Arms beat three other pubs, including nearby Wigan Central, to the national prize.

It is third time lucky for the venue after two previous regional victories but the owners admitted they were still hit for six to have won.

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."

When Andy and Denise took over cask had not been served at the venue for decades, but that has now all changed with a huge array of locally-sourced brews on.

When the new brewing plant cranks into life customers will have a say naming the creations.

The clientele also enjoys events including regular beer festivals, dominoes, jam nights, pub quizzes, karaoke and pool teams.

Drinkers also recently started supping from a newly-installed whisky and gin bar.

At a time when pubs are continuing to shut their doors at an alarming rate Camra is taking delight in the return of the Cricketers Arms.

National Pub of the Year co-ordinator Paul Ainsworth said: “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.”

Camra's biggest awards were a double celebration for the North West, with a venue in Flixton taking home the Club of the Year accolade.