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Swansea Valley pub pulls in the punters with prize-winning pumps

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: September 15, 2011

Bar manager Hywel Roberts at the award winning Ancient Briton Pub

Bar manager Hywel Roberts at the award winning Ancient Briton Pub

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FEW did traditional better than the ancient Britons — and that includes running a public house it would seem.

So if you are fed up with identikit decor, piped music and a predictable selection of drinks, coupled with a lunch menu that smacks of TV dinners, then head up to the far reaches of the Upper Swansea Valley.

There you will find — definitely, not probably — the best pub in South and Mid Wales according to the Campaign for Real Ale's Good Beer Guide 2012 today.

The Ancient Briton in Pen-y-Cae, near Dan-yr-Ogof in the Brecon Beacons Country Park, has been named in the top 16 pubs in Britain out of a total of tens of thousands of watering holes.

Pubs are judged by CAMRA's 130,000 members on all the criteria that make a great pub, including atmosphere, decor, customer service, value for money, clientele mix, and most importantly, the quality of the real ale and cider.

A spokesman for CAMRA described the Ancient Briton as, "an excellent country inn within the Fforest Fawr Geopark, close to Dan-yr-Ogof Caves and Henrhyd Waterfall, frequently used by walkers, cavers and cyclists.

"Thirteen hand pumps regularly dispense up to six real ales and two real ciders, and an annual beer festival is held in September."

Bar manager Hywel Roberts, who has run the free house for two years, said: "It's gone from strength to strength. It originally had two real ales but now we have 13 hand pumps on the bar that can serve up to 13 real ales."

Asked about the secret of their success Mr Roberts, who previously ran the Pontardawe Inn, said: "We pride ourselves on the quality of our beers and the food.

"It's a traditional pub that serves good food, we have two chefs (and try to source food as local as we can) but we class ourselves as a pub with food, not a restaurant with beer.

"We have a good group of regulars but also draw in the passing tourist trade.

The decor is traditional with a wood burner for the winter evenings and a separate eating area.

The pub is no stranger to awards having been voted the best real ale pub in Neath and Port Talbot for three years running but now it has a place on the top shelf.

Mr Roberts said: "We came runner up last year so to win it this year we are absolutely overjoyed.

"Now we are in the last 16 out of the whole of Britain and we will just have to wait and see."

When pushed to see if he planned to put the champagne on ice for the overall winner — to be announced in early 2012 — he said: "It's difficult to tell what our chances are as I'm not familiar with the other finalists.

"People will come but they won't say who they are but everybody gets treated the same at the Ancient Briton.

"We do a good job so we stand a good chance."

Regular Paul Shannon, 65, from Ystradgynlais, said: "I think it's a lovely pub, the beer is first class and the food excellent. You come in and the welcome is always warm and the landlord is one of the finest ever to serve me ale."

Details of all the short-listed pubs will appear in the real ale drinkers bible — the Good Beer Guide.

Ian Hill, CAMRA Wales director, added: "With so many fantastic community pubs in the area, it is becoming harder every year for CAMRA branches to select their choice of local pubs to feature in the Guide.

"Only pubs serving a consistently high standard of real ale are considered for inclusion, and it's been a busy year for CAMRA members surveying their locals.

"In CAMRA's 40th year, we hope readers find the Guide as useful as ever in tracking down the perfect pint of real ale."

geraint.thomas@swwmedia.co.uk

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