Friday 14 November 2014


I haven't been in the Prince for a while but today I made the effort. It was well worth while.

The pub is a little out of town and off of the 'beaten track' and suffers as a result. However, the beer is excellent and the staff friendly and efficient. The pub is quite light and airy though there may be 2 or 3 too many bar stools; nonetheless, it's a hostelry that any beer drinker, indeed anyone else too, would do well to visit at least once. It's close to a pretty good restaurant, 'Rossini', and makes an ideal starting or ending point to any visit there.

The 'Prince of Wales', now run by the 'Animal Brewery' and serving their most interesting and flavoursome range of beers, is a good 25 minute walk for me as I live on the opposite side of town; it will, nonetheless, be a frequent haunt from now on.

Sunday 12 October 2014


For many, many years, Hinckley pubs were dominated by the Marston's brewery. With little or no real competition, the brewery did little to invest in their estate and the pubs gradually deteriorated both in appearance and management. Thankfully, all this has been changing over the last 2 or 3 years.

It seems that Marston's have had something of a re-think about their long term strategy and a number of pubs have been sold, resulting in better pubs and more competition. The 'Railway Hotel' and the 'Prince of Wales' have been bought by small independent breweries and both are much improved; the 'Greyhound' has also been sold though in a deal which appears to require the continued sale of Marston's beers alongside a changing number of other cask ales. Another pub, 'The Bounty', which closed several years ago has been bought by a local businessman and re-opened meaning that, together with the 'Queen's Head' on Upper Bond Street, we now have 5 genuine free houses in the town and immediate surrounds. There are also a couple of bars, not places I would ever term pubs, but 'The Baron', a Wetherspoon's house, and the 'Gravity' do provide cask ales of variable type and quality.

With all of this upheaval, Marston's presence in the town has now been severely reduced and it seems that they've finally decided to invest in at least 1 of their remaining houses, the 'Union'. Over the last few weeks, a pretty dull, dingy and uninspiring pub has been transformed and now looks bright and breezy. The beer is still Marston's, and only the ordinary bitter is available as most of the clientele are lager drinkers, but it seems that the revamp has improved patronage substantially. Additional cask ales are promised and the pub is to start selling hot food in the near future. 

From a town in which it was almost impossible to find any alternative to dull, run-down Marston's pubs, we now enjoy numerous free houses and even renewed interest from Marston's. Long may it continue.

Tuesday 12 August 2014


Today, I walked passed 'The Greyhound' in Hinckley and saw that it appears to have changed hands.

Marston's put the pub on the market at an extortionate price well over a year ago and seem to have had very little interest. Several months ago, the licensee of a nearby Marston's house, 'The New Plough', took it over still under the Marston's banner while negotiating a purchase. Two or three months ago scaffolding was erected across the front of the building and it's now been painted, the brickwork has been renovated to some degree and new windows have appeared. Today, I noticed that there is also a new pub sign, proclaiming both that it is a Marston's house and a Free House.

Exactly what the position is remains a little unclear, at least to me. The selling agent and Marston's both continue to include the house on their websites as for sale, though one states that it is 'sold subject to contract' and the other claims that it is 'under offer'. There does not yet appear to be any definite news of a sale, though it seems unlikely that Marston's would have spent money on the place and even less likely that anyone else would have had a sale not been either completed or certain.

Regardless, 'The Greyhound' now seems to have joined the growing number of ex-Marston's owned pubs in Hinckley and, on this occasion, it seems that it may really be a genuine 'Free House', unlike the 'Railway' and 'Prince of Wales', both of which were acquired by small breweries. I suppose I will have to make a visit to discover the whole story, though that is hardly likely to be hardship.

Tuesday 8 April 2014


Today I visited the 'Railway Inn' in Hinckley, also now known as 'Steamin' Billy', for the first time since its re-opening last year. What a difference a year makes.

The overall ambience is much improved, with the conservatory now accommodating a very pleasant seating area. The rest of the interior is also much smarter and the general look and feel of the place has been improved very much. My 'Steamin' Billy' bitter was very nice but the biggest development has to be the food - very good indeed. Meals of good quality, well presented and service with a smile; what more can a customer ask for ?

Having not been here for the best part of a year, I will now make sure that the 'Railway' is back on my list of Hinckley pubs to frequent.

Saturday 18 January 2014


Having a look at the Marston's website today I discovered that another Hinckley pub is now up for sale.

The "Dog & Gun" isn't one of the town's more desirable hostelries and I've only ever been there once - that was more than enough. It generally doesn't open until late evening and then stays open until the early hours of the morning; quite who are its regular customers is a question better left unasked, let alone unanswered.

Nonetheless, it appears that Marston's are now 'inviting offers' for this pub, though what takers there'll get is anyone's guess. It's not well placed, being on a busy junction and it's also on the edge of what passes for the town centre, away from casual passers by and also from the proposed town centre development. I don't think it's one I'd be interested in !

Thursday 16 January 2014


Following the rumours that a number of Hinckley pubs are listed for disposal by the Marston's company, I heard yesterday that there seems to be some major nastiness in play too.

New tenants have moved in to the 'Holywell Inn' very recently, sadly for them on the appalling 'Retail Agreement' as far as I understand. However, it's also the case that Marston's has been in touch with a former pub landlord with a suggestion that he might be interested in taking the pub on - imagine the shock for the new tenants when he turned up to have a look around, which he did last week !

Marston's clearly have no scruples when it comes to screwing their managers or tenants, whatever agreements they may have signed. It's also the case that the company is looking to off-load around 200 pubs to an investment company in the near future, the ultimate intention apparently being to turn these outlets into corner shops, mini-supermarkets and so on, and it seems that they may well be prepared to sell these premises from under the feet of their tenants.

You have been warned.

Wednesday 15 January 2014


Since its 'wash and brush up' by Louise, the 'Greyhound' in Hinckley has been an improved pub and the beer has been very drinkable. The pub has remained on the market and the word now is that it's been sold, though to whom is shrouded in mystery. Louise was certainly interested but she's keeping tight-lipped on the situation.

In the meantime, the temporary bar manager from the 'Greyhound', Kate, has moved to the 'Union', another run-down local pub. Exactly how she's arrived there seems to be a confused story, but it appears that the 'Union' may now be on Marstons' egregious 'Retail Agreement'. What the future holds for the pub is anyone's guess.

More mystery surrounds Marstons plans for other Hinckley pubs. It's been said that several are now on the list for disposal, including the 'Holywell Inn', the 'Sportsman' and the 'Black Horse Inn', though there doesn't appear to be any confirmation of this. We can only wait to see what happens.

Saturday 19 October 2013


After being closed for a little over a week, the 'Greyhound' in Hinckley re-opened last night as a significantly improved hostelry.
While it remains up for sale, Marston's finally appear to have realised that no one was going to be interested in buying a dirty pub with undrinkable beer and frequented by alcoholics, drug addicts and criminals. Their answer to this conundrum has been to send the previous management packing and to bring in the tenant of a successful local house together with an experienced temporary manager. After a week of cleaning, including resolving such issues as filthy pipes and a glass washer clogged up with mould and filth, and getting rid of beer so old that it had separated in the barrel, the pub is now back in business and promises to be a much better place than it's been for quite some time. The undesirable element has gone and won't be returning.
Last night, customers were treated to friendly service and good beer, for the first time in a while. Long may it continue.

Tuesday 8 October 2013


After being up for sale since March, the 'Greyhound' in Hinckley is apparently about to be closed, at least for a short time. Exactly what's going on is not yet clear but it seems that Marston's, the owners, have finally had enough of the recent manager and sent her and her family packing. The word is that it will be closed from Wednesday but it's also rumoured that a replacement has been lined up so the doors may well re-open within a day or two.
This used to be a quite popular hostelry but has declined over the years, dramatically so in the last few months. The quality of the beer has been inconsistent to say the least and the overall ambience unappealing; there have even been reports of some less savoury customers snorting drugs from the tables in full public view and one former regular and barman is currently residing 'at Her Majesty's pleasure'. The pub is in a dire state of repair and desperately needs renovation, though the potential costs of this on top of the asking price of £265,000 (unchanged since March), when coupled with the lack of trade, seems to have deterred all potential purchasers.
What will happen to this very old pub is now anyone's guess but if anyone does come along and buy it, they're going to have a big job on their hands trying to restore it to former glories.

Sunday 6 October 2013


The 'Queen's Head' in Hinckley is, without doubt, the best real pub in the town. While I've had occasional issues with it, what can't be denied is that it looks like and behaves like a proper English pub.
Having been voted the Hinckley and Bosworth CAMRA 'Pub of the Year' for 2013 it has much to live up to but it is doing so very well indeed. The regular turnaround of real ales is a great attraction while its support for the very recently established 'Elliswood Brewery' in the town has already caused excitement.
Phil and Dawn, plus Dawn's mum Shirley, do most of the work and the beer is always superb; it also comes from every corner of the country and is likely to satisfy all but the most pernickety of real ale buffs. If you're in the area, give it a try - you are unlikely to be disappointed.


I recently spotted a review by someone who'd had a bad experience at the 'Sarah Mansfield' and I thought it would be only right to make some more positive comments.
I visited this pub, off the beaten track and in a minute village close to the A5 just north of Rugby, last week to meet some old friends whom I've known for many years. We meet every few months at the same place and have done so for quite some time. Although there have been several changes of management over this period and, it must be said, the odd glitch, what can't be faulted is the quality of the beer, food and general service.
Last week, I had a couple of pints of beautiful 'Abbot ale' and we enjoyed a couple of very nice rib eye steaks plus a well cooked and presented rainbow trout. The service was friendly and efficient, the beer and food very good. Since we were last there, there have been a few enhancements to the furnishings but this remains a quintessentially English village pub; it's a really good place to visit and highly recommended, at least by my friends and I.

Sunday 21 July 2013


Last Thursday, Hinckley pub-goers were able to sample the first beer from a new brewery in the town for over 100 years. The "Elliswood" brewery has been founded by 2 step-brothers and their first brew was trialled at the Queen's Head on  Upper Bond Street from 5:00pm.
In the absence of the most active members of CAMRA, who had travelled to Rutland for a beer festival, there was little early competition to get a pint, though even arriving at 5:03 wasn't good enough to be first to the trough; I was only second. "Just One More" was aptly named as everyone who tried it had at least just one more; some of us managed to order just one more of "Just One More" several times !
"Just One More" is an amber beer, hoppy, bitter and very drinkable at 4.2%. It had apparently been planned to be 4.1% but the brew had other ideas; I don't think anyone argued about it, they just enjoyed the very nice ale. One of the brewers, Tracy Ellis, turned up to find out how his beer was being received and must have gone away very happy; the 9 gallon barrel was sold out by 8:15pm and many CAMRA members who rushed back from Rutland to try a sample were disappointed to miss out. I had told Phil, the landlord, that one barrel wouldn't be enough but .......... :-(
"Just One More" will. hopefully, be back on sale in the Queen's Head next Thursday and another brew, "Thirst in Line", is scheduled to be available at the Market Bosworth Rail Ale Festival between 26th and 28th July. Here's hoping the old liver holds out !