Local Lockdown Heroes

During the summer, CAMRA North Beds gave four Lockdown Hero awards to recognise exceptional service to customers and to real ale during the three lockdown months from April to June. As about a dozen North Beds pubs supplied takeaway food and drink during lockdown, selecting the winners was not easy, but we finally made awards to three pubs and a local brewery for outstanding service. Although their primary motive may have been to keep the business afloat, each of them went well beyond basic provision in supporting their customers.

Kelchner Brewery, Ampthill. Like many other small breweries trying to keep the business going, this local microbrewery offered a retail takeaway service to customers but also very positive support for closed pubs struggling to survive. Owners Chris and Marisa were determined to keep the beer flowing in challenging circumstances. In addition to a retail click and collect service, they also supplied cask and bottled beers to pubs keen to offer takeaways but unable to get supplies from their usual sources. As the brewery is just across our border with South Beds branch and as it operates over much of the county, we decided to make this award on behalf of all three Bedfordshire branches.

Kelchner currently supplies bottled beers to local shops and – when rules allow – operates a retail shop open most Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. Call 07508 305754 or visit www.kelchnerbrewery.co.uk. When pubs re-open again, Kelchner beers will be available regularly at the Three Cups in Bedford, where the brewery now holds the lease.

Beerfly, Bedford. This small off-licence and micropub in Bedford town centre was open for off-sales during lockdown, but distinguished itself by introducing a local delivery service for customers ordering online. Owner Tim Edwards supplied flagons of draught beer as well as a selection of canned beers, with the choices changing from week to week so there were always new beers to try. Although Tim’s business is mainly “craft beer”, most of which is not real ale, this award was for his service to customers, not for the beer. Beerfly is also our local Young Members Pub of the Year 2020.

Beerfly is currently open for takeaways including flagon fills on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. A local delivery is available on Friday. Weekly offers are published on Thursday at 5pm. Call 01234 303211 or visit www.facebook.com/beerflyshop.

Sun, Felmersham. This delightful village pub was saved from closure a few years ago after a vigorous campaign persuaded a local resident to buy the property and reopen it as a free house. The pub was later sold on but new owners Peter and Conny have continued to run it as a community asset with a strong emphasis on customer service. After lockdown began, they opened Café Felmo’s, a pop-up shop for food and drink in the bar and an adjacent shed – a valuable service where there is no permanent village shop. They also offered popular takeaway meals from the pub kitchen and later added a local delivery service. Although they did not supply draught beers, their shop offered bottled beers and ciders from several sources, including Kelchner Brewery, another of our Lockdown Heroes. The Sun is also our branch Cider Pub of the Year 2020 and has a well-deserved place in Good Beer Guide 2021.

With the return of lockdown measures, the Sun has reopened Café Felmo’s and offers takeaway meals in the evening. Pre-order takeaways at www.mk437.net, call 01234 781355 or visit www.facebook.com/thesunfelmersham.

Bell, Odell. Another delightful village pub, in this case a Greene King tied house where the tenants went out of their way to provide local takeaway and delivery services for freshly prepared meals from the pub kitchen and drinks, including flagons of cask beer. Greene King kindly gave permission for Kelchner Brewery to supply cask beers, which customers were able to enjoy, albeit off the premises. Licensees James and Sally have openly recorded thanks to Kelchner and their support for the similar award that we have given to the brewery. The Bell is a former branch Most Improved Pub and has had a regular entry in the Good Beer Guide since 2017.

The Bell currently offers takeaway meals, although there are restrictions on supplying takeaway alcohol. Call 01234 910850 or visit www.facebook.com/TheBellinOdell.

Our social media feeds attracted much support for these awards from both customers and local CAMRA members. Framed certificates were presented to the four winners, who clearly value the awards and the recognition given on behalf of customers. We hope the new friends they made by providing exceptional service during lockdown will attract new business and reward the owners accordingly.

Although we selected just four local businesses for these awards, we are full of admiration for all local pubs and breweries that are working hard with deliveries and takeaways during what everyone knows is a very tough time for the hospitality trade. When the Covid crisis is finally over we look forward to seeing them all flourish again. Meanwhile, let’s give them all the support we can.


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