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Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

The Kings Arms, Silsden.

The King’s Arms, Silsden is the Pub of the Season for Summer 2009 as voted by the members of Keighley & Craven CAMRA. An apposite season in which to win as the pub is blessed with a secluded grassy beer garden to the side of the pub, accessed from the front of the pub (as well as the longer-lived paved seating areas outside both the front and rear of the pub).

The hostelry has been around for a long time, as witnessed by the prints of the pub to be found on the walls featuring horse-drawn transport. In the middle of the last century the pub was owned by William Whitaker & Co Ltd of Bradford. On October 1st, 1959, the Whitaker estate, some 119 pubs, was sold to Joshua Tetley & Son – remember them?

More recently, the pub passed to the estate of Punch Taverns (or some sister company, a variation on the pugilistic theme). If your heart has sunk at this news, please don’t stop reading at this point, as the ale range makes the pub well worth a visit – more of this later.

Lisa and Francis proudly show off their Pub of the Season plaque following the presentation on 16th June 2009Lisa Keeley and Francis Huggins took over management of the pub on December 1st, 2003 and have delivered great improvements in the intervening five-and-a-half years. At this time, the only real ale available was Tetley’s bitter and the pub held a reputation for having a ‘boisterous’ clientele. Lisa and Francis set their own initial standards, and, at first, business tailed off as some existing customers went elsewhere before news of the change could attract replacements. However word spread that the pub had changed, that the quality of the bitter was good, and some former customers were enticed to return as well as new ones recruited.

Lisa and Francis are real ale drinkers and Francis has been a CAMRA member for eighteen years. Before long, a guest ale appeared, chosen from the Punch Finest Cask range. This has proved popular, emboldening Francis & Lisa to introduce more guest ales. A virtuous spiral has ensued, where new customers are attracted, existing customers have been able to enjoy a wider variety, and the beer turns over sufficiently quickly to be in good nick with little wastage.

These days, the regular ale is Theakston Best Bitter and there are three rotating guest ales. In this guise the pub attracted such plaudits that the pub made its debut in the Good Beer Guide in the 2009 edition (the 2010 edition will be published in September this year – why not buy a copy to see if the pub has repeated its success?) In response to customer requests, a changing guest cider or perry has been introduced. The proliferation of taps that now greets the visitor through the front door, reassures that there’ll be something here for everyone.

There’s a function room upstairs, available for hire, which has hosted several local CAMRA meetings, but, much more important than that, is home to beer festivals, the most recent of which was held in April. Few pubs have a sufficiently positive reputation for their real ale that they can make a go of running a festival. This one can.

The presentation of the award to Lisa and Francis took place on Tuesday 16th June 2009

Tony Davies

[Historical information provided by Malcolm Toft]

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