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Straight Silver for the Crooked Billet

Written by Les Middlewood

Many congratulations to Bev Gefaell, her team and her regulars at the Crooked Billet in Musley Hill, Ware, winner of the Silver award in South Herts Branch’s 2021 Pub of the Year competition.

The Crooked Billet is a small Victorian-built wet-led pub deep in the heart of a residential area in the north of Ware. There are effectively two rooms – a largish bar with TV sport – and a smaller “snug” with comfortable seating and a chance to play darts. Outside there are tables against the street pavement and to the rear there is a small garden. Bev keeps two changing cask ales during the week with an extra beer at the weekends, often a dark beer, mild, stout or porter. At the presentation evening in October, we enjoyed Otter Bitter, Deuchar’s IPA and Nethergate Old Growler.

Once a tied house to both McMullen’s and Greene King, the Billet has for some years been owned by Admiral Taverns and Bev is in her third year as a leaseholder having honed her cask ale keeping skills with time spent working under previous leaseholders Stuart West and Sue Pateman before taking the leap into leaseholding herself – although pub keeping wasn’t a total surprise because in previous times Bev had managed a number of McMullen houses. The pub has now gained a further entry in the Good Beer Guide and has now amassed 23 inclusions in total.

The award was presented by South Herts Chair, Iain Loe, who outlined the reasons for the Billet’s high ranking in the competition – not for only selling great cask ale but for a pub that is inviting, welcoming and comfortable – an excellent community local. Just the place, in fact, to meet friends, enjoy good beer, conversation and fun. The pub has now added Silver to its previous Gold and three Bronzes.

In accepting the award Bev was very keen to say how thankful she has been for the support of family, friends and customers, particularly in the last two years during the pandemic – tough times, not just for the pub but for many in the community. She said “The quietness of the lockdowns gave me time to realise that the pub is more than just the pub, it’s about other social things as well – people and community – and I began to think how I and the pub could help. In the latter part of the lockdowns, as restrictions eased, we started our “Local Social,” inviting people in for tea and a chat – its continued every Wednesday morning since and we also have a Monday afternoon knitting group.”

Admiral Taverns must have also seen the pub’s potential – the pub closed for a month after our award ceremony for repairs and a well-earned redecoration, with new flooring, some new furniture and a log burner, together with fresh signage and groundwork outside. But at the heart of the changes was the need to protect and cement the pub’s strong community credentials – along with great cask ale, of course.

When the Crooked Billet re-opens operating hours will be 4-11pm Monday – Friday and 12-11pm Saturday & Sunday. Do pay a visit.

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