Suffolk's pub of the year revealed

THEY have out-foxed their rivals to be crowned Suffolk's pub of the year, and now they are hoping to toast more success in the regional final.

Russell Claydon

THEY have out-foxed their rivals to be crowned Suffolk's pub of the year, and now they are hoping to toast more success in the regional final.

Patrons at the Fox and Hounds in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, can now proudly call their local the best in Suffolk after it scooped the prestigious Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) accolade.

An expert judging panel lavished praise on the landlords for being a shining example of how struggling pubs can turn their trade around into a booming business.

Bernie Ruffles, 52, who has run the premises with his wife Mandy, 45, for the past five years, said: “We were over the moon to find out. It is amazing. We never expected it.

“We worked very hard for five years to turn it into what it is now and we have been West Suffolk Pub of the Year for the past three years now, so I guess it is now our time and we are looking forwards to the regional final.”

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The pub, which dates back to around 1865 in Barton Road, serves six real ales - including four guest beers that change as quick as the barrels empty - with the premises now displaying 600 different pump clips around its walls.

With a record number of licensed premises calling time for good due to the triple whammy of the recession, high beer tax and the effect of the smoking ban, Mr Ruffles said it was their strong link to serving their community that had fireproofed them from it.

“We are a village pub who sponsors the football team, the cricket team and a local boxer,” he said. “We keep the pub rooted in the community by supporting it and in turn it supports us, so it is swings and roundabouts really but it works for everyone here.”

He added: “We keep investing in it - we completed a redecoration this year - and as we get it in we will continue investing.”

CAMRA officials have praised the pub for being a textbook example of diversification with the Fox and Hounds boasting two bars aimed at different generations, one even incorporating a Nintendo Wii console and a dinning area with locally-sourced food.

Kevin Waterson, the west Suffolk chairman of CAMRA, said: “It has been consistently good over the years considering not long ago the previous owners wanted to close it and build on it. It is the sort of place where if you have friends come up you can take them there and know they will be suitably impressed.”

Morris dancers will be in the pub next Sunday as part of a package of regular entertainment put on by the landlords, who now really have something to make a song and dance about.