The atmosphere in a pub is as crucial to its success as the quality of its beer, but the recipes and methods are frustratingly opaque.
It is easier to reference a place that so perfectly illustrates an atmosphere; Kelham Island Tavern is that pub.
Despite bordering an empty lot and varies industrial units but very little housing, there is a robust set of locals who the bar staff know by name. Far from being alienating, I was welcomed casually and affably, by the staff and regulars alike.
Kelham Island Tavern is a regular CAMERA Pub of the Year winner (except in 2013, where The Shakespeare down the road stole the title). These were not won on the back of expensive and needless renovations, glitter and ball balls, but because it so thoroughly embodies what it means to be local pub, and why this is so important in the British culture. None of this success has gone to their heads; an understated, casual Northern attitude runs through the staff and locals.
No ridiculous renovations, plenty of old things.
Exceptionally maintained local beers, served with true passion and expertise. A small but well-chosen international selection of bottles, too.
This is the gold-standard for a good British pub.