GLASSES were raised at the Hearts of Oak in Drybrook on Tuesday (January 30) when the Forest of Dean branch of the Campaign for Real Ale declared it their Pub of the Year 2024.

Members of CAMRA and pub locals there to congratulate landlady Sarah and her son Tom for their amazing achievement of turning the pub around from a boarded-up, weed-infested eyesore to a vibrant and much loved community asset in just two years of trading.

It was in 2021 that the Gibson family saw potential in the previously unloved village pub and after a thorough clean and refurbishment.

It opened again in January 2022 and t was not long before their efforts came to the notice of the local CAMRA branch because of the quality of the beer, and the strong support and cooperation they had received from the Wye Valley Brewery.

The brewery’s Butty Bach has always been their best-selling real ale and Tom, who is charge of the cellar, keeps it in prestine condition.

There are three real ales on offer at the Hearts of Oak, the second pump usually is reserved for other beers in the Wye Valley core range, including seasonal ‘specials’

Rotating guest beers from independent and occasionally regional breweries are dispensed from the third hand-pump. 

Consideration is also given to the role a pub plays in the local community; the greeting, friendliness and efficiency of the staff; cleanliness and the general atmosphere.

A CAMRA spokesman said: “These days some pubs are no more than posh restaurants that happen to sell good beer.

Diners may be welcome, but they are not necessarily welcoming places for those customers wishing to pop into their local perhaps after work for a few pints.

“The provision of good, wholesome food is one of the main attractions of a pub but the emphasis should focus on the needs of t”he local community.

Branch chairman branch, Geoff Sandles said: “That’s what makes the Hearts of Oak so loved by its regulars.

“Sarah is a good cook, Tom looks after the beer and the regulars look after them.

“It’s dog friendly, two nice warming fires, traditional pub games, a TV that is not obtrusive, weekly charity quizzes.

“It’s a proper homely local where people can either come to for a chat, or quietly sit in the corner reading the paper with a wonderful well-kept pint of real ale.

“There’s even a pop-up post office in the car park on Thursdays.”

Members of the Forest of Dean Branch of CAMRA meet most Thursday nights when they visit real ale pub across the area.