I hopped off the train and walked ten minutes to the center of town, my suitcase trailing behind me along the brick-red cobblestone. In the middle of town, I found myself standing outside a little unassuming pub called The Tamworth Tap.

Why, you might ask, did I detour from my originally scheduled train ride between London and Manchester?

Why did I find myself in a market town of around 78,000 located fourteen miles northeast of Birmingham on Easter Sunday morning?

Because I’d heard about a place in Staffordshire that had done something almost no one else had ever done before.

When I first started researching for my trip to the U.K., I Googled “CAMRA’s best pubs.” An organization started to revive cask ale, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) promotes the best of the U.K.’s real ale and traditional pub culture.

My search results immediately spit out the top result:

“The best pub in the UK is revealed by the Campaign for Real Ale”

Clicking on the press release, I saw three words: “The Tamworth Tap.”

Intrigued, I Googled some more.

The BBC reported, “Tamworth Tap named best pub in country for the second year in a row.”

The Drinks Business wrote, “The Tamworth Tap retains title as CAMRA’s Pub of the Year.”

My whole computer screen filled with stories about how this tiny pub in the middle of the U.K. did something almost no one else ever has before: won CAMRA’s prestigious Pub of the Year award two years in a row.

I knew I needed to go.

At 1:30 a.m. PT (as I said, I was Googling 🤷‍♀️), I emailed The Tamworth Tap Head Brewer and Co-Founder George Greenaway, asking if he’d be open during that holiday weekend.

He responded less than twenty minutes later, “Hi Grace, we’ll be open, and I’ll be about, so no problem. What time were you thinking?”

Which is how I found myself, suitcase in tow, standing outside The Tamworth Tap, two-time CAMRA Pub of the Year winner at 1 p.m. on Easter Sunday.

From Tourist Information Office to Award-Winning Pub

the tamworth tap bearly spring pale ale
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

The Tamworth Pub sits in a former tourist information office where Greenaway used to work from a desk on the second floor. “There’s more tourists now than there were then,” Greenaway jokes. (I suppose I could personally attest to that.)

“I could see the building emptying,” he told me while I sipped on a Bearly Spring golden ale on cask from Beartown Brewery, a suggestion one of the bartenders, Jess Masters, gave me when I first walked in.

We sat in what the pub calls its CAMRA Corner, a tucked-away booth decorated with all the awards Greenaway and his team have won over the last six years.

As one of the only remaining government employees in the building, the council gave Greenaway the keys. “I got to thinking that I could make it look occupied, which is always good for the council, by just doing a little community brew project.”

A homebrewer, Greenaway used to make beer in the cellar of his local (think like the Brits’ version of Cheers!, i.e., the place where everyone knows your name) called the Market Vaults.

Opening Tamworth Brewing Co. in an unused government building in the center of town sparked interest immediately.

“I was getting lots of taps on the window, asking, ‘When are you opening?’” said Greenaway, who never planned to open to the public.

“It could have been George’s Brewery, but the fact that we went with Tamworth Brewing Co. resonated with a lot of locals,” shared Greenaway, who moved to Tamworth at five years old and has lived there for going on fifty years. “They appreciate that it was there.”

the tamworth tap front
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

After hosting a few successful pop-ups, Greenaway decided to go for it, getting a full license and opening an entire pub called The Tamworth Tap next door.

Originally an empty shop with suspended cable lighting, polystyrene ceiling tiles, and magnolia and grey carpet tiles, The Tamworth Tap completely transformed the building under Greenaway’s direction.

Push open the door now, and you will immediately understand why Greenaway’s place has become a fan favorite.

Like Drinking Cask Ale in the Coolest Museum

the tamworth tap inside
Photography courtesy of The Tamworth Tap

Knick-knacks crisscross every corner, spilling out into the beer garden. Not crammed but purposefully placed.

“I don’t want it to look cluttered or unfinished,” Greenaway explains. “The pub should be quirky like most museums in a way—tidy but not too cluttered.”

For instance, a traffic light from the 1960s stretches out, overlooking the outdoor patio. Greenaway found the working street machine on eBay (during COVID, he says they used it to control the queue to get a beer).

Or a drinking fountain from America he wants to use to rinse glasses during beer festivals. Something he saw at a little bar he visited in Seattle.

the tamworth tap back beer garden beer wagon
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

At a collector’s market in Lincolnshire, Greenaway found an old Victorian cart that children used to deliver casks of beer. The rickshaw now sits alongside one of the beer garden walls next to a hatch for food covered with old ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s signs for nostalgic British treats—Whites and Roundtrees.

I had to ask Greenaway what those words meant. “Roundtree is a fruit pastille; they’re a lot like jellies,” he explains. “Whites is a drink, a lemonade.”

And then there’s the classic “Do Not Litter” sign by the bin.

the tamworth tap back beer garden tamworth brewing co wagon
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Most proudly, Greenaway shows me a wagon from an old brewery found in a shed in Spitalfields that he bought for £500 (~$626). A guy inherited his great-grandfather’s house and had to sell everything before developers took over the property. “I think he’s a multimillionaire overnight just for [selling] the house,” says Greenaway, who couldn’t be happier that he saved the cart from destruction and added words on the back reading “Tamworth Brewing Co.”

“I’m always seeing things,” Greenaway mused. “That would look good here, and that would look good there. I just love these old things that I find.”

Everything he showed me has a story, a purpose, and a vision.

the tamworth tap back beer garden hops
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

When he bent down to check on something in a planter, I realized he was seeing if the hops he planted had started sprouting. Turns out The Tamworth Tap grows Nugget, Cascade, Styrian Golding, Willamette, and Tradition, harvesting the hops in September to make what they call a green beer. (There’s also a lemon tree right by the cellar door and an apple one they’ve named The King Tree.)

the tamworth tap back beer garden co-founder george greeaway
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Before we left the beer garden, Greenaway stood looking up at a red “Tamworth Tap” sign above the covered passage back to the pub. “Yeah, that really finished it,” he sighed. “I did love that [sign] when that went in.”

If the Walls at The Tamworth Tap Could Talk

the tamworth tap back beer garden tamworth castle
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

History seeps into every crack and crevice in the cobblestones; every window, shutter, and wall potentially has a story to tell.

As Greenaway walked me around, he pointed out a Tudor door covered up by the Victorians, a staircase built by the Georgians, and original one-hundred-year-old Edwardian shutters. In the brewery next door to the pub, Greenaway showed me a Tudor wall from 1580 where they found actual horse hair.

He knows the history of it all.

Then there’s the obvious. The pub lies in the shadow of a turret from Tamworth Castle, a Grade I Norman castle. “That’s history,” he says, pointing out a thousand-year-old wall that butts up against the brewery. “It’s Saxon, so that … would be 800-900 AD. It’s quite humbling to be a custodian.”

Which is actually a pretty apt description for Greenaway, whose clear glasses, custom-made Tamworth Tap navy blue polo, and shock of silver-grey hair make him appear more like a docent than a brewer.

But in a way, he is a docent of drafts, warmly shepherding anyone who comes in his doors.

At the Tamworth Tap, it’s more than just what is on the wall, it’s who is within those walls, too

Back inside, sitting on pews imported from local churches, I told Greenaway, “Well, this has become a church for many people, right?”

“A cathedral,” he answered without skipping a beat.

A Cathedral Is Just a Church Without the People Inside

the tamworth tap inside
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Chances are, if you visit The Tamworth Tap, you’ll find Greenaway inside. He’s almost always at the pub. “Normally seven in the morning until lock up,” said Greenaway, who lives five minutes away. “I’ve done it in three minutes, though!”

During our conversation, at least seventy-five percent of the folks who passed our little corner stopped to chat with the pub owner or give him a simple hiya.

Greenaway says the pub has at least one hundred “Tappers,” a term for regulars that Greenaway’s wife, Louise Greenaway, invented.

Regulars like Martin Watts, who Greenaway introduced to me as the man who has 10,000 check-ins on Untappd.

“It’s 6,199,” Watts told me proudly. “1,300 here [at The Tamworth Tap].”

Watts, who has lived in Tamworth for sixty years, said he’s known “George since a century.”

Although The Tamworth Tap has only been around for six years, the pub (and the people in it) feels as much a part of the fabric of the town as the 900-year-old castle overlooking it.

Greenaway often hears a familiar refrain: “We’ve lived here thirty years, and we never even knew this place was here. We don’t know how we missed it!”

You feel that infectious energy passed on from the owner to his staff of fourteen, nicknamed “Team Tap.”

When I walked in on that Easter Sunday, all the bartenders sported bunny ears and seemed incredibly happy, even though they were working on a holiday.

Masters was the first person I talked to, kindly walking me through all my cask options and asking me what beers I usually liked or what flavors I looked for in a beer to help me decide.

the tamworth tap caske ale hand pulls
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

As Greenaway and I chatted and the clock hands ticked past 3 p.m., the pub really started to fill up. A white-haired gentleman ambled over to my corner and asked if he could sit in the empty seat. I opened my mouth and said, “Of course!” which prompted, “Are you American?”

We hit it off.

A regular who told me his name is Bryan had glowing things to say about The Tamworth Tap. “I’ve never been to a pub like it,” he exclaimed. “It’s the staff. They’re wonderful. You go into most pubs, and the most you get is, ‘What can I get you?’ and you hand them four pounds. It’s just a transaction.”

But not here.

“It’s a very busy little boozer,” The Tamworth Tap Cellarman (and former long-time customer) Ashley Nayler told me, mentioning during the summer, they’ll fly through about thirty firkins a week (over 330 gallons). “But the thing that makes it so cool is the people. A pub is just a room [for] beer, without other people, isn’t it?”

The Tamworth Tap attracts them all from eighteen years old to eighty years old.

“People come for the pub, people come for the beer, people come for the wine, people come for the music. Some people just come because this is what they like to do on a Sunday,” said Nayler, who noticed me earlier at the bottom of the stairs talking to Bryan, who he described as “a lovely chap!”

Originally from Birmingham (a Brummie, as he called himself), Bryan moved to Tamworth in 1971. You’ll find him at the pub at least five days a week for a few hours. “Tuesdays and Wednesdays when it’s quieter,” he shared with me (Greenaway says they’re busiest on Saturdays from 12 p.m.-7 p.m. when it’s just “manic”). “They open at four o’clock, and I’ll go at six; it’s enough time to have three or four pints.”

He adds, “I’d probably be here Monday, but they have a day off.”

I’d Do All Cask If I Could!

the tamworth tap inside please queue here
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Vibe ✅
Staff​​ ✅
People ✅

What about the beer?

At The Tamworth Tap, you’ll find eight hand pulls.

“I would love twelve or even sixteen,” Greenaway exclaimed, who always showcases at least one of his own beers on cask.

For instance, Whopper!, “which is legendary around these parts,” he proudly shared, mentioning the regional silver the triple-hopped English IPA picked up for Champion of the Year Britain. “Which is quite an accolade.”

A “New World IPA,” according to Greenaway, Whopper! features Waimea, Rakau, Sorachi, and Cascade hops. Hitting 6.5% ABV, the IPA isn’t “strong in American terms,” laughed Greenaway, “But strong by English standards,”

You’ll also find some pretty rare beers.

Such as Sureshot’s Small Man Wet Suit on cask. According to Sureshot Co-Founder James Campbell, whom I met up with a couple of days later in Manchester, they’ve only casked that beer once or twice.

“They very rarely do cask,” Greenaway told me. “We were quite pleased to be offered the opportunity to stick one of their casks on.”

the tamworth tap co-founder george greenaway hand pulling otherworld medusa porter case ale
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

On my visit, the options ranged from golden ales and blondes—Three Tuns Solstice, Stubbee X Pineapple, and Holdens Golden Glow—to porters—Tiny Rebel Chocoholic and Otherworld Medusa.

“I’ve always said we’re a permanent beer festival,” Greenaway shared. So you’ll find beers from all across the U.K.

Some come to drink the same thing, like Bryan, who admits he spends about half of his £800 state pension on beer and likes to drink Golden Glow. “It’s a neutral blonde bitter,” he told me. “A lot of these pubs bring in weird-tasting beers, and I’m not interested. I prefer the blonde.”

Bryan says he appreciates that “they know what I like and don’t like.” Unlike another bar that shall remain unnamed in town, which “still doesn’t have the beer I like, so I come here instead.”

Others, like Watts, drink everything. And while he frequents many pubs in the area, he says The Tamworth Tap “is up there” as one of his favorites.

Although he admitted that he planned to stop somewhere else on his way home to check in beers 6,200 and 6,201 on the app.

Before he left, he asked if he could friend me on Untappd.

You can’t walk into The Tamworth Tap and leave without a new friend.

“Everyone just seems to get on with each other,” Watts shared.

People love this place. And this place loves its people.

Winning CAMRA Pub of the Year…Twice

the tamworth tap co-founder george greenaway camra corner awards
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Back in our little corner booth, Greenaway brought me a fresh-pulled pint of Otherworld Medusa porter, described by Nayler as like a “cold, milky coffee, but in a nice, nostalgic way.”

He paused momentarily and gazed at the accolades framed and plastered above me.

“When I look up at that, that’s rad,” he says, his eyes stopping on one in particular.

A bronze award he won for one of the beers he brewed at Tamworth Brewing Co.

“It wasn’t even the [best] beer at the festival … but it was nice to get that,” he explained.

Inspired to go for silver next year, Greenaway says, “It just kept snowballing” to the point where The Tamworth Tap won its first award as Staffordshire Pub of the Year in 2019, “which I signed because, ironically, I was chairman of the [CAMRA] branch!”

Three years later, CAMRA named The Tamworth Tap its 2022 National Pub of the Year.

the tamworth tap co-founder george greenaway with hop culture senior content editor grace lee-weitz
Photography courtesy of The Tamworth Tap

Winning this title is the highest honor CAMRA can give to a pub. The organization has run the competition since 1988, sending judges to find the highest-quality pubs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man.

It’s a rigorous process, including four different rounds—Branch, Regional, Super Regional, and Final. Each year, the 200 CAMRA branches across the U.K. select their own Pub of the Year, which then goes on to compete regionally, narrowing the field to the sixteen top pubs. From there, four finalists emerge before the organization ultimately selects one grand winner.

Much like the Michelin Guide, CAMRA visits pubs anonymously, judging a place based on criteria categories such as “Quality and Condition of Real Ale / Cider / Perry,” “Promotion and Knowledge of Real Ale,” “Cleanliness and Staff Hygiene,” “Service, Welcome, and Offering,” “Style, Decor, and Furnishings,” “Community Focus and Atmosphere,” “Sympathy With CAMRA’s Aims,” and “Overall Impression and Value.”

“Anybody can turn it on for the day or the hour,” says Greenaway. “You’ve got to treat everybody as though they are a judge. We give everybody the same level of excellent service, and we feel better for it anyway.”

Greenaway says it comes down to the little things: Is your price list up to date? Do you have things around promoting CAMRA? Do you engender community with local events? Is your staff trained on how to serve beer? Are you nailing the aesthetics?

the tamworth tap inside
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

“The fact that this is the CAMRA corner is a tick,” Bryan told me. “That little Belgian bar there where he used to brew his beer. … Tick. The garden. … [Tick].”

Winning the title “CAMRA Pub of the Year” is seriously no small feat.

As Greenaway recalled the night they won, he beamed. “This occasion, the support was incredible because everybody loves being here,” said Greenaway. “We love our customers, our staff, and our team. It was fantastic to celebrate ’cause they were celebrating it with us.”

And the community celebrates with The Tamworth Tap in other ways as well. Nayler said it’s not uncommon for locals to bring snacks or treats to the staff. “At Christmas, you can’t fit anything on the back shelf behind the bar because it’s full of Advent calendars for us,” shared Nayler. “Really lovely and generous bunch of people who care about the team.”

Support that has benefited The Tamworth Tap because, incredibly hard to win just once, it’s almost unheard of to earn CAMRA’s top accolade twice.

the tamworth tap inside camra pub of the year 2022 sign
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture
the tamworth tap inside camra pub of the year 2022 and 2023 sign
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

A repeat winner has only happened once in CAMRA’s history when the Kelham Island Tavern in Sheffield won in 2008 and 2009.

But last year, the quirky Tamworth pub achieved the almost impossible: It won CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year in 2023.

“The Tamworth Tap should be incredibly proud of this feat; to be named the best pub in the U.K. two times on the trot is a remarkable achievement,” CAMRA Awards Director Laura Emson said in a press release. “The pub encapsulates everything that CAMRA aims to promote and protect, and each team member deserves the recognition twice over! A pub doesn’t have to be a national award winner to be a vital part of a local community, and following a tough few years for the industry, our support is needed more than ever.”

And now, Greenaway has his sights set on adding more awards to the corner wall.

Bryan shared with me that he asked Greenaway last year after winning, “What’s gonna stop you from winning it at least five times?”

Technically, you can’t win more than three years in a row, so rules might be the only thing.

But who knows? “You don’t clip the wings of a really good pub because it sends the wrong message,” said Greenaway. “I know I’d relish the opportunity to go up against me, and I wouldn’t stop until I’ve beaten me.”

There’s just that little something about The Tamworth Tap that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s the people, the community, the staff, the cask beers, the history baked into the walls, the windows, and the wagons.

Or it could be as simple as this: “George doesn’t sit on his laurels,” Bryan told me as he went off to find his mate, who always came in at five past, asking me to hold down the fort because otherwise he’d lose an open seat. “Every time you come in, there’s something different on the wall.”