The rolling hills of Oldham often make it a great place to head for a walk, and any good walk must end with a well-deserved pint at the pub, right? If you find yourself ending in the Fox and Pine on Graves Street, you won’t be the only one drawn there, as the traditional boozer is in the running to be crowned CAMRA’s Pub of the Year for 2023.
Relatively new to Oldham’s pub scene, the Fox and Pine is a micropub with 10 real ales and six real ciders set amongst traditional yet eclectic décor. A popular spot for the locals and pint lovers, the bar is owned by veterans Chris and Michelle Riley who also run the very successful Cob and Coal bar in Tommyfield Market.
The former grocery shop was converted to the Fox and Pine back in 2020 and the maze-like inside, complete with hidden rooms and cubbies plays host to open mics, sports socials and even the pub’s own music festival each year Fox Fest. The pub has now become one of the UK’s 16 regional finalists of this year’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Pub of the Year awards, announced at the Great British Beer Festival in London, meaning that it’ll be up for the coveted title of CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Chris said: "To be in the top 16 is superb. All our staff are chuffed to bits, and we've got some brilliant customers and hopefully be might get a few more visitors off the back of this.
"We signed for the pub in lockdown around May 2020, but because it was derelict it took us a while to find builders so we did a soft launch in October, but then we got locked down again, so it was a tough beginning but we got there.
"I've been in the pub game all my life, started in pubs after I left university in 1996 and went straight into working for JW Lees for nine then went to Weatherspoon's where I worked as a pub manager for 18 years. Michelle has also had her own pubs from 2007 onwards before we met and at one she won a Manchester award too for food and drink. People describe us as a hidden gem so it’s really nice to hear all the positive comments and put us on the map."
The winner of CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year will be announced later this year.