THE landlord of a micro pub had a double reason to raise a glass after winning a prestigious award on his birthday.
The Rat Race Ale House, at Hartlepool train station – which is the smallest pub in the region - has been judged the North East Regional winner in the CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year competition.
Five pubs reached the regional final and in a closely contested judging round, pint-sized pub The Rat Race came out ahead and now goes through to the nationals to find the UK’s best cider pub.
Landlord Peter Morgan collected the accolade at an awards presentation at the pub last night – on his 47th birthday.
He told the Hartlepool Mail that he was “absolutely flabbergasted” when he was told he had won.
“I couldn’t have dreamed of a better birthday present,” he said.
“I knew nothing about it and didn’t even realise I’d been nominated. I was put in for it by members of the Cleveland branch of CAMRA which I’ve been a member of for quite a few years, because there are very few pubs that do real cider.
“I’ve been doing it since day one.”
He added: “The CAMRA representatives came down last night on my birthday to present me with my certificate. I’m absolutely thrilled to receive it.”
Peter took over the pub – which is just 18ft by 12ft and about the size of the front room of his home in Trimdon Station – in 2009.
And from day one he has sold real cider, real perry and real ale, and also serves wine and soft drinks.
Customers – who travel from around the region to visit the pub – are even served at their seats as there is no room even for a bar.
The award proves that size does not matter, however, as Bill Wilkinson, CAMRA North East Regional Cider co-ordinator, granted The Rat Race the award.
He said: “Apart from the main criteria of selling quality cider or perry, there are other factors taken into consideration, such as service and welcome; atmosphere and sympathy with CAMRA aims.
“The very size of The Rat Race gives it a huge edge when it comes to service – there’s no bar counter so customers are served at their seats.
“Then there’s the atmosphere and décor which can be described as quirky in a charming way.
“Landlord Peter Morgan has stamped his own individuality on the micro pub which he opened in November 2009.
“Serving real cider and perry was part of his original concept for the pub and has continued since day one. It’s a beacon for real cider in Hartlepool and the wider Teesside area.
“People make special journeys and are prepared to travel some distance to drink here. After all, it’s only a short stroll across the railway station platform from the train.”