In the heart of Oldham’s bustling town centre, a gem stands proud – a haven for ale enthusiasts and cider connoisseurs alike.
The Fox and Pine, Oldham
Behind the resounding success of this real ale and cider specialist lies the passion-driven partnership of Chris and Michelle Riley.
Despite its relatively recent full-fledged opening post the easing of Covid restrictions, this establishment has quickly ascended the ranks to become a borough favourite, amassing an impressive collection of awards.
Speaking to I Love Manchester, Chris Riley, one-half of the two owners said:
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the result came in, we’re all thrilled here to be honest.
“We’ve won a few local bits before with CAMRA, but to be named best pub in Greater Manchester is a massive honour.
“To be recognised by people we don’t even know? It’s a bit of a thrill!”
I asked what Chris thought set him apart from other pubs in the area, and he said he thought it was the personable aspect of the place.
He said: “I think in a lot of modern pubs you never meet the owners, but here me and Michelle are always out and about and chatting.
“It’s a bit more traditional and old-fashioned. Modern pubs can feel a bit detached from the communities they are in.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Riley’s as they opened up just SIX days before the COvid 19 lockdown ground everything to a halt.
“The early days were fairly chaotic. We’d both worked as managers of Wetherspoons previously in the area, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for Covid.
“We’d just started the Oldham Beer Company and the site of the Fox and Pine became available so we’d semi-signed the lease.
“Then lockdown hit, I think we were only open for six days before the first lockdown, so it was off to the worst possible start.”
Chris said that even in just those six days, he and Michelle learned a lot, what worked and what didn’t, and the extra time closed to let them make the pub their own.
“We’ve been in the industry for about 28 years so you think you’ve seen it all, especially running a Wetherspoons!”
Chris and Michelle Riley ran the Regal Moon in Rochdale previously, before venturing out into microbrewing
Chris said this experience was vital in crafting the niche that the Fox and Pine now sit in.
“Basically what we try to sell, is anything you can’t find in your average Wetherspoons.
“We’re a village pub in a town if that makes sense?
“You get the cosyness and community feel of a village, but in Oldham.
The hard work in lockdown clearly paid off as they scooped CAMRAS local branch CAMRA pub award last year, and have just received the Best Pub in Greater Manchester award this time around.
Now they are entered into the national competition, with a chance to scoop Britain’s best pub.
They will know by Christmas whether they have won.
Chris said that they certainly didn’t become landlords to win awards.
“We’ve got a great hidden gem here, it’s a nice community and everyone who comes in is great.
“We all get on like a house on fire, with loads of events and just offer a space people can come down and relax and have a great time.
“Currently, we have loads of groups who come in and use the large upstairs space, which has a great fireplace.
“It’s a nice pub and a great place to get a drink and catch up with your mates.”
Moving on to the beer, Chis said they go for more traditional pull ales from Casks, rather than kegged beer.
“We’re very into cask beer here, the good stuff.
“We’ve got ten casks on, all different. I think people like the ‘real beer’ experience, properly pulled from a cask and looked after properly. You can’t get that at home, from a supermarket.”
“We’re just trying to offer something a bit different, and I think that’s why this recognition has come.”
Notably, The Fox and Pine achieved the remarkable feat of claiming consecutive CAMRA awards last year.
Rochdale, Oldham and Bury Pub of the Year
Its excellence was acknowledged by being crowned ‘pub of the year’ for the combined Rochdale, Oldham, and Bury branch.
Additionally, it secured the top spot in the solo category for Oldham.
Since its inception in 1971 as a driving force for the ‘revitalisation of real ale,’ CAMRA has been the ultimate authority in celebrating the cream of the crop in the pub, club, beer, and cider panorama spanning England, Wales, and Scotland.
CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide
This year, as CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide 2023 celebrates its 50th edition – an ultimate compendium of establishments offering an exceptional pint – the Fox and Pine made its mark as one of three Oldham establishments earning a coveted spot on the list.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
Greater Manchester Pub of the Year
The Riley duo has exciting news to share: the Fox and Pine has now achieved the apex of CAMRA recognition by being crowned the ‘Greater Manchester pub of the year.’
This triumph propels them to the national stage, where they’ll face off against 16 other elite pubs from across the UK in a highly anticipated competition later this year.
Beyond its award-studded journey, the Fox and Pine is an embodiment of craftsmanship, community, and the celebration of fantastic beverages.
It’s clear the passion from the two co-owners makes this a very special place, and a real jewel in Oldham’s crown.
For an exceptional drinking experience, why not check out what they have to offer?
We’ll drink to that, cheers!
Congratulations from everyone at I Love Manchester!