I was pleased to discover that the Bell pub in Hempton opened at 11:00 as that meant I could make a flying visit to tick it off my Good Beer Guide list. Hempton is a moderately strange settlement as it’s effectively in Fakenham, but it feels entirely separate from it and in terms of its history it hasn’t much changed over the last 200 years.
It was evident that this pub would be excellent simply by evidence that it has survived at all, with the other two pubs in Hempton having closed long ago. As mentioned, it’s listed in the Good Beer Guide, but it also came highly recommended from people that I know in CAMRA. A quick look on-line shows that they’ve made an effort to have a web presence and they’ve also got a history of the pub which is something I always appreciate.
The Bell is a perfect example of a village pub where the welcome is immediate and the locals seem pleased when people come in to their pub. It feels like they have a buy-in, it’s a sign of an exceptional pub where the locals are so proud of their venue. And rightly so, it’s got a community feel where they show sports, have a pool table, two separate seating areas and a cosy atmosphere. There’s something for everything, not least a selection of four real ales which is a good going for any pub.
The beer is the Snetterton Scary Tree, the name of which comes from a local landmark which has unfortunately now fallen down. Brewed by Elmtree this is a session bitter which was suitably hoppy, being well-kept and at the appropriate temperature. Any concern I had that I’d arrive early on a Monday morning and might get a poor quality beer were unfounded as there were already several customers and all the beers had been pulled through.
My visit was short, but I got the impression that this was an exceptional pub which serves its community well and there were numerous events advertised which they’ve involved with organising. There was a friendly welcome, engaging service, keenly priced beer and plenty of real ales. It absolutely deserves its place in the Good Beer Guide, it’s a pub for the many and not the few.