Beer Blog

It’s a Sam’s pub Jim, but not as we know it! – The Admiral Hawke, Boston Spa.

Addy sign

Sam Smith’s might take a while between renovations of their pubs, but when they do it, they do it right! No one can deny the fit outs, usually completed by Worrall’s of Keighley, are of a very high quality, so I was really interested to pop into a local Sam’s house that closed for a full refurbishment in January 2017.

If I said I was surprised by what they had done with The Admiral Hawke, then it would be an understatement. I was literally shocked, so much so, I thought the old ticker was going to cut out again!


Previously the Addy had been a typical Sam’s pub, one with quite a bit of character as well. It’s always had a steady tap room trade, and back when managers could cook their own food it did some decent meals, even having a belting Thai evening once a week. I guess that would be a ‘Pop up’ kitchen these days, but before the Millennium nobody realised it, we just thought it was Keng, one of the regulars, renting the kitchen out and wokking his magic. Top drawer food, and hard to beat at pool as well.

Some folk might think it’s a travesty that the pool table has been removed. In fact the tap room isn’t a tap room anymore, it’s a … ? Well, it’s … all gone upmarket. Nay! Trendy in fact. At least for a Sam’s pub. Humphrey must be spinning in his grave? He surely must be dead if someone’s managed to get away with making a Sam’s pub look like a well heeled gastro pub sort of place, because that’s what they’ve done with the Addy.

Fair enough, there’s open fires everywhere, and a lot of the original architectural features have been retained, and improved upon; original parquet flooring, chequered tiling in the hall, they’ve even found, and made a feature out of a well in the back yard, sorry terrace.

Word on the High Street is, the tap room trade has migrated to the nearby (250 yds) Fox and Hounds, another decent Sam’s pub. I guess the question is, will they go back after the alterations? Will they want to go back? There’s no Sovereign Bitter on, or Double Four, nor any of the cheaper/weaker 2.8% beers, is that intentional, one may ask?

When I’ve visited, on two separate occasions, the hand pulled OBB was absolutely spot on. As well as Taddy Lager and Pure Brew on tap, it was nice to see the Pale Ale on draught and the (not usually seen in these parts) Wheat Beer, plus what looked like an, almost, full house of the bottled range. I’ve always been perplexed as to why more Sam’s pubs don’t carry more of the excellent bottled beers? I’m quite partial to the Oatmeal Stout. Apart from one or two places round here, you’ve a better chance going to New York to drink it than finding it in the breweries own pubs.

Addy bottle

I mentioned from the outset that the Addy was surprising. This theme continues with the food side of things. They’ve been allowed to cook food on the premises, instead of just warming up, the Smith family owned, Sarah Brownridge ‘ping’ meals. I know quite a few pubs are allowed to prepare their own Sunday lunches (to brewery approved standards and suppliers, of course) but, here they are preparing home cooked food on the premises on a daily basis from a decent ‘pub grub’ menu. Two of us had Steak pie and a Chicken Fillet burger, complete with accompaniments; veg and gravy, salad, etc. The burger coming in a proper brioche bun and the chips in natty little tin buckets. For around fourteen quid for both, we declared it a resounding success and put it on the ‘will definitely go again’ list. I know a lot of people flock to a new pub, but selling out on the first and second Sunday lunch sessions is pretty impressive, and an indicator of the potential.

Addy beer garden

I had a chat with the new Landlady, Jackie. She does front of house while her husband Chris is the chef. They’ve a strong CV in pubs and catering going back over ten years. Previously they were responsible for the catering  operation at Bridlington Golf Club and, before that, ran the St Quintin Arms at Harpham, near Burton Agnes. You could tell they were nice folk, who were enthusiastic about their new role and wanted everything to be spot on. The table service, from a smartly dressed young waiter, was exemplary, and as seasoned ‘stand up’ drinkers, I liked the fact we weren’t shown to our properly laid table until the meal was about to be served.

I usually make comment about an establishment’s toilet facilities, something probably not needed after a total renovation? They were absolutely spot on of course, and we were allowed to examine the Ladies! But, I have to mention the Sam Smith’s wall paper in the gents. If you’ve previously encountered this wonderful printed collage of all the bottle labels emanating from The Old Brewery at Tadcaster then I apologise. Though, I do believe it would be ideal for a feature wall in a gentlemanly study, or some other class of man cave; I definitely want some. See how many different labels can you count? Having said all this, coming from a commentator residing within four miles, or so, of Tadcaster, if people have seen it elsewhere, then it says so much about the brewery’s attitude to it’s own backyard.

Addy wallpaper

So, is this the way forward for Sam’s? Rumour has it that Sam(uel) Smith (Humphrey Jnr) has taken personal charge of this project, which is the first of it’s type North of the Trent (Unless someone can tell me otherwise? I would be genuinely interested to know.). It certainly bears no resemblance to any previous incarnations of the brewery’s branding in these parts. If asked, I would say that this is all very nice, but I don’t think it will fit across the entire estate, and certainly not in places like Stockport. Looking at Boston Spa (someone at the brewery obviously has) and the very busy, café bar style premises in the village, then somewhere like this, providing decent food, at a very competitive price, in pleasant surroundings, will be a winner.

Downside? They’ve removed the Pike! If anyone at the brewery is reading, that antique stuffed Pike is part of the fabric of Boston Spa, and I will readily pay a good market price to have it hanging in my own hall way. Please DM me on Twitter.

Verdict; As far as the Yorkshire region, and probably most other areas outside the metropolis, goes, a definite change from Sam’s, philanthropic, outlook of almost propping up steady traditional pubs, and a move into almost aggressive branding (for Sam’s anyway). Mind you, there’s still no branding outside, beyond a nice painting of the old Admiral.

N.B. Edward Lord Hawke, Admiral of The Fleet (1705 – 1781), so far as I can ascertain, has no direct connection with Boston Spa, even though the Wharfe (where said Pike was caught!) is navigable as far as Tadcaster, I doubt whether he ever managed to sail all the way up into the Lower Wharfe Valley? However, his peerage was styled as, Baron Hawke of Towton, of Scarthingwell Hall. Historic locations about five or six miles away, which probably explains the connection? He certainly wasn’t popular enough to warrant the naming of boat loads of boozers after him, like Lord Nelson. He may of course have been a contemporary, and neighbour, of the original Samuel Smith? Makes you wonder.

P.S. Humphrey Smith is not, and I sincerely hope not, dead. The reference to his demise, above, is entirely fictitious and intended to function as a literary device suggesting a certain degree of cynicism towards the said gentleman, and portrayal of a little humour. The writer bears no ill will towards Mr Smith and his brewery, even though they frequently tend towards esotericism.

P.P.S. I do not believe the cliffs, in the painting of Admiral Hawke on the pub sign, are the local beauty spot, Jackdaw Crag; although the stunning 150 + foot limestone cliffs aside the splendid Wharfe are sufficiently grand enough. Wide as the Wharfe is, for reasons relating to the navigable features of the river at these longtitudes, outlined ante, I believe the presence of two sailing ships in the background rules out Boston Nick as the paintings setting.

P.P.P.S. This article is written from the perspective of a person living in relative close proximity to Sam Smiths Brewery and HQ. There may be other pubs that break their traditional mould, elsewhere? If this is the case, then please post below as I may have pretensions of becoming a National Sam Smith’s expert ??


13 replies »

  1. Oh noes! Is nothing sacred? Posing tables in a Sam’s pub?

    I can’t say I’ve done a detailed survey of Sam’s food offering, but certainly the Vine at Dunham Woodhouses in Cheshire has a more eclectic (although hardly gastro) menu of the kind you describe.


  2. “burger coming in a proper brioche bun” – you’re a man after my own heart Richard (not in that sense), brioche not flowery baps. I’ve never seen a Sams that smart, must come up and do The Spa.


  3. My husband and myself were managers here when Keng did the Thai Friday evenings with his wife Louise, I used to do the home cooked food on a daiky basis and on a typical Sunday we would do 120 to 140 Sunday lunches,
    Those were the days.
    Then Humprey brought in company catering frozen food and stopped Keng and Louise doing the Thai nights.
    I have been to visit since the refurbishment and it is stunning well done Sam, but it’s no longer a local drinkers pub, hence why the locals are going to The Fox which is now run by a fantastic couple Mick znd Claire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment Sandra. Your Sunday lunches were excellent and very well subscribed, we often used to walk down with the kids for Sunday Dinner and were regulars at Keng’s Thai nights – happy days. I think Smith’s ruined many a good country pub when they brought in their own, very average ‘oven ready’ meals. An underlying thread in much of my commentary on the beer scene is that ‘Traditional Boozers’, unless they are very, very good will get overtaken by café bar type establishments.


  4. The Sun Inn at Long Marston is currently undergoing a top-to-bottom refurbishment, I wonder if that will be in this new style too?


  5. I’m not too keen on the refurbishment myself. I find it a bit confused. I prefer the style of the recently refurbished Eagle Tavern in Leeds. Incidentally another of Sam Jr’s projects. Interestingly the Eagle had a new music system and TV ports installed at the same time. Is this a clue to the future of the pub chain?

    The food at the Admiral is no different to the type of food across the chain. In fact all the pubs will be rolling onto the same menu within the next few weeks. The chicken fillet burger in brioche has been a staple on all the menus for quiet a while now. It seems the food quality as a whole is on the increase.


    • You sound like someone very much ‘in the know’ Anon?

      I hope things don’t move too far. Yes, there is room for improvement and I’m not a fan of TV’s in pubs, unless they are only turned on for sporting occasions and events of national importance.

      The biggest improvement Sam’s could make would be a change in the breweries outlook and how they view their managers and customers.


  6. had a very nice meal there this evening. nothing flash, but good value, and the staff were excellent. first time i have been in since the renovation and the building is a tremendous improvement from the previously unloved incarnation. definitely my cup of tea but maybe not for the previous regulars. hope mr Smith continues to recede into the background and allows junior (ha ha – hes’s probably my age) to bring the estate back to life


    • You sum up the food exactly Friday Diner – nothing flash, but good honest food that won’t break the bank. You probably wouldn’t take your partner there for an anniversary meal, but you might go once a week, every week, for an enjoyable school night treat.


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