Catherine (the licensee) and Lawrence Dixon have been here some ten years now and the pub has been a Good Beer Guide fixture throughout the period. Lawrence is fanatical about the quality of his ale despite having a tiny cellar to work with (necessitating two dray deliveries a week) Greene King IPA and Abbot are the regulars and the two others are from Greene King's increasingly interesting guest list – Okells Old Skipper and Holts Fifth Sense on our last visit. The Abbot is Lawrence's personal favourite and the Champ is famed far and wide for serving an immaculate drop of this complex bitter/sweet ale. Currently the IPA is available (pre-Budget) at £2.45 a pint as part of GK's “Love Your Local” scheme and Lawrence regards having an affordable pint as essential in these straightened times. He reckons the Champ ells more real ale per square foot that any other GK pub. Having said that, as a wet-led pub, the Champ was hit hard by he smoking ban and trading levels are only now starting to rise back to what they were.
Like all great locals, the Champ has a hugely varied mix of customers from all age groups and all stratas of society. The pub motto is “Beer and Conversation” and it's difficult not to find yourself drawn into the lively banter (though the rights of those who want to sit silently are fully respected). This is also that relative rarity, a dog-friendly pub – there are few other places in the city for folk with well-behaved hounds to go. The only time the telly comes on is for the rugby afternoons which Lawrence describes as “spectacular”. These sessions also see the rare appearance here of (free) food in the shape of cheese and pies – also on offer Sunday evenings. Otherwise you must make do with crisps, nuts and scratchings.
So, if you like superbly kept beer in a gloriously traditional pub setting you now know where to go – though I can't imagine many ALE readers don't already know the Champ.