Mark Briggs has been a real ale connoisseur for over 35 years.  A self-professed ‘beer geek’, Mark visits East Lancashire’s pubs for his weekly column.
Read of Mark’s adventures in ale at his blog or follow him on Twitter @realaleupnorth

I do have to admit at the outset, that the beer festival currently being rolled-out by Wetherspoon's did influence my choice for this week's pub review.

The pub chain does have the ‘Marmite factor’. You either like ’em or loathe ’em. I have to admit I am in the former category. Yes, they can be soulless establishments — but they mostly provide a comfortable environment with a fine range of beers at value prices.

Their Accrington outlet is a large, impressive building, conveniently situated in the town centre — and across from the bus station. It boasts a vast, spacious, open-plan interior as you walk in, with lots of dark oak tables and chairs. Too many in my opinion, as I swerved my way round them, trying not to trip over a couple of pushchairs, navigating my way to the bar.

I can never understand why they cannot accommodate more comfortable, quieter social areas in their larger pubs. It certainly lacked soft, comfy seating for such an extensive area. In fact, there wasn’t any. The furnishings were a mixture of ornate wooden chairs and tables of the standard and raised level variety.

Outside there was a very large, spacious beer garden, providing lots of wooden benched tables. It was quite impressive. However, what wouldn’t be too impressive would be a trip to the toilets from this external area – or indeed, the internal area.

Like in most Wetherspoon’s, you need a sat-nav to find them. It was the usual ascension of many steps, then a labyrinth of a corridor before reaching the destination. Mind you, the cleanliness is always of the highest standard – and the Commercial Hotel is no exception.

However, to more important matters: the beer festival.

The lengthy, marble-topped bar looked to have a decent selection. Nine casks on — but wait, three had the ‘coming soon’ on the pump clip. So that left me with five, as I don’t include the Ruddles.

The good news was that the ales that remained looked more than average — a lot more. The first I tried was the Wharfe Bank Black Geld — a superb black IPA. Malty smooth and robust, with a tingly, refreshing, citrusy finish, it was in excellent nick, served up by a pleasant, helpful young lady. And I have to say the friendly, social interaction between the two members of staff was pleasing to see, throughout the visit. The second slurp was a delightful smoky ale from Suffolk brewer, Green Jack. Red Herring was malty rich and fruity. It had a nice, smoky aroma and flavour too, produced from the oak and beech smoked malts — clever brewer.

It was a little frustrating I didn't have time to try the other three. The Wolf Brewery Silver Fox appeared to be very popular. Mind you, I did raise a titter when one gentleman visited the bar, gazed at the selection and said: “A pint of John Smiths ‘Smooth’ and a pint of Carling please.”

I have to say this Wethers' watering hole was too vast for my liking. It eliminated the soul and character of a local boozer, although, it did look well run. Staff were hardworking and polite — and one could not complain at the price of a pint, at £1.79.

So, a quite enjoyable visit overall. No complaints really — apart from my long, mazey trek to spend a penny.