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

This weeks review has me stopping off at one of Accrington's most popular watering holes — a pub that bears all the hallmarks of a down-to-earth, friendly, town centre drinking establishment.

The Arden Inn, formerly the Flying Dutchman, is ideally situated, being just a two or three minute stroll from the town's bus station and main shopping centre. It's a rather spacious, one-room, old-fashioned-style pub, with lots of comfy seating and a most pleasant, more private, social off-room area, boasting an attractive open fireplace.

You get an immediate friendly feel about the place, with patrons at the bar exchanging lots of friendly banter with the landlord, Mark Jackson. Mark returned to the pub nine months ago, having previously lived here for 17 years, when his mother had the tenancy.

“I'm back and enjoying it", he pronounced.

Mark gave you an immediate impression of a most enthusiastic and talkative host — it's not always the case in some pubs,believe me. He was keen to chat about what was going on at the Arden Inn, in between serving his customers — and there certainly did appear to be lots going on in this friendly boozer.

Mark proudly boasted: “We must be the busiest pub in Accrington on Friday and Saturday nights. We have live bands on and we are packed to the rafters. So popular are our bands, we are booked solid with groups, up until the end of the year. We have lots of other forms of entertainment too. We run pool, darts and dominoes teams. And have Sky Sports to keep the football and racing fans entertained.”

But what about the most important thing on offer — the cask ale? The pub has had a good reputation for many years and was East Lancs CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2000. The good news was that Mark had four cask beers on offer — two permanent and two rotating. Even better news was that the excellent Young’s Special Bitter was available, along with Abbot Ale, Sharps Doombar —and the now not-so-locally-brewed Thwaites Wainwright (brewed in Wolverhampton).

It was a no-brainer for me. Young's brew great beers and they are not too common in the locality. The Special Bitter, at £2.60, was full bodied and malty smooth — and had a long, mild bitter hopped and malty aftertaste. It was in great nick — take a bow, mine host.

As well as cask ale 'connoisseurs being well catered for, there was also a good range to suit lager drinkers — Coors Light, Carling Extra Gold and the higher strength, Stella Artois, being the triumvirate of tipples on the bar.

The pub also has a very unusual feature behind one end of the bar. A window looks out on to the main road. I can't think of any boozer that has such a feature - apart from the glazed serving window they have at Jack's House in Todmorden.

Mark said: “It was altered in 1981. The window is next to the old main entrance, where the bar is now located.”

Accrington is blessed with many fine boozers, the Arden Inn being one of them.

It offers well-kept ale, a warm, cosy environment, friendly characters and a landlord with the enthusiasm required to run a popular drinking den.

As Arnie would have said: “I'll be back.”