Landlord Dave Utting has run the pub for three years, taking over from the legendary Dave Lewin but having been a regular real ale drinker there for quite some time. Since then he and Anita have refurbished the pub, refitting the toilets, installing air conditioning, laying new carpets in the lounge and painting the outside.

The kitchen has been refitted and though it’s by no means a foodie pub you can get pizzas and, on summer weekends, a ploughman’s plus there are regular hog roasts and barbecues; a Sunday roast is being contemplated. The garden area has new furniture along with homes for the star attractions Romsey, Barney and Chester, the three little pigs (crosses between Gloucester Old Spots and Vietnamese Pot Bellies) – Cherry, the rabbit, may also be running around.

The six real ales change regularly but you can expect offerings from the likes of Tim Taylor, Adnams, Youngs, Woodforde’s, Marstons and Wadworths as well as local breweries such as Milton and Elgoods. Real cider is also on the bar. The regular beer festivals (the last was over May Bank Holiday) feature exotic ales from far and wide.

Apart from the variety and quality of the ale, the key attribute of the Empress is its place at the very heart of its community. It’s somewhere where people from all walks of life mingle happily in a relaxed atmosphere. There’s always something going on – movies on Monday, quiz Tuesday, poker night Wednesday and various one-off events from speed-dating to bingo. Dave also offers Cellar Tours which combine a trip round the immaculate cellars with a beer tasting.

Congratulations then to Dave and Anita for their well-deserved success; theirs is a pub which most CAMRA members would love to have as their local.