Top brewery award for couple who swapped travelling the world for pulling pints in their favourite Shropshire pub

Not that long ago Shropshire couple Jo and AJ Dando were more than accustomed to travelling the world for work. Now though, if they wanted to, they could walk to work in their slippers.

For the couple have swapped their continental lifestyle for pulling pints at their favourite local pub – The Malt Shovel in Leegomery – where they also live.

And the brave move seems to be paying off after they were recently handed Cask Marque accreditation –  a top brewery award recognising the quality of ale.

AJ and Jo, who are both in their 50s, only took over running of the pub in August last year after they returned from Italy to the UK.

“AJ has worked abroad painting yachts for such a long time that he wanted to move back to the UK,” said Jo.

“He’s worked everywhere from Europe to South America but there are not many yachts in the UK so we didn’t really know what to do. Since returning from Italy I’ve had various little temporary admin jobs but you’re pretty much on the scrap heap if you’re passed 50.

“We thought why not work for ourselves and become masters of our own destiny. Our friends owned the pub at the time and after chatting to them we said as a throwaway comment if all else fails we could always run a pub. And here we are!”

Since taking over the couple have already redecorated the pub, cleared out some of the clutter and made it more inviting for its regular customers. And being awarded the Cask Marque means they are getting the beer right for their regulars too.

“We are delighted to win the award,” said AJ.
“To gain a Cask Marque accreditation the quality of the pub’s ale has to be assessed for the right temperature, appearance, aroma and taste.

“It shows we take great care managing the cellar, cleaning the pipes and overall take a great deal of pride in the quality of our beer. It’s hopefully the first of many awards.”

The couple, who previously lived at Apley Castle, have always been regular customers of The Malt Shovel visiting on their returns to the UK and AJ has enjoyed many a pint there since the late 1970s.

“Whenever we have been back to the UK The Malt Shovel has always been our favourite but we never dreamed one day we would be the landlords,” Jo.

The Malt Shovel is a traditional local pub serving Marston’s real ale and the couple have numerous plans over the next 12 months including refitting the kitchen so they can start serving a more extensive range of lunchtime and evening meals, changing the lounge seating, improving the outdoor drinking area and getting involved with local sports teams.

“We are both really keen cyclists and AJ used to play rugby in France and England so we are really keen to do what we can to get involved with local sports teams. It is going to be an exciting year.”

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