The Farriers is at once a modest, back street boozer - and one of the most famous pubs in the UK.

It is the hostelry where the first branch meeting of the Campaign for Real Ale was held on November 20 1972, as a blue plaque on the wall outside proclaims. Regulars have grown used to cask ale pilgrims (yes, they frequently wear anoraks, often over brewery T-shirts) arriving, guide book in hand, to drink at the holy well.

In those dark days when every other pub in St Albans had gone over to keg beer and Double Diamond ruled, OK, the Farriers was the only one still serving live ale from handpumps.

Then, as now, it offered the finest pint of McMullens in Hertfordshire (though for how much longer we don't know, due to the uncertain future of the county's regional brewer).

Haut cuisine it ain't - eats are basic pub grub - ham, egg and chips, burgers, filled French loaf, served weekday luncthimes.

It is a true Victorian drinking house, with two small bars - wood floored public and up one step to carpeted saloon. To the landlady's chagrin, it is still the only pub in the city with outside WCs.

Guided no doubt by that cigar smog the night they arrived, they have kept the bar ceiling tobacco yellow and remained carefully conservative in redecorations over the years, keeping faith with a loyal following from crib to darts, dominos and football teams.

Hot news in the bar right now is that this is the watering hole of the new Chairman of St Albans City FC John Gibson (he used to be manager of the Farriers' team) and a couple of his directors, so be careful what you say about the Saints.

The only real change came with freer licensing hours. On Saturday afternoons (and sometimes Sundays and evenings for big matches) "the lads" now crowd round TV screens in both bars; if you're not a football devotee, this will be a place to avoid during the World Cup.

You won't be able to miss it - a giant white flag with red cross will hang from the upper windows.