Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Some breweries never let you down, no matter whether their beers are light or dark. strong or session - and Dunham Massey is one of them. So it's great DM's getting national recognition after winning Camra's Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain title at the Winter Beer Festival in Derby for their 5.2pc porter. Cairngorm Black Gold won silver and Exe Valley Winter Glow bronze. Marble's Stouter Stout got bronze in the stout category.

Congratulations to Elland Brewery. Its 1872 Porter has been crowned the Best Beer in Britain at the Camra Great British Beer Festival. Interesting to see in these crafty hoppy times, an 'old school beer' winner. It's superb. Another cracker, Saltaire's Triple Chocolate, was runner-up in the speciality beers category. The lovely Great Orme's Welsh Black was best mild


Congratulations to Magic Rock and Summer Wine breweries whose beers have been included in a list of the best 350 beers in the world.

They are featured in Craft Beer World, a handsome, informative and interesting book by award winning blogger Mark Dredge.

Huddersfield's Magic Rock actually has two entries - Magic 8 Ball, a black IPA, and High Wire, a West Coast pale ale, while Holmfirth's Summer Wine has Cohort, a double black Belgian Rye pale ale.

The 350 beers are divided into 53 categories, from the familiar mild and bitter to categories such as Belgian Quadrupel and Flemish Bruin. About a third of the beers in the list are from the US, with 40 from Britain including familiar names from The Grove, in Hudds, such as Thornbridge, Fullers, Brewdog, Moor and Buxton.

Dredge defines craft beer as 'a knowing, thoughtful way of brewing which is concerned with flavour, variety, ingredients and story', so it's not just about microbreweries and keg beers - cask, bottles, cans and beers by the biggest breweries are featured. It's a good definition as keg has moved far beyond Watneys Red Barrel and some cask and bottle conditioned beers do disappoint.

For me, it's hard to keep up with Yorkshire beers, never mind all the interesting looking bottles from abroad in the book. Dredge has a fascinating insight into beers from Iceland, Brazil, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany and many other countries, but I sometimes wonder that in a desire to move beyond and set themselves apart from Camra, beer lovers like Dredge are too eager to embrace American pale and hoppy beers.

Dredge says Magic Rock went from 'nought to brilliant in no time' and indeed they've made an incredible impact. I feel dreadfully disloyal because Magic Rock is literally at the end of my road but I find their US-style beers almost undrinkably bitter.

A 'tribute' to Lance. Tee-hee Rat Brewery!


Congratulations to the fantastic Elland brewery for winning CAMRA's Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain award with their 1872 Porter. In an age of whippersnapper new breweries harping on about hops on their fancy websites, it's good to see an 'old school' brewery with consistently high standards geting recognition.

Oct 12: Well, the Huddersfield Beer Festival is here again - it doesn't seem like a year since I was behind the bar at the last one. I can't make it this year but it's always a good do and seems to have found a decent venue - roomy, good bar and plenty of seats (yes, I am old and I like a sit down). Oh - there's a good range of beers, well-kept.

Aug 12: Congratulations to Coniston for winning best beer in Britain with its No9 Barley Wine, an 8.5% that supposedly tastes like 'a cognac'. Good to see Rudgate Ruby Mild, Hobsons Mild and Purple Moose in the best category lists.

Full results:
Overall winners-
Gold- Coniston, No.9 Barley Wine (from Coniston, Cumbria)
Silver- Green Jack, Trawlerboys Best Bitter (from Lowestoft, Suffolk)
Bronze- Dark Star, American Pale Ale (from Horsham, West Sussex)

Mild category-
Gold- Rudgate, Ruby Mild (from York, North Yorkshire)
Silver- Hobsons, Hobsons Mild (from Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire)
Bronze- Son of Sid, Muckcart Mild (from Little Gransden, Bedfordshire)

Gold- Purple Moose, Snowdonia Ale (from Porthmadog, Gwynedd)
Silver- Tintagel, Castle Gold (from Tintagel, Cornwall)
Joint Bronze- Flowerpots, Bitter (from Cheriton, Hampshire)
Joint Bronze- Fuller’s, Gale’s Seafarers Ale (from London, W4)
Joint Bronze- Salopian, Shropshire Gold (from Shrewsbury, Shropshire)

Best Bitters-
Gold- Green Jack, Trawlerboys Best Bitter (from Lowestoft, Suffolk)
Silver, Salopian, Hop Twister (from Shrewsbury, Shropshire)
Joint Bronze- Oakwell, Senior Bitter (from Barnsley, South Yorkshire)
Joint Bronze- Milton, Pegasus (from Milton, Cambridgeshire)

Golden Ales-
Gold- Dark Star, American Pale Ale (from Horsham, West Sussex)
Silver- Cumbrian Legendary Ales, Langdale (from Hawkshead, Cumbria)
Bronze- Hobsons, Town Crier (from Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire)

Strong Bitters-
Gold- Dark Star, Festival (from Horsham, West Sussex)
Silver- O’Hanlon’s, Stormstay (from Whimple, Devon)
Bronze- Highland, Orkney IPA (from Swannay, Orkney)

Speciality Beers-
Gold- Dunham Massey, Chocolate Cherry Mild (from Dunham Massey, Gtr Manchester)
Silver- Little Valley, Hebden’s Wheat (from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire)
Bronze- Nethergate, Umbel Magna (from Pentlow, Essex)

Champion Winter Beer of Britain (from category winners announced in January 2012)-
Coniston, No.9 Barley Wine (from Coniston, Cumbria)
Hammerpot, Bottle Wreck Porter (from Poling, West Sussex)
Cairngorm, Black Gold (from Aviemore, Highlands)
Driftwood, Alfie’s Revenge (from St Agnes, Cornwall)

Champion Bottled Beer of Britain winners-
Gold- Stewart, Embra (from Loanhead, Midlothian)
Silver- Great Gable, Yewbarrow (from Egremont, Cumbria)
Bronze- Molson Coors, Worthington’s White Shield (from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire)

Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2012
Jan 12: Lots of unfamiliar beers and brewers in this year's list. The winner is a 6.5% ABV old ale is described in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2012 as a ‘strong and fruity, well-balanced premium ale’.

Overall result
Gold- Driftwood, Alfie’s Revenge (St Agnes, Cornwall)
Silver- Cairngorm, Black Gold (Aviemore, Highlands)
Bronze- Coniston, No 9 Barley Wine (Coniston, Cumbria)

Old Ales and Strong Milds category
Gold- Driftwood, Alfie’s Revenge (St Agnes, Cornwall)
Joint Silver- Nant, Mwnci Nell (Llanrwst, Conwy)
Joint Silver- Brunswick, Black Sabbath (Derby, Derbyshire)
Bronze- Beowulf, Dark Raven (Brownhills, Staffordshire)

Porters category
Gold- Hammerpot, Bottle Wreck Porter (Poling, West Sussex)
Silver- Blythe, Johnson’s (Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire)
Bronze- Sulwath, Black Galloway (Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway)

Stouts category
Gold- Cairngorm, Black Gold (Aviemore, Highlands)
Silver- Cambridge Moonshine, Black Hole Stout (Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire)
Bronze- Acorn, Gorlovka (Wombwell, South Yorkshire)

Barley Wines category
Gold- Coniston, No 9 Barley Wine (Coniston, Cumbria)
Silver- Moor, Old Freddy Walker (Pitney, Somerset)
Bronze- Isle of Skye, Cuillin Beast (Uig, Isle of Skye)

Nov 11: One of the biggest beer competitions, the Society of Independent Brewers Northern Region Beer Competition, featured some of my favourite brewers and some noteable wins.

About 80 northern SIBA breweries submitted 254 cask beers and 62 bottled beers which were tasted by 130 judges.

Overall champion was Hawkshead but Ossett won the Porters, Strong Milds, Old Ales & Stouts category with its Treacle Stout (which I rarely see in draught) while Ilkley Brewery's lovely Stout Mary took silver. Ossett's excellent Excelsior was second in the strong beer category.

Elland Brewery's fantastic 1872 Porter won the Premium Strong Beers class and its bottled version was also a winner, while new boy Kirkstall Brewery Company took silver with its Kirkstall Three Swords in the Premium Bitters class.

Allgates from Wigan took silver in the mild class and Marble's Manchester was third overall and won the best bitter class. Standish's Prospect was second in the standard bitters class for Whatever!

Full results:
Gold Hawkshead Brewery Windermere Pale 3.5 per cent
Silver Three B’s Brewery Stokers Slake 3.6 (Blackburn)
Bronze Marble Brewery Manchester Bitter 4.2

Standard Mild Ales
Gold Three B’s Brewery Stokers Slake 3.6
Silver Allgates Brewery Ltd All Black 3.6
Bronze The Coach House Brewing Co Ltd Gunpowder Mild 3.8

Standard Bitters
Gold Hawkshead Brewery Windermere Pale 3.5
Silver Prospect Brewery Whatever! 3.8
Bronze Watermill Inn & Brewery Collie Wobbles 3.7

Best Bitters
Gold Marble Brewery Manchester Bitter 4.2
Silver Mordue Brewery Northumbrian Blonde 4
Bronze Cumbrian Legendary Ales Langdale 4

Premium Bitters
Gold Red Willow Brewery Wreckless 4.8
Silver Kirkstall Brewery Company Kirkstall Three Swords 4.5
Bronze Saltaire Brewery Cascade Pale Ale 4.8

Strong Bitters
Gold The Jarrow Brewery Isis 5
Silver Ossett Brewing Company Excelsior 5.2
Bronze Great Heck Brewing Company Ltd Hequinox 5

Premium Strong Beers
Gold Elland Brewery Limited 1872 Porter 6.5
Silver Hardknott Brewery Infra Red 6.2
Bronze Hawkshead Brewery N.Z.P.A. 6

Porters, Strong Milds, Old Ales & Stouts
Gold Ossett Brewing Company Treacle Stout 5.0
Silver The Ilkley Brewery Company Stout Mary 4.5
Bronze Great Newsome Brewery Jems Stout 4.3

Speciality Beers
Gold The Jarrow Brewery Westoe IPA 4.6
Silver Acorn Brewery of Barnsley Ltd Blonde 4
Bronze Allendale Brew Co Ltd Black Grouse 4

Elland's 1872 Porter also won the Bottled Bottled Porters, Milds, Old Ales & Stouts category and was second in the overall Bottled Beer category (won by Peerless Brewing's Jinja Ninja from Birkenhead)

Elland's Ushuaia finshed third in the Bottled Bitter Up To 4.9% category, won by Cumbrian Legendary Ales's Langdale.

Saltaire Brewery's fabulous Triple Chocoholic was third in the Bottled Speciality Beers category (won by Peerless Brewing's Jinja Ninja). Saltaire's Cascade was third in the Bottled Gold Beers (won by Peerless Brewing's Hilbre Gold)

Acorn's Old Moor Porter was third in the Porters, Milds, Old Ales, Stouts class.

Oct 11: Had a quick slurp of the new Rat and Ratchet beers (see above) at the great Huddersfield pub of the same name.

Need more in depth testing, of course, but I found most of them a little too bitter for me. I could say floral notes but it sounds like a guest speaker at a WI.

Black Rat is a mild, the rest are light and golden.

When the beers were first launched, the pub's beer range was dominated by Ossett and Rat beers, squeezing out an excellent range of local guests, but on subsequent visits they've got the balance right.

PS Also tried Brown Rat - v nice and malty. There's a also a wheat one Rattus Rattus and a porter.

Linfit Beers are back on!Oh yes! The Sair Inn is brewing again months after a brewery fire. Old Eli, a lovely malty beer, was in good order.

Sept 11: West Yorkshire has more breweries than any other region in Britain, Camra says.

An incredible 43, according to Camra - 10 more than their nearest challengers Derbyshire and North Yorkshire (Greater Manchester has 25). In fact, as you can see below, since Camra published the figures in the Good Beer Guide and elsewhere, there are now 47 breweries in West Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire also leads the way with number of beers - 276, according to Camra.

Here's my list, based on Camra, Quaff Ale, breweries seen in pubs and online. New breweries are marked 2010 and 2011.

Barearts (Todmorden)
Bob’s (Ossett)
Brass Monkey (Sowerby Bridge)
Brewery Tap (Leeds) 2011
Bridestones (Blackshaw Head)
Bridge House (Oxenhope) 2010
Briscoe’s (Otley)
Bronte (Brighouse) probably
Burley Street (Leeds) formerly Fox and Fox and Newt
Clarks (Wakefield)
Eastwood (Elland)
Elland (Elland)
Empire (Slaithwaite)
Fernandes (Wakefield)
Five Towns (Wakefield)
Golcar (Golcar)
Goose Eye (Ingrow Bridge)
Halifax Steam (Hipperholme)
Haworth Steam (Haworth) 2011
Ilkley (Ilkley)
Kirkstall (Leeds) 2011
Landlord’s Friend (Luddenfoot) 2010
Leeds (Leeds)
Linfit (Linthwaite)
Little Valley (Cragg Vale)
Magic Rock (Oakes) 2011
Mallinsons (Huddersfield)
Milltown (Milnsbridge) 2011
Moorview (Guiseley) 2011
Nook (Holmfirth)
Old Bear (Keighley)
Old Spot (Cullngworth)
Ossett (Ossett)
Owenshaw (Sowerby Bridge) 2011
Partners (Dewsbury) – formerly Anglo Dutch
Rat and Ratchet (Huddersfield) 2011
Revolutions (Whitwood) 2010
Ridgeside (Leeds) 2010
Riverhead (Marsden)
Rodham’s (Otley)
Salamander (Bradford)
Saltaire (Shipley)
Sportsman (Huddersfield) 2011 - pictured
Summer Wine (Honley)
Taylor’s (Keighley)
Tigertops (Wakefield)
Wharfebank (Pool in Wharfedale) 2010

The breweries who never let you down whatever beers they make.
Goose Eye

Huddersfield and surrounding area:
Some cracking breweries old and new
Empire (Slaithwaite)
Golcar (Golcar)
Magic Rock (Oakes)
Mallinsons (Huddersfield)
Milltown (Milnsbridge)
Nook (Holmfirth)
Riverhead (Marsden)
Sportsman (Huddersfield)
Summer Wine (Honley)

Aug 11: Blogging about beer is becoming more technical, I reckon. When I started this blog I didn’t see many mentions of types of hops, but now it’s Citra this and Syrus that. (Is Syrus a hop? It sounds like it should be. Anything that sounds like a baddy in a superhero comic sounds hoppy).

I suppose there’s a bit of blokey oneupmanship about arcane details, in much the same way as football, trains and music get encyclopedically recalled. (‘Encyclopedically?’ Blimey sorry to get Will Self on your ass)

Personally, I find all this beer detail tedious, but I’m also get miffed that the prevailing trend for ‘quality’ beers is for bitter, hoppy ones - and not dark, sweet ones.

But it was a dark sweet one-two at the Great British Beer Fest, with Mighty Oak brewery's Oscar Wilde crowned the Best Beer in Britain and Chocolate Marble the runner-up.

I've tried the latter but not the winner - described as 'roasty dark mild with suggestions of forest fruits and dark chocolate'.

As I’ve said before, I think the competition for best beer in Britain is good as a showcase of real ale, but best beer in the country? Mmm, not sure – a different set of judges would no doubt have chosen a different selection on the day and I’m never quite sure how the beers in contention are chosen.

Here are the winners:

Champion Beer of Britain - Mighty Oak, Oscar Wilde (3.7% ABV, Maldon, Essex)
Second - Marble, Chocolate (5.5% ABV, Manchester, Gtr Manchester)
Third - Salopian, Shropshire Gold (3.8%ABV, Shrewsbury, Shropshire)

Mild category

Gold- Mighty Oak, Oscar Wilde (3.7% ABV, Maldon, Essex)
Silver- Rudgate, Ruby Mild (4.4% ABV, York, North Yorkshire)
Bronze- Coastal, Merry Maidens (4% ABV, Redruth, Cornwall)

Bitter category
Gold- Salopian, Shropshire Gold (3.8%ABV, Shrewsbury, Shropshire)
Silver- Teignworthy, Reel Ale (4% ABV, Newton Abbot, Devon)
Joint Bronze- Triple fff, Alton's Pride (3.8% ABV, Alton, Hampshire)
Joint Bronze- Potton, Shannon IPA (3.6% ABV, Potton, Bedfordshire)

Best Bitter category
Gold- Houston, Peter's Well (4.2% ABV, Houston, Renfrewshire)
Silver- Country Life, Golden Pig (4.7% ABV, Bideford, Devon)
Joint Bronze- Castle Rock, Preservation (4.4% ABV, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire)
Joint Bronze- Bollington, Best Bitter (4.2% ABV, Bollington, Cheshire)
Joint Bronze- Blythe, Staffie (4.4% ABV, Rugeley, Staffordshire)

Golden Ale category
Gold- Cumbrian Legendary Ales, Loweswater Gold (4.3% ABV, Hawkshead, Cumbria)
Silver- Salamander, Golden Salamander (4.5% ABV, Bradford, West Yorkshire)
Bronze- Holden's, Golden Glow (4.4% ABV, Dudley, West Midlands)

Strong Bitter category
Gold- Moles, Mole Catcher (5% ABV, Melksham, Wiltshire)
Silver- Kinver, Half Centurion (5% ABV, Kinver, Staffordshire)
Bronze- Adnams Broadside (4.7% ABV, Southwold, Suffolk)

Speciality Beer category

Gold- Oakleaf, I Can't Believe It's Not Bitter (4.9% ABV, Gosport, Hampshire)
Silver- Amber, Chocolate Orange Stout (4% ABV, Ripley, Derbyshire)
Bronze- Orkney, Atlas Wayfarer (4.4% ABV, Stromness, Orkney)


A new Huddersfield brewery, Magic Rock, was launched at The Grove on June 21.

Great to see the pub packed on a Tuesday and the beers appeared to go down well, although, personally, I'm not a fan of such dry, bitter, hoppy beers.

The brewery, based in Oakes, is inspired by a love of US craft beers. When I was in New York I drank Bass (puffs out chest and clutches lapels in a Bradley Hardacre manner. 'Appen!)

June 11: A new Huddersfield brewery, Magic Rock, will be launched at The Grove on June 21.

It's run by two brothers, Richard and Jonathan Burhouse, and brewer Stuart Ross (Kelham Island, Acorn).

On tap will be Curious 3.9% 'original pale ale', Rapture 4.6% 'red hop ale' and High Wire 5.5% 'West Coast pale ale' and 7.4% IPA Cannonball available on keg. They also do a 6% stout, Dark Arts.

June 11: The Sportsman pub, in Huddersfield, never rests on its laurels.

After revitalising a forgotten boozer, now one of the best in Huddersfield, it is now brewing its own beers.

Its Pigeon Bridge Porter is delicious. I could say coffee notes but I'd rather say, unlike some porters, it doesn't taste like half an ashtray's been tipped into it. There's a (very) pale ale too, Alpha.

June 11:
One of the best breweries in the country, Anglo Dutch, has been sold. One of the new owners is Paul Horne from The Spotted Cow in Drighlington. Founder Paul Klos will be staying on to pass on his brewing expertise and the brewery will still be based in Dewsbury. (From Hudds Examiner)

April 11:
Roosters Brewery to Ian Fozzard and sons Oliver and Tom. Ian is MD of Market Town Taverns, Oliver has brewing experience with Daleside and Copper Dragon. Tom has retail experience with Beer Ritz


Mar 11: One of the best new breweries, Ilkley Brewery, is about to get a lot bigger.

It has opened a 20-barrel brewing plant in the town, meaning it can brew 20,000 pints a week, almost five times the amount it was making in 2009 when the original eight-barrel brewery was founded elsewhere in Ilkley.

Brewery owners Chris Ives and Stewart Ross, who previously worked in commercial property, had no previous brewing experience, apart from a three-day brewing course.

Well, you would never have guessed. They’ve produced a range of excellent beers – with Mary Jane and Ilkley Black the highlights.

Unlike some other new breweries, Ilkley has stuck to a core range plus specials, rather than trying to please the tickers with a new beer every month.

They owners have also got the beer right before they’ve gone mad with a bells and whistles websites and bigging up an average product.

Major wholesalers will now supply beers across the country and the brewery projects a turnover of £750,000 with pre-tax profits in excess of £100,000 by December 2011. The owners originally invested £70,000 in the brewery.

Ilkley beers are on sale at over 200 pubs in Yorkshire. Mary Jane, Ilkley Best and Ilkley Black beers are also sold in Asda and Booths supermarkets.

They use the lovely water from the old spa town and maybe that's helped them win a host of awards. Mary Jane won a Society of Independent Brewers gold award in November 2009 and there have been a further four SIBA medals since. The brewery has also scooped gold at the Ilkley, Bradford, Horsforth, Guiseley and Leyburn beer festivals.

Feb 11: Ilkey Beer Festival winner: Saltaire's Hazelnut and Coffee Porter. Runner-up: Ilkley Brewery's Mary Jane. A splendid £30,000 raised for charity.

Jan 11: I paid a flying visit to the Winter Ales Festival, in Manchester, on the Friday. First time I've been in Camra's relatively new venue, The Sheridan Suite, on Oldham Road, where the trendy Northern Quarter is only a 15 minute walk away but might as well be 50 miles away. This is a bleak road of scrap merchants, high rises and boarded-up pubs.

The venue itself is a rather anonymous modern building containing a huge, apparently windowless room, rather similar to the main room in the old festival venue, the Co-op, but a lot bigger.

For an organisation that prides itself on the state and condition of pubs it was a rather soulless place and I couldn't wait to get out of there, to be honest, - it was so crowded there was almost nowhere to stand without being in the way of people.

But the attractiveness of venue probably isn't the point. People were only there for the beer and it was so packed they had to stop letting folk in at about 8.30pm. There was a queue of about 50 people outside when I left.

A word for the volunteers, many of whom were run off their feet but were still quick and polite. I doubt if some 'professional' bar staff could have coped as well. It's sad to note that many of the volunteers were older than most of the people there. Come on drinkers, get behnd the bar - it's great fun, honest (although you'll be too exhausted to drink afterwards!).

It was also a well-run festival - clearly signed, so you could see where all the beers were, with a special dining area (the curry was top notch)

Entire Stout from the Hop Back Brewery, Wiltshire, was crowned the Supreme Champion by a panel of beer writers, members of the licensed trade and CAMRA members.

Thirty-five beers (9 Porters, 9 Stouts, 9 Old Ales / Milds and 8 Barley Wines), chosen by CAMRA branches and tasting panels, were entered into the final. The overall silver went to Chocolate brewed by Marble in Manchester, whilst the bronze medal went to Praetorian Porter brewed in Leicestershire by Dow Bridge brewery.

I've tried the Hop Back but can't remember what it was like and the Chocolate isn't one of Marble's best. Exmoor Beast was my favourite - a strong, sweet, dark, barley wine (one of the finalists). I also had a go at Red Squirrel's London Porter (a bronze medal winner) Allgates' Double Chocolate Stout and Yorkshire Dales' Garsdale Smokebox

Full results:
Overall winners
Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain - Entire Stout, Hop Back (Wiltshire)
Silver - Chocolate, Marble (Manchester)
Bronze - Praetorian Porter, Dow Bridge (Leicestershire)

Old Ales and Strong Milds category
Gold- Chocolate, Marble (Manchester)
Silver- Old Ale, King (West Sussex)
Bronze- Dark Raven, Beowulf (Staffordshire)
Other category finalists - Shefford Old Dark (B&T, Bedfordshire), Father Mike's Dark Ruby (Brunswick, Derbyshire), Midnight Belle (Leeds, West Yorkshire), Highlander (Fyne, Argyll, Scotland), Dark & Handsome (Box Steam, Wiltshire), Mwnci Nell (Nant, Conwy, Wales)

Porters category
Gold- Praetorian Porter, Dow Bridge (Leicestershire)
Silver- Finns Hall Porter, Beowulf (Staffordshire)
Bronze- London Porter, Red Squirrel (Hertfordshire)
Other category finalists - Old Moor Porter (Acorn, South Yorkshire), Smoked Porter (Wapping, Merseyside), Black Galloway (Sulwath, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland), Bottle Wreck Porter (Hammerpot, West Sussex), Station Porter (Wickwar, Gloucestershire), Telford Porter (Conwy, Conwy, Wales)

Stouts category
Gold- Entire Stout, Hop Back (Wiltshire)
Silver- Smokey Joes Black Beer, Hop Star (Lancashire)
Bronze- Nero, Milton (Cambridgeshire)
Other category finalists - Saint Petersburg (Thornbridge, Derbyshire), Sauce of the Niall (Bull Lane, Tyne & Wear), Black Gold (Cairngorm, Highlands, Scotland), Zig Zag Stout (Milk Street, Somerset), Welsh Black (Heart of Wales, Powys, Wales), Titanic Stout (Titanic, Staffordshire)

Barley Wines category
Gold- Old Ale, Holden's (West Midlands)
Silver- Old Tom, Robinsons (Stockport, Cheshire)
Bronze- Hibernator, Black Isle (Ross-shire, Scotland)

Other category finalists - Tally Ho! (Adnams, Suffolk), Extinction Ale (Darwin, Tyne & Wear), Old 1066 Ale (Goacher's, Kent), Beast (Exmoor, Somerset), High as a Kite (Heart of Wales, Powys, Wales)

Nov 10: The Society of Independent Brewers held its biggest northern competition in the Palace Hotel, Manchester, last weekend, with 300 different cask beers and 120 different bottled beers, a specially constructed cellar and bar for 56 handpumps.

Even though the northern region has 120 different brewers, a handful dominated, including overall champion Bowland with three awards. Millstone of Mossley, Daleside of Harrogate, and Ilkley also picked up three gongs. Ossett picked up five, three for its bottled beers.

I don't think I've tried the winner, but runner-up True Grit's always a pleasure. In the milds, all three are excellent, with Nutty Slack a particular delight. Eleswhere it's good to see some of my favourite beers being acknowledged - Ossett's Excelsior and Treacle Stout, York Guzzler and Elland Porter.

A word too for Ilkley Brewery, the 'baby' of the bunch as far as the big winners go. Formed in 2009 it has quickly established itself with a range of quality beers.

Overall Champion of the Competition
Gold The Bowland Beer Company Ltd Admiral 4.4
Silver Millstone Brewery Limited True Grit 5.0
Bronze Daleside Brewery Ltd Monkey Wrench 5.3

Gold Prospect Brewery Nutty Slack 3.9
Silver (Ossett) Fernandes Brewery Malt Shovel Mild 3.8
Bronze The Ilkley Brewery Company Ltd Ilkley Black 3.7

Bitters & Pale Ales (Up to 4.0%)
Gold Millstone Brewery Limited Vale Mill 3.9
Silver Hawkshead Brewery Windermere Pale 3.5
Bronze York Brewery Guzzler 3.6

Best Bitters (4.1 – 4.5%)
Gold The Bowland Beer Company Ltd. Admiral 4.4
Silver The Bowland Beer Company Ltd. Dragon 4.2
Bronze The Ilkley Brewery Company Ltd Ilkley Pale 4.2

Premium Bitters (4.6 – 5.0)Gold Millstone Brewery Limited True Grit 5.0
Silver Wold Top Brewery Wold Gold 4.8
Bronze Bradfield Brewery Ltd Farmers Pale Ale 5.0

Strong Bitters (5.1 – 5.5)
Gold Daleside Brewery Ltd Monkey Wrench 5.3
Silver Ossett Brewery Excelsior 5.2
Bronze Kelham Island Pale Rider 5.2

Strong Ales (Over 5.6)
Gold Allgates Brewery Limited Mad Monk 7.1
Silver Peerless Brewing Company Limited Full Whack 6.0
Bronze The Ilkley Brewery Company Ltd Lotus IPA 5.6

Porters, Strong Milds, Old Ales & Stouts
Gold Elland Brewery 1872 Porter 6.5
Silver Bradfield Brewery Ltd Farmers Stout 4.5
Bronze Bank Top Brewery Leprechaun Stout 6.0

Speciality Beers
Gold The Coach House Brewing Co Ltd Blueberry Classic Bitter 5.0
Silver Beartown Brewery Peach Melbear 4.4
Bronze Roosters Brewery Honey Beer 5.0

Bottled Beers
Gold Ossett Brewery Treacle Stout 5.0
Silver Daleside Brewery Ltd Ripon Jewel 5.8
Bronze Cumbrian Legendary Ales Croglin Vampire 8.0

Ossett's Treacle Stout also won best bottled porter/mild/stout, while its Yorkshire Blonde Premium won best bottled gold beer.

Photo and results: SIBA

Winners at Huddersfield Oktoberfest:
More wins for the prolific Mallinsons, one of Huddersfield's most successful brewers. I have to say I don't try them much as they're a bit too bitter and hoppy for me.

Overall Beer of the Festival: Castle Hill 4.6% abv, Mallinsons, Lindley, Huddersfield
Mild of the Festival: Midnight Bell 4.8% abv, Leeds Brewery, Leeds
Bitter of the Festival: Cheers Charlie 3.9% abv, Mallinsons, Lindley, Huddersfield
Strong Ale of the Festival: Castle Hill 4.6% abv, Mallinsons, Lindley, Huddersfield
Stout/Porter of the Festival: Ossett Treacle Stout 5.0% abv, Ossett Brewery, Ossett
Speciality Beer of the Festival: Rum for Cover 6.5% abv, Fernandes, Wakefield
David Charlesworth (‘Charlie’) Award for New Beer of the Festival: Cheers Charlie 3.9% abv, Mallinsons, Lindley, Huddersfield

HUDDERSFIELD OKTOBERFEST - IT'S ON!Aug 10: Phew! I was getting worried. There was no mention of Huddersfield's beer festival in the August edition of Camra's paper or the website earlier this week. But it's definitely on - October 14-16, at The Sikh Leisure Centre.

The late David Charlesworth organised the festivals and picked this venue last year and what a good choice. It's a gym, effectively, but it's light and roomy and there' a nice atmosphere when it's full. I was thinking there might have been a Charlesworth hole in the organisation this year, hence the delays, but it must be a swine to cross all the T's and dot all the I's when organising a festival.

Ninety real ales are promised, plus ciders. All-day sessions on the Friday and Saturday, evening only on the Thursday. £3 for non-members, a quid for Camra buffs.

I first realised the festival was on when I saw leaflets at the Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival, where I sampled halves from The Sportsman and The Star and noticed that Elland brewery and the Nook pub/brewery also had stalls, even though they don't appear to be on the festival nwebsite.Incidentally, look out for Pots and Pies stall and try the lamb and mint - chunks of lovely meat in a soft pastry, near the Sportsman stall. (Sorry Jones's pies, I still love you)

HURRAH FOR GOLCAR!Aug 10: Great news for one of Huddersfield's best breweries - a fantastic third place for the underrated Golcar Brewery in the Great British Beer Festival's mild category.

Underrated because this is a brewery that has concentrated on brewing since 2001, and not on a bells-and-whistles website and umpteen press releases before they've got the beer right.

It's a shame, too, that because of those darned tickers and their unquenchable desire for obscure beers from obscurer counties, Golcar beers are only available regularly in Hudds town centre at The Kings Head and The Sportsman.

So while the tickers are creaming over a rare Chiblington's Half Average from Juttington-on-Trym, Golcar beers remain relatively overlooked.

Elsewhere at the festival, it was a slightly disappointing result as usual. Castle Rock's Harvest Pale was overall winner - pleasant but nowt special - and runner-up was Timmy Taylor's Landlord! Familiarity may breed contempt but really, Golden and Ram Tam are so much better.

Elsewhere it was good to see Purple Moose, Evan Evans, Orkney, St Austell, Marble and, of course, Elland in the running.

Overall winners
Champion Beer of Britain - Castle Rock, Harvest Pale (3.8% ABV, Nottingham, Notts)Second - Timothy Taylor, Landlord (4.3% ABV, Keighley, West Yorkshire)
Third - Surrey Hills, Hammer Mild (3.8% ABV, Guildford, Surrey)

Mild category
Gold- Surrey Hills, Hammer Mild (3.8% ABV, Guildford, Surrey)
Silver- Greene King, XX Mild (3% ABV, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk)
Joint Bronze- Golcar, Dark Mild (3.4% ABV, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire)
Joint Bronze- Nottingham, Rock Ale Mild (3.8% ABV, Nottingham, Notts)

Bitter category
Gold- RCH, PG Steam (3.9% ABV, Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset)
Silver- Moor, Revival (3.8% ABV, Pitney, Somerset)
Joint Bronze- Orkney, Raven (3.8% ABV, Stromness, Orkney)
Joint Bronze- Purple Moose, Snowdonia Ale (3.6% ABV, Portmadog, Gwynedd)

Best Bitter category
Gold- Timothy Taylor, Landlord (4.3% ABV, Keighley, West Yorkshire)
Silver- St Austell, Tribute (4.2% ABV, St Austell, Cornwall)
Joint Bronze- Evan Evans, Cwrw (4.2% ABV, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire)
Joint Bronze- Great Oakley, Gobble (4.5% ABV, Great Oakley, Northamptonshire)

Golden Ale category
Gold- Castle Rock, Harvest Pale (3.8% ABV, Nottingham, Notts)
Silver- Marble, Manchester Bitter (4.2%, Manchester, Gtr Manchester)
Bronze- St Austell, Proper Job (4.5% ABV, St Austell, Cornwall)

Strong Bitter category
Gold- Thornbridge, Jaipur IPA (5.9% ABV, Bakewell, Derbyshire)
Silver- Fuller's, Gales HSB (4.8% ABV, Chiswick, Gtr London)
Bronze- Beckstones, Rev Rob (4.6% ABV, Millom, Cumbria)

Speciality Beer category
Gold- Amber, Chocolate Orange Stout (4% ABV, Ripley, Derbyshire)
Silver- O'Hanlon's, Port Stout (4.8% ABV, Whimple, Devon)
Bronze- Breconshire, Ysbrid y Ddraig (6.5% ABV, Brecon, Powys)

Winter Beer of Britain winner (announced in January 2010)Elland, 1872 Porter (6.5% ABV, Elland, West Yorkshire)

Bottled Beer of Britain winners
Gold- St Austell, Admiral's Ale (5% ABV, St Austell, Cornwall)
Silver- Pitfield, 1850 London Porter (5% ABV, Epping, Essex)
Bronze- Great Oakley, Delapre Dark (4.6% ABV, Great Oakley, Northamptonshire)

March 10: My favourite brewery of last year has won the Society of Independent Brewery's top award for 2010 for its fabulous Triple Chocoholic stout.

Hoppy beers seem to be the favourites at most award ceremonies, and some Camra fundamentalists seem to look down on people who like dark beers, so it's great to see this stout win.

Saltaire's Hazelnut Coffee Porter is almost as good.

Saltaire scooped three awards in the SIBA National Beer Competition 2010. Triple Chocoholic, a 4.8 per center, also won the Champion Speciality Beer category, while the brewery’s Cascade Pale Ale scooped the Champion Premium Bitters prize.

There were 1,400 beer enterted originally, whittled down to 63 finalists and 10 category winners. The Supreme Champion title was then selected from the eight draught winners.

Good to see Bank Top's excellent mild getting another award.

Full results
Supreme Champion Beer 2010 Triple Chocoholic Saltaire Brewery, Shipley

Champion Milds (up to 4% ABV) Dark Mild Bank Top Brewery, Bolton

Champion Bitters & Pale Ales (up to 4% ABV) Lord Marples Thornbridge Brewery, Derbyshire

Champion Best Bitters (4.1 – 4.5% ABV) Darwins Origin Salopian Brewing, Shrewsbury

Champion Premium Bitters (4.6 – 4.9%) Cascade Pale Ale Supreme

Speciality Beer Saltaire Brewery, Shipley

Champion Strong Bitters (5.1 – 5.5% ABV) Big Chief Bitter Greenmill Brewery, Rochdale

Champion Strong Ales (over 5.6%) Dorothy Goodbody’s Country Ale Wye Valley Brewery

Champion Porters, Strong Milds, Old Ales & Stouts Guerilla Blue Monkey Brewery, DerbyshireChampion Speciality Beers Triple Chocoholic Saltaire Brewery, Shipley

Champion Bottled Beers Proper Job St Austell Brewery

Ilkley Beer Festival winner:Missed it for the first time this year but organisers say it was the most successful yet. Home win for beer of the festival for Ilkley Brewery's Mary Jane, a light 'un. Must be more organised about getting tickets next year!

March 10: If you look carefully at my photo of the fabulous West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury, you'll see a poster of the second Kirklees Camra 'beer exhibition' at Batley Town Hall.

Well it's back - the 2010 Dewsbury & Heavy Woollen: Real Ale, Food & Music Festival - to give the 'exhibition' its full title. It marks the 35th anniversary of the first exhibition in Dewsbury and is organised by the Heavy Woollen Camra branch and backed by local businesses.

It's at Dewsbury town hall, from May 20-22, and features 70 different real ales from Yorkshire, 10 ciders, nine 'turns', loads of food and Girl Guides beer tasting. Sorry I misread that - it's a GIRL'S GUIDE to beer tasting (phew, I had images of wobbly, bearded men in 'zany' fancy dress).Tickets available soon, see here.

Jan 10: The excellent 1872 Porter from the Elland Brewery, in Elland, has been crowned the Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain at the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester.

The 6.5% abv porter, made from a Victorian recipe, is described by Camra as a 'creamy, full-flavoured porter, with rich liquorice flavours with a hint of chocolate from roast malt.'Silver went to Breconshire's Ramblers Ruin, whilst the bronze medal went to Acorn's Gorlovka Imperial Stout. Good to see Leeds Midnight Bell getting a silver in the mild category.

Old Ales and Strong Milds category:
Gold- Breconshire, Ramblers Ruin (Brecon, Powys)
Silver- Leeds, Midnight Bell (Leeds, West Yorkshire)
Bronze- Beartown, Black Bear (Congleton, Cheshire)

Porters category
Gold- Elland, 1872 Porter (Elland, West Yorkshire)
Silver- Sulwath, Black Galloway (Castle Douglas, Dumfries & Galloway)
Bronze- RCH, Old Slug Porter (Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset)

Stouts category
Gold- Acorn, Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Barnsley, South Yorkshire)
Silver- Beowulf, Dragon Smoke Stout (Brownhills, Staffordshire)
Bronze- Wapping, Stout (Liverpool, Merseyside)

Barley Wines category
Gold- Robinsons, Old Tom (Stockport, Cheshire)
Silver- Kinver, Over the Edge (Kinver, Staffordshire)
Bronze- Otley, O8 (Pontypridd, Mid Glamorgan)

Gold- Elland, 1872 Porter (Elland, West Yorkshire)
Silver- Breconshire, Ramblers Ruin (Brecon, Powys)
Bronze- Acorn, Gorlovka Imperial Stout (Barnsley, South Yorkshire)

REVIEW OF THE YEAR Jan 2010: Not just beer and pubs, also films, pies, cakes, loaves, cats and dogs.
Beers of the year:
A year ago, my pals Richard (King of Otley) and Skipton Quanters (names changed to protect the innocent) came up with a 'drink around England' competition. We all had to try a beer from every county, first one to do so wins.

Sadly my first venture in beer tickerdom didn't last long. I didn't want to be carrying a notepad and pen around - or whispering into a recorder as someone in The Grove in Hudds does ('Old Throgmore's Expendable, that's Old Throgmore's Expendable').

And I didn't wanting to be wasting my time and money on awful ales for the sake of ticking off another county.

Also, I don't want to sound like I've got a massive northern chip on shoulder (with gravy), but I'm tired of bitter, hoppy, flat beers, that taste almost medicinal, many of which seem to be made down south.I did manage to drink beers from nine English counties and one each from Wales and Scotland in January, the only month where I 'ticked off'.

Sussex was in fact second on my list of counties with four different beers. Perhaps it was the northern names that fooled me - Hepworth Old Ale, from Horsham, and Rother Valley Blues, a porter from Rye - and these turned out to be some of my favourites of the year.

The Star Inn's festivals proved a good source of unusual beers and Cottage's Old Freckled Ken, from Somerset, was another favourite - a smashing, caramelly beer.Also, here are my Greater Manchester beers of the year, published on the Manchester Evening News' City Life website

Best Brewery:Talking of flavoured beers, they're difficult to do - either overwhelming the beer or barely registering. Raise a glass to Saltaire Brewery - their Triple Chocoholic and Hazelnut Coffee Porter were spot on.

Best Bottled Beer:Camra fundamentalists are insisting that bottle conditioned beers are the only 'proper bottled beers', but this often means good brewers are making gravelly homebrews which taste like they've been mixed in a bath. So thank goodness for Co-operative Strong Brown Beer. It's sweet and tasty.

Pubs (home):The usual suspects - both Groves, Rat and Ratchet, King's Head, Star, Three Pigeons, The Sair, and Guest House (see Best Pubs) plus The Sportsman, a great addition to the Huddersfield circuit. Cracking refurbishment, great selection of Yorkshire beers and friendly staff. Why can't the so-called expert pub companies do this, instead of propping up a series of shabby, muttonhead pubs elsewhere in the town?

I should also mention the Tunnel End Inn, in Marsden, a textbook example of how a friendly and innovative landlord and landlady can keep an out-of-the-way pub busy - good beer, hearty food and special events.

Pubs (away):Bishops Castle in Shropshire has two brew pubs at either end of the small town and plenty of quirky shops in between. It's also an unbelievably friendly place and myself and the lovely P got chatting to Big Nev, landlord of one of the pubs, The Six Bells while we were playing dominoes (I know how to show a woman a good time). He's not as fearsome as his portrait on the beer mats and the beer named after him is lovely.

Films:Damned United, Frost Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Star Trek

Films I should have seen:District 9, An Education, Up, Moon

Gig:Jeffrey Lewis, Hebden Bridge Trades ClubLP:Madness, Liberty of Norton FolgatePie:Orchard Pigs' tractor wheel pork pies. Made by a Raymond Blanc-trained chap near Wrexham and sold at Manchester Christmas Markets. Crisp but soft pastry, excellent quality meat from pigs bred on the firm's farm. No grease or gristle.

Cake:I bought a lovely slice of chocolate cake at the Ludlow Food and Drink Festival from Cake Creations of Hereford. It was slightly awkward carrying a slice of cake in one hand and a pint of real ale in the other (I'm on a special diet) so I decided to have a nibble. Bad move - the combination of perfectly-proportioned moist sponge and filling was irresistible and I scoffed the lot.

Loaf:The light and nutty brown loaf by Barbakan bakers, of Chorlton (sold in Katsouris deli in Manchester) has been a mainstay all year

Cat:Squeeky - laid-back ball of fluff from next door surveying the world from our recycling bin. Famous for her mewing.

Dog:Folly the cocker spaniel in the Star Inn already has a sad face and watery eyes, but she had to have a cone fitted over her head following a visit to the vets and looked even sadder. She even had a beer named after her (Folly's Dog Collar Blues, pictured) but now she's back on form.

Nov 09: "The same old faces, the same old beards, the same old flatulence," a Camra acquaintance said to a bearded me at another excellent Star Inn Beer Festival, in Lockwood, Huddersfield.

I never fart at beer festivals, not since an incident at the Wakefield Beer Festival a few years back.I was with a few pals when a terrible stench arose. My friend Rob pointed at me and everyone believed him, including strangers sitting nearby. Everyone blames the fat bloke.

During the rest of the beer festival, every fart in our vicinity was blamed on me. Then a few months later, a smirking Rob confessed he was the culprit. The swine!

Anyway back to the Star Fest. As I always say when I review the Star's dos, they have an amazing selection of beers.

Some pubs put 12 beers on and call it festival - The Star had 62 this time and I didn't have a bad one.I had a few lovely dark, chocolatey beers - Cheddar's Totty Pot, Lytham's Lytham Dark and Cottage's Old Freckled Ken. There was also a chance to try beers from recent award winners Ilkley (Grandmas' Pud, a porter) and Five Towns (Viva Cas Vegas, a tasty copper-coloured one).

Which pub has the best beer festivals? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind (and it's not me) - The Star.

Nov 09: Wakefield Camra have kindly released the top 10 most popular beers at their recent festival and I've decided to track down a few other winners of branch festivals this year.

It's always interesting to find out if your favourites match up with everyone else's, but while branches are very good at pre-publicity for their beer festivals, it's often a bugger to find out who's won.

YORKSaltaire Triple Chocoholic (does anyone do flavoured beers better? I don't think so - chocolatey without being sickly or too heavy)

WAKEFIELD1 Five Towns Niamh's Nemesis2 Thornbridge Jaipur3 Mallinsons Stainborough Castle4 Bob's Chardonnayle5 East Coast Bonhomme Richard/Iceni Fine Soft Day7 Five Towns Ponte Carlo8 Fat Cat (Norwich, Norfolk) Bitter/Nottingham Rock Ale10 Mallinsons Emley Moor Mild/Potbelly Captain Pigwash/Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild/Elland DiabloFunnily enough I've had all the 10th placed ones - all good ones, plus Jaipur (one of the most popular beers at festivals) and Chardonnayle.

SKIPTONDunham Massey's Chocolate Cherry MildAnother hit at festivals, but one that will never pass my lips after a liqueur incident as a child.

SHEFFIELD1 Thornbridge Gold2 Bollington White Nancy/Brew Company St Petrus StoutThornbridge also won the bitter and strong bitter categories. Leeds Midnight Bell won best porter, Bollington Nights won best mild.

OLDHAM1 Millstone Ye Olde Vic2 Phoenix Black Bee3 Green Mill Big Chief

Public: Outstanding Stout

LEEDSBoggart Hole Clough's Dark Rum Porter (a good 'un)Best Mild: Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby

HUDDERSFIELDOverall (and best bitter): Mallinsons Scarlet Pimpernel
Mild: Brass Monkey Tamarin Mild
Strong Ale: Fullers 1845
Porter: Golcar's Guthlacs Porter
Stout: Mallinsons Oatmeal Stout
Speciality Beer: Marble Ginger
Can't fault any of these choices

CHESHIRE BEER OF THE YEARBollington Brewery Best Bitter

BRADFORDChampion beer: East Coast SSBMild: Bridestone’s Pennine Dark Mild.3.5-4%ABV: East Coast SSB.4.1-4.5%: Naylor’s Star Anise.4.6-5%: Saltaire Texas Brown.5%: Thornbridge Kapito.

SOCIETY OF INDEPENDENT BREWERS NORTH OF ENGLAND WINNERS (to compete in 2010 national finals)Bitter/Pale Ale: Ilkley Brewing Company's Mary Jane
Strong Ale: Acorn Conquest

BEER FESTIVAL IN SIKH LEISURE CENTREAug 09: What do a masonic lodge, an Irish club and a Sikh leisure centre have in common? They have been - or will be - venues for the Huddersfield Beer Festival.

This year the festival moves to the Sikh Leisure Centre, on the edge of the town centre, almost midway between The Grove and The Rat.

The festival has become a victim of its own success. It has outgrown its former home, St Patricks, which has become a bit cramped in the past two years.

Let's hope the festival doesn't lose its atmosphere in a bigger, less pubby venue.And let's hope well-oiled punters don't get mown down on the ring road trying to get to the Rat.

Around 80 different real ales will be on sale, many from local breweries. There's also a cider bar featuring 10 ciders and perries.

Opening times: Thurs October 1 6pm-10.30pm; Fri October 2 noon-11pm; Sat October 3 11am-11pm.Entrance fee: £1 to CAMRA members; £3 non-membs. No advance tickets.

The centre itself is in Apna Ave, off Prospect St, HD1 2NXI'm putting in my usual stint behind the bar on the Saturday afternoon/early evening.

I'll be the fat one with glasses (sorry, that doesn't narrow it down much). If you fancy being a volunteer behind the bar, contact robert.tomlinson@cht.nhs.uk.

Aug 09: Congratulations to Rudgate brewery of York. Their Ruby Mild has been voted Best Beer in Britain at Camra's Great British Beer Festival.

It's a nice pint and it's great to see a mild win, but I have to say I don't hold much store in this competition, apart from the national publicity real ale gets.

Some past winners have been very disappointing. I think the winners depend on the judging panel on the day and Camra never make it clear who they are.

Rudgate beat 60 finalists in seven categories. The finalists themselves were whittled down from a year of testing by branch members and in regional competitions.Yet again (and I say this every year) the south of England dominates among category winners, runners-up, and bronze medallists - with 13 beers. The Midlands had five, north of England four and Scotland and Wales one each.

Are southern beers more lightier and hoppier and more to the judges' taste? Past winners tended to be these sort of beers.

This may be a wild generalisation, of course, because the winner this year is a mild and the runner-up, Oakham's Attila, a barley wine. Third overall was West Berkshire's Dr Hexters Healer - a beer with a 'citrus, orange and marmalade finish', according to the brewer (sounds dreadful, if I wanted fruit I'd have a smoothie).

The top three are all relatively strong too - Rudgate at 4.4 per cent, Attila 7.5 and Hexters 5.Here are the full results. Good to see Southport's Sandgrounder winning a category and Bank Top finishing second in the mild category - it's better than Rudgate I reckon.
Overall winners
Champion Beer of Britain - Rudgate, Ruby Mild (York, North Yorkshire)
Second - Oakham, Attila (Peterborough, Cambridgeshire)
Third - West Berkshire, Dr Hexter's Healer (Thatcham, Berkshire)

Mild category
Gold - Rudgate, Ruby Mild (York, North Yorkshire)
Silver - Bank Top, Dark Mild (Bolton, Lancashire)
Bronze - Highland, Dark Munro (Birsay, Orkney)

Bitter category
Gold - Surrey Hills, Ranmore Ale (Guildford, Surrey)
Silver - Butcombe, Bitter (Bristol, Avon)
Joint Bronze - Humpty Dumpty, Little Sharpie (Reedham, Norfolk)
Joint Bronze - Triple fff, Alton's Pride (Alton, Hampshire)

Best Bitter category
Gold - Southport, Golden Sands (Southport, Merseyside)
Silver - Buntingford, Britannia (Royston, Hertfordshire)
Joint Bronze - Evan Evans, Cwrw (Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire)
Joint Bronze - Thornbridge, Lord Marples (Bakewell, Derbyshire)
Joint Bronze - Vale, VPA (Brill, Buckinghamshire)

Golden Ale category
Gold - Dark Star, American Pale Ale (Ansty, West Sussex)
Joint Silver - Adnams, Explorer (Southwold, Suffolk)
Joint Silver - St Austell, Proper Job (St Austell, Cornwall)

Strong Bitter category
Gold - West Berkshire, Dr Hexter's Healer (Thatcham, Berkshire)
Silver - Thornbridge, Kipling (Bakewell, Derbyshire)
Bronze - Grain, Tamarind IPA (Harleston, Norfolk)

Speciality Beer category
Gold - Nethergate, Umbel Magna (Pentlow, Essex)
Silver - Wentworth, Bumble Beer (Wentworth, South Yorkshire)
Bronze - Amber, Chocolate Orange Stout (Ripley, Derbyshire)

Winter Beer of Britain winner (announced in January 2009)Oakham, Attila (Cambridgshire)

Bottled Beer of Britain winners
Gold - Titanic, Stout (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire)
Silver - Great Gable, Yewbarrow (Gosforth, Cumbria)
Bronze - White Shield Brewery, White Shield (Coors, Burton-on-Trent)

Camra now has 100,000 members and there are 670 brewers in the UK, more than at any other time since the war.Let's hope the Tory twats who infest beer mags and blogs (it's all right to say twat - David 'Dave of the People' Cameron said it) remember that Gordon Brown helped to start the brewing boom by cutting tax to help micro-brewers, but no doubt we'll hear more whingeing about the government raising booze duty (like every government, especially in a recession) and the smoking ban (it was a free vote, blame MPs of all parties).

April 09: Cairngorm's Black Gold has been crowned supreme champion out of 62 finalists in SIBA's National Beer Competition. Runner-up was Arundel's Sussex Mild, with Oakham's Bishop's Farewell and Castle Rock's Screech Owl joint third.
Beers were divided into nine categories with seven regional winners in each.

National category winners:
Mild: Arundel's Sussex Mild
Bitter and Pale Ale (up to 4.0%): Yeovil's Star Gazer
Best Bitter (4.1-4.5%): Purity's Mad Goose
Premium (4.6–4.9%): Oakham's Bishop's Farewell
Strong Bitter (5.1-5.5%): Castle Rock's Screech Owl (Ossett's magnificent Excelsior was runner-up)
Strong Ale (over 5.6%): Highland's Orkney Blast
Champion Porters, Strong Milds, Old Ales & Stouts: Cairngorm's Black Gold
Speciality Beers: Dark Star's Espresso (Saltaire's fabulous Hazelnut Coffee Porter was second)
Bottled Beer: Oakleaf's Hole Hearted

Northern results:Champion: Southport Brewery's Golden Sands
2 Prospect Brewery's Nutty Slack
3 Millstone Brewery's True Grit

Mild: Prospect's Nutty Slack
2 Bank Top Brewery's Dark Mild
3 Moorhouses Brewery's Black Cat

Porters, Strong Milds, Old Ales and Stouts: Lancaster Brewery's Lancaster Black
2 Bowland Beer Company's Black Dragon Porter
3 Rudgate Brewery's Ruby Mild

Bitters and Pale Ales: Southport Brewery's Golden Sands

Best Bitters: Kelham Island Brewery's Easy Rider

Premium Bitters: Millstone Brewery's True Grit

Strong Bitters: Ossett's Excelsior

Speciality: Saltaire Brewery's Hazlenut Coffee Porter

Feb 09: Yes, I've started jotting down which beers I've drunk - but my friends 'forced' me to it!

King Richard of Otley and Raiders of Skipton came up with this 'drink around Britain' scheme shortly before Christmas. The idea is that we try and drink a beer from every county this year. We also choose our favourites every month.I tend to drink beers which are dark and from the north of England.

Owing to time and money constraints I didn't alter my drinking habits in January - I've been disappointed too many times by 'award-winning beers' from down south which are too hoppy and bitter for me.

Also, I've always been averse to ticking - trying beers just to add them to a list rather than for their quality. It means many brewers produce rafts of beers to satisfy the tickers and the good beers get lost because of the huge numbers produced.

Having said all that I did manage to drink beers from nine English counties and one each from Wales and Scotland in January, mainly in the King's Head, Grove and Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield.

Yorkshire dominated with 11 different beers including old favourites Ossett Excelsior, Saltaire Hazelnut Coffee Porter and Riverhead Sparth Mild. I also wanted to try beers from new breweries Summer Wine from Holmfirth and Brass Monkey from Sowerby Bridge, plus there were two new 'uns from Mallinsons of Lindley available.

Surprisingly, Sussex was second on my list of counties with four different beers. Perhaps it was the northern names that fooled me - Hepworth Old Ale from Horsham and Rother Valley Blues from Rye were among the ones I tried and they were my two favourites in January. Rother Valley Blues was a porter, I think (listen I'm not writing a flaming essay in a pub on a busy Friday!)

To see all three Real Ale Twat strips in readable versions, go here

  • Real Ale Twats

    Feb 09: Another lovely afternoon in Ilkley for the second beer festival in the town. Good selection of ales in good form. My favourites were Dent Aviator and Hesket's Doris's 90th birthday (butterscotchy - the beer not Doris, although she's probably grappled with a Werther's in her time).

    Hesket are from Newmarket in Cumbria - a new 'un for me. Plenty of staff on as per last year and as it's a Round Table event some of the servers look slightly startled to be part of the service economy!

    As for the pies I didn't try 'em, although I'm familiar with Lishman's work. But who does their PR? Do we really want to know that much about the black puddings?

    Jan 09: A barley wine is this year's winner of the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester. It's Oakham's Attila, a 7.5 per center. I was on the panel for the old ales and strong milds category and our favourite, Sarah Hughes's Dark Mild, finished third overall with Elland Brewery's excellent 1872 Porter the overall runner-up.

    Being a judge is an intriguing experience and made me realise my sense of smell isn't up too much. While my fellow panellists - two Camra execs and two brewery chaps from Marble and Isle of Arran - were extolling fruity notes, coffee and smoke, I barely got a whiff of caramel.

    We tried seven beers, only knowing they were either ales or milds. Most of us agreed the Sarah Hughes was one of the best, although the last one I tried, an old ale, was my equal favourite with the Sarah Hughes. Unfortunately I couldn't find out what this was.

    Stouts and porters were being tried elsewhere in the judging room and our winner and their winners went forward to a final tasting panel, along with Oakham's which had already won a barley wine competition at the Dudley festival in November.

    Dec 08: Here's a list I made for the City Life website so it's a bit Manc biased but I think it's a fair reflection of local award winners and a few of my own favourites. My personal favourites would be Ossett Excelsior, any Acorn beers, Empire's Pandemonium Vanilla Porter, Saltaire's Coffee Porter, Mallinsons' Wild Card, Linfit Old Eli/Special and Marble Ginger.
    Allgates Hung Drawn and Portered A lovely, rich porter from Wigan. This was my favourite at the City Life Food and Drink Festival’s Greater Manchester Beer of the Year.

    Bank Top Pavilion Pale Ale The Bolton brewery won the people’s pint award at the City Life Manchester Food and Drink Festival. A pale 4.5 per center.

    Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild Winner of the Bury, Huddersfield and Chelmsford Beer Festivals. I’m afraid I haven’t tried this one as it brings back memories of a chocolate liqueur incident in my youth, but I’ve heard good reports.

    Hornbeam Dark Domination The Denton brewery triumphed with this one at the Leeds Beer Festival. It’s a chocolatey 6 per center with dominatrixes on the beerclips. Hornbeam’s Malt Mountain Mild was champion beer at Rugby’s festival.

    Linfit The only place to try this brewery’s beers is at a former national CAMRA pub of the year, The Sair Inn, in Linthwaite, near Huddersfield. There were fears for the brewery's future earlier this year, but a new brewer has ensured the quality of tasty malty beers, such as Old Eli and Special, are back and as good as ever. Northern Rail are introducing an hourly service from Victoria to Slaithwaite, 20 minutes’ walk from the pub, on Sundays from December 14, if you fancy an outing.

    Marble Ginger The only beer I’ve tasted which tingles on the lips. A light, pale beer full of flavour, it’s ‘gingier’ than Liverpool supersub David Fairclough in a carrot-top love-in with Tori Amos. One of my all time favourites (the beer, not Tori).

    Phoenix Wobbly Bob An old reliable which won the Macclesfield Beer Festival this year. A 6 per center that’s sweetish and without the chemical aftertaste of some strong beers . The Heywood brewery’s Spotland Gold was runner-up in the Greater Manchester Beer of the Year.

    Pictish Alchemists Ale Winner of the Greater Manchester Beer of the Year. Hoppy, fruity and bitter. Made in Rochdale.

    Robinsons Old Tom The strongest of the lot in this selection at 8.5 per cent. Runner-up at the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester. A smoky and, some say, spicy brew just right for cold nights.

    Thornbridge Jaipur IPA The brewery’s based near Bakewell, but this hoppy beer is a big hit round these parts. Winner at the Oldham Beer Festival and runner-up at Wigan’s Festival, it’s a deceptively strong 5.9 per center.

    Dec 08: Mitchell's of Lancaster has bought one of my favourite breweries, York.York was looking for new investors earlier this year so let's hope it won't be one of those takeovers that ends in tears like so many Greene King ones.

    Mitchell's will also buy York pubs and the name will continue. No-one will be laid off and Mitchell's hopes to open new pubs, possibly in Leeds, Ilkley and Harrogate.

    Oct 08: Huddersfield brewery Mallinsons has produced its first regular beer, Stadium, and has also unveiled two new specials meaning they've now made 18 different beers since they started brewing six months ago.

    I haven't managed to try them all, unfortunately, and many of them have sold out, but I've yet to have a bad one. Personally I would prefer a few more regulars than specials because if you try a really a good one it's always sad to find out you'll never drink it again.

    But it'a great achievement for a new brewer to produce this number of beers in such a short time and to get them in several pubs and at festivals.Stadium (3.8%) is described as straw coloured with a clean bitter taste and dry fruity finish.Three more regulars are promised, including a mild.

    The new specials are Sugarloaf and Fawkes, two light beers. The other specials have either sold out or are limited editions.Mallinsons beers can be found in Huddersfield at The Star, The Grove, The Rat, Kings Head, Green Cross, Lindley Liberal club, The Swan (Crimble) and The Crimea.Kelham Island and Fat Cat are stocking them in Sheffield and the Crown and Kettle and Smithfield in Manchester.

    Oct 08: I got my first chance to be a judge at a beer festival but unfortunately the winner - Pictish's Alchemist from Rochdale - was probably my least favourite.It was one of those light beers with a sharp aftertaste that I hate. My own favourite was Allgates Drawn and Quartered, from Wigan, a rich sweet porter.

    But there's the rub with judging beer - however objective you're going to be it's very difficult to choose a light bitter beer from a dark sweet one if you prefer the latter.The judges were divided into two groups who tried a total of 18 beers - nine different ones in each group, with two dark ones in each. We weren't told what they were until after the judging.

    The top 12 then went forward to a different judging panel, again divided into two groups, who included Manchester's council leader Richard Leese and eat-all-of-a-pig speccy chef Fergus Henderson.

    Phoenix's Spotland Gold was second and Greenfield Black Five third overall.The event was part of the City Life Manchester Food and Drink Festival which also included a two-day beer festival starring Greater Manchester breweries. Punters voted Bank Top's Pavilion Pale Ale as the winner.

    July 08: Someone was scrawling this in the Gents during the Star summer festival, in Huddersfield. You get a better class of graffiti and a better class of beer festival at The Star -Hudds Mild pub of the year.

    Once again, a choice of more than 70 beers, putting many town beer festivals to shame, and some real corkers. Coach House did a special to commemorate the pub cat's imminent motherhood (Tizzi's Tiddlers) with a beer which was like drinking a Quality Street penny toffee.

    Other highlights for me were Allgates Pussy Galore which was described as slightly spiced but was very smooth to me and Great Heck's Dave "dark and very enjoyable" Spot-on description. As for the grafitti, does crack refer to light through the lavvy window, Leonard Cohen's real ale period, or arses?

    Aug 08: Bugger! A real ale success story, Cains of Liverpool, has gone into administration.

    Things have looked ominous in the past couple of weeks with the taxman threatening a winding-up order, then the banks refusing to bail them out. Cains has fantastic beers, some fantastic pubs (100 of them), 1,000 staff, and has become a Liverpool stalwart.Sudarghara Dusanj took over the running of the company with his brother Ajmail in July 2002 and did a great job but maybe they overreached themselves by buying 92 pubs from Honeycombe in May 2007.

    A bank loaned 'em most of the money - shame it can't spends relatively small change to bail out a successful company that happens to be bucking the trend and doing something different (a good English lager, raisin beer)Sudarghara is talking about the company in the past tense but the adminstrators say they've already had interest.

    Aug 08: The north of England took six of the 20 medals up for grabs at this year's Great British Beer Festival.

    Beckstones' Black Dog Freddy (Cumbria) won the mild gold, Rudgate's Ruby Mild (York) took silver. Lees Bitter (Manchester) won silver in the bitter category, Jarrow's Rivet Catcher (Tyne & Wear) getting a joint bronze.

    Timothy Taylor's Landlord (West Yorkshire) took joint bronze in the best bitter and Wentworth's Bumble Beer (South Yorkshire) won silver in the speciality beer category.There were 60 finalists in six categories, with gold, silver and bronze for each category, plus the Winter Beer Winner announced in Manchester in January.

    I've just included the medals won this month.

    Alton's Pride brewed by Triple fff Brewery in Hampshire has been judged the best overall by the panel of brewers, beer writers and journalists.

    The overall silver went to Black Dog Freddy from Beckstones (Cumbria).

    Bronze went to CAMRA's current National Winter Beer of Britain winner Station Porter from the Wickar Brewery (Gloucestershire).CAMRA's Good Beer Guide describes Alton's Pride as, “clean-tasting, golden brown beer, full-bodied for its strength with an aroma of floral hops. An initial malty flavour fades as citrus notes and hoppiness take over, leading to a hoppy, bitter finish.” Never heard of it, I'm afraid, in fact I don't think I've ever been to Hampshire!

    Full results:Mild Category
    Gold - Beckstones, Black Dog Freddy (Cumbria)
    Silver - Rudgate, Ruby Mild (York)
    Bronze - Rhymney, Dark (Merthyr Tydfil)

    Bitter Category
    Gold - Triple fff, Alton's Pride (Hampshire)
    Silver - Lees, Bitter (Manchester)
    Joint Bronze - Jarrow, Rivet Catcher (Tyne & Wear) and Surrey Hills, Ranmore Ale (Surrey)

    Best Bitter Category
    Gold - Skinner's, Betty Stogs (Cornwall)
    Silver - Highland, Scapa Special (Orkney)Bronze - Cairngorm, Nessies Monster Mash (Highlands) and Timothy Taylor, Landlord (West Yorkshire)

    Strong Bitter Category
    Gold - Thornbridge, Jaipur IPA (Derbyshire)
    Silver - Fuller's, ESB (London)
    Bronze - Highland, Orkney Blast (Orkney)

    Golden Ale Category
    Gold - Otley, O1 (Mid Glamorgan)
    Silver - Loddon, Ferryman's Gold (Oxfordshire)
    Bronze - Skinner's, Cornish Knocker Ale (Cornwall)

    Speciality Beer Category
    Gold - Otley, OGarden (Mid Glamorgan)
    Silver - Wentworth, Bumble Beer (South Yorkshire)
    Bronze - Nethergate, Umbel Magna (Essex)

    Winter Beer of Britain Winner (announced in Jan 2008)
    Gold - Wickwar, Station Porter
    Silver - Robinson's Old Tom (Manchester)
    Bronze - Hop Back Entire Stout.

    I'm surprised Lees and Landlord figure so highly, but I'm a fan of Otley and Skinner breweries, the mild one and two, and the fabulous Fuller's ESB.

    July 08: The brewer at the best pub in the world - The Sair Inn in Linthwaite - has departed so there's no Linfit beer at the moment. Hudds Camra reckons a former employee may return to help boss Ron or he could train someone up.

    Aug 08: Old Eli and Special back on, hurrah! (See Best Pubs for more about The Sair).

    Meanwhile Huddersfield's newest brewer is former primary school teacher Tara Mallinson, brewer of...Mallinsons, a great name for a brewer it has to be said, reminds me of a butcher's shop or an ironmonger's.

    She's based in Lindley and is brewing a few specials before branching out with bottles and four regulars.

    Wild Card, one of the specials, brewed in time for Wimbledon, is a nice malty brown bitter.Look out for the forthcoming El Capitan at 4.8 which is pale and lightly hoppy and bitter. Plus Cruel Summer 4.2 also pale, but with a bit more hop bite in the taste.

    Mallinsons beers are on sale at The Star, Lockwood, The Grove, The Rat and Kings Head, all in Hudds, and Fat Cat and Kelham Island in Sheffield, among others. Good luck Tara!

    July 08: Paid my first visit to the Monkey Club, in Armitage Bridge (Huddersfield Camra's Club of the Year 2008) for Monkeyfest, a splendid beer festival.

    Clouds loomed on the Saturday but the rain held off in the afternoon and it was very pleasant sitting in the open surrounded by cottages and trees.Two local beers stood out for me - Mallinsons' Lindley Loc-Ale (toffeeish) and Empire's Chapman Three Stars (a lightish brew celebrating ex-Town and Arsenal boss Herbert Chapman).

    It's called the Monkey Club because a sailor used to bring his monkey in here (mmm...that well-known port of Huddersfield)

    June 08: Hurrah! A TV advert extolling real ale - but the late great Bonzo Dog man is at his most bonkers here.

    You can imagine the ad firm showing it to Ruddles execs for the first time, followed by deathly silence and the sound of gentle sobbing from the bloke who had the idea for employing Viv as he contemplates his P45.

    It has Dawn French in drag, creepy flying teeth and this verse:Malcolm the Porcupine went to see
    If a moon of green cheese would float
    He exhaled a spray of 'will you go away'
    To the land where the hoppity oats
    He brewed humpty of Ruddles
    Which he dumpty in puddlesAnd licked up whenever it snowed
    In final conclusion, twas only illusion,Malcolm Porcupine said 'I'LL BE BLOWED'
    Thanks to Richard, King of Otley for this (via YouTube of course).

  • Ruddles ad

  • And of course the good old t'inters has a rather wonderful article about the ad by Jonathan Street on the excellent vivarchive site

  • Ruddles ad article

  • Viv also did more conventional ads for creme eggs and Toshiba.
    Pic: BBC

    June 08: At last! Something from Leeds that lives up the hype - Leeds Brewery, which celebrated its first birthday on the same day as my birthday (I'm 807 in dog years).

    There was a buzz about the brewery for months before it opened, because of its location in the new-look Holbeck, and because it was a new brewery in the city.It has lived up to expectations. Some breweries have concentrated on fancy signs and good distribution deals, but have forgotten that good-tasting beers are always the foundation (Hello Copper Dragon), while others produce a different beer a week with daft names which they are forgettable because there are so many.

    Leeds Brewery stuck to basics - a bitter (Best), a mild (Midnight Bell) and a pale ale with a handful of seasonal beers and specials.

    All are superb - the mild chocolatey, the bitter hoppy and thirst-quenching, and the pale without that chemically taste that blights so many light beers.

    The company owners are two York University graduates in their mid twenties, who served their time with York Brewery, and another fella in his twenties who did a masters degree in brewing.

    They opened their first pub last month - The Midnight Bell, next to the Cross Keys in Holbeck and very similar in style - exposed brick, light, comfortable with modern furnishings. Not really my sort of place but if it encourages people to try real ale for the first time it's got to be good.Happy Birthday Leeds!

    May 08: There's only 55 beers left, the woman at the door of the Halifax Beer Festival said with a wry smile. Small, but perfectly formed (the festival, not the woman that is), Halifax is one of my favourites, thanks in part to the attractively distressed venue The Square Chapel.

    I was attractively distressed after quaffing a few halfs of Elland, Beartown and other favourites on a glorious sunny day.

    Mar 08: Two of my favourite brewers - Elland and Mitchell/Eastwood - are joining forces.

    The brewers describe it as a 'partnership' and an 'amalgamation' on Elland's website although there's no word if there's going to be a new name for the breweries.

    Elland's head brewer David Sanders said “Teaming up with Gary Mitchell (head brewer at Mitchell and Eastwood) will not only allow us to share our brewing experience but, more importantly, it will allow Gary and I to create some exciting new brews.

    Elland director Martin Ogley added: "Given the recent increased costs of malt, water, fuel, energy and, in particular a trebling in the price of hops due to a worldwide shortage, it makes sound commercial sense to amalgamate two award-winning breweries under one roof."

    Gary, whose brewery is based next to the Barge & Barrel Public House in Elland, said “I am extremely pleased to be joining forces with David Sanders at the Elland Brewery. The more modern and larger brew plant offers me the opportunity to expand my current range of beers alongside the existing Elland Brewery beers and hopefully we will be able to offer all our existing customers an even greater choice of cask conditioned ales.”

    The brewers will be combining their talents first off for Elland's 100th brew. I'm a big fan of Elland's dark strong beers in particular and I'm looking forward to their new brews. It's good to hear they'll both survive, however Elland does seem to have a history tangled up with Eastwood.

    If I've got his right - Elland was formerly known as Eastwood and Sanders and is now joining forces with Mitchell and Eastwood. Legendary brewer John Eastwood used to be involved in both breweries, I believe, but it's a bit like the People's Front of Judea and the Popular Front!

    ILKLEY BEER FESTIVALFeb 08: I'd forgotten just how posh Ilkley is. Yummy mummies with 4x4 prams, disapproving pensioners with immaculate swirls of white hair, trendy-specced baldies in rugger shirts with their over-tanned wives, and Prince Harry a-likes with their three-quarter length shorts and flip-flops.

    The latter stuck out like a sore thumb at the first ever Ilkley Beer Festival at the Kings Hall. Shorts and flip-flops. In Yorkshire. In February. The word 'Twat' was never too far away when they passed myself, the lovely P and King Richard of Otley at the festival.

    As I've said elsewhere, the venue often makes a festival - Square Chapel, Halifax and Victoria Hall, Saltaire - and the Kings Hall is a grand venue.

    You can imagine The Good Old Days being staged here with its lovely balconies and alcoves. It instantly puts a smile on your face.You can tell there's a bit of money about the festival with its huge sponsor banner and the beer tokens - not the usual raffle tickets but beautifully designed and made of cardboard (Cardboard, fancy!).

    There were also loads of volunteer staff, so many you couldn't see the beers.The beer selection was excellent with some of my absolute favourite brewers - Acorn, Anglo Dutch, Dent, Elland, Leeds, Marble, Ossett and a rare chance to drink draught Fraoch Heather Ale.

    A newie for me was Stewart Edinburgh No 3 - a reminder of the glorious dark and malty McEwans 50 Shillings.

    As usual at beer festivals, the lack of sparklers meant the flat beers weren't as tasty as they would be in pubs, but the beer was in good order.

    A brass band came on just as the booze was kicking in - ideal woozy music for getting drunk by, although the ra-ras in the audience didn't show enough appreciation for my liking.More than 8,000 pints were sold and £15,000 raised for young people's sports facilities. The Round Table organisers are doing it again next year. I'll be there old bean!Pic: My Flickr site

    Jan 08: A 6.1% porter is this year's Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain.
    Wickwar Station Porter is described in CAMRA's 2008 Good Beer Guide as “A rich, smooth, dark ruby-brown ale. Starts with a roast malt; coffee, chocolate and dark fruit then develops a complex, spicy, bittersweet taste and a long roast finish.”
    The Silver award went to Robinson's Old Tom and the Bronze to Hop Back Entire Stout.I haven't heard of Wickwar but my Gloucestershire snout Mr Quanters is a fan of their Bob beer.
    Good to see Elland and Acorn in the Porter runners-up spots.I had a brief visit to the festival yesterday (Jan 18). Wickwar wasn't on but I had a quick slurp of Otley (a Welsh brewer), St Peter's Porter and some Pws Moose (the Welsh brewery Purple Moose, not dark Side of the Moose unfortunately).
    Category winners:
    Old Ales & Strong Mild Category
    Gold - Purple Moose, Dark Side of the Moose (Porthmadog, Gwynedd)Silver - West Berkshire, Maggs Magnificent Mild (Thatcham, Berkshire)Bronze - Highland, Dark Munro (Birsay, Orkney)
    Gold - Hop Back, Entire Stout (Salisbury, Berkshire)Silver - Spitting Feathers Old Wavertonian (Waverton, Chester)Bronze - Spire, Sgt. Pepper Stout (Chesterfield, Derbyshire)
    Gold - Wickwar, Station Porter (Wickwar, Gloucestershire)Silver - E&S Elland, 1872 Porter (Elland, West Yorkshire)Bronze - Acorn, Old Moor Porter (Barnsley, South Yorkshire)
    Barley Wines
    Gold - Robinson's Old Tom (Stockport, Cheshire)Silver - Durham, Benedictus (Bowburn, Co Durham)Bronze - Mighty Oak, Saxon Song (Maldon, Essex)
    ALEING AND DOWNING 2: MORE 2007 REAL ALE EXCURSIONSAfter Halifax, Haworth and Huddersfield in the first half of the year, I've been a bit more adventurous in the second half - sampling ales in Sweden (pictured from Flickr site), trying Britain's strongest ale, watching goth morris dancers at a Horsforth pub, listening to filthy karaoke in Southport, filling up with Fuller's at a special promotion night, getting Christmassy in Skipton, getting grim up north in Sowerby Bridge and going on the Keighley and Worth Valley train (again) for a fantastic beer festival in Oxenhope.
    Northern Europeans may have a reputation of being beer-quaffing drunks but in Sweden they are desperately trying to limit what their citizens drink by only allowing stronger beers to be sold in a limited number of places.
    So in the local supermarkets it's nearly all watery 2-3% lagers, although I did see one solitary Bishop's Finger (by Shepherd's Neame, always worth a double entendre) looking forlorn on the shelves.
    Imagine my delight when our hosts arranged a beer tasting session with some darker stronger bottles of ales which the Swedes drink in the run-up to Christmas. There were porters and winter ales with chocolately and stouty tastes such as Oppigards Winter Ale and Nynashamns Mysingen. Falcons Jamma had madeira (dessert wine) in it and tasted like Christmas pudding.That was in cold and wet December.
    In July the weather wasn't much better at a beer and bands festival at the Abbey Inn, Horsforth. A surprisingly (for Leeds) rural pub near the rail line to Shipley. The music wasn't great (bland folk) but the beer was - mainly Old Bear, the Keighley brewery which has come on leaps and bounds since it started and has helped the inn get into the Good Beer Guide this year.It was also a chance to see goth morris dancers - not, as you'd expect, eye-linered sulkers in long coats, but blokes with ZZ Top beards and women in black frocks perambulatung in a slow and desultory fashion to some minor key accordian playing. Strangely compelling.
    Talking of Old Bear, there was a chance to try their new brew and Britain's strongest beer (unofficially) - the 12.5% Duke of Bronte Full Capstan Strength. This was served in a wine glass at the Scarborough in Leeds and the first surprise was that it was a light beer. The second was it didn't have the slight chemically taste that some strong beers have. Worth a sup as was the Leeds Brewery's ales - a new kid on the block with excellent bitter and mild.
    The latter is Midnight Bell which won best beer at the Huddersfield Beer Festival where I spent an exhaustinng few hours behind the bar.
    A few days before that I was in Southport where I spent much of childhood. The town now relies heavily on The Guest House for the quality of its ale and as an attractive pub. I popped into some of my old haunts to see what they were like:The Falstaff looked to be geared mainly for food, had an unadventurous selection of real ales (Black Sheep etc) and was virtually empty.
    The Coronation had a Greene King sign outside but no real ale inside and is now just a garish yoof joint.O'Neills has been reverted to its old name The Hoghton and was closed by 11.30 on Saturday (sigh) - the decor looked horrible and there seemed to be one ale pump.
    The Masons, however, was great. Customers and staff were singing along to some Celine Dion-type ballad when I walked in. There was Unicorn and Hartley's on - I'm not a big fan of bland Robinson's brews but the Unicorn was great. I'd forgotten about the wood-panelled snug with roaring fire.
    After spending most of the night at the Guesty, supping lovely Cains, it was late drinks at The Ship, a pub which has never recovered from being opened out into one big room a few years ago.There were three Sam Smith's electric beers - all off - when I was there and some lively karaoke by a leopard-skinned-trousered lady belting out Robbie Williams' Angels and replacing the lyric 'I'm loving Angels instead' with 'Im with this arsehole in bed'.
    Like the Masons, most of the regulars looked like the sort of people Clint Eastwood shoots in spaghetti westerns. Good atmosphere though, like the Fox and Goose across the way - once a three-storey Berni Inn it's been a rockers pub for years. We were greeted by the lead singer of a band doing a rocky version of The Proclaimers' 500 Miles while leading a conga around the bar. The beer was slightly more drinkable than normal.
    How Southport needs The Grove in Huddersfield where they had a fantastic Fuller's night. Although London Pride is common up here, it was great to try Discovery, London Porter and especially ESB again. What a good idea for breweries to 'take over' a pub for the night. The pub was packed (on a Wednesday) with sausages and pies laid on and raffles of Fuller's products.
    A few miles down the road is The Riverhead in Marsden, now part of the Ossett empire, although they are still making Riverhead's beers. They've also done up the place - the bar is on the opposite side and upstairs is now a very good restaurant - wholesome food, tastefully presented. It's another triumph for Ossett - the beer has actually improved and The Riverhead needed to serve food as it attracts a lot of hungry walkers and hippy/arty inhabitants
    Good beer was to be had at the Worth Valley Beer and Music Weekendin October. This is my favourite beer festival of the year, although it's not an official Camra one.Some beers are sold at Keighley, others on the train to Oxenhope and most are at the engine shed. They moved a train out to accommodate more people and they certainly needed the space - by Saturday night the beer was running out and there was still a day to go!
    The trains in the shed create a great atmosphere, there was good blues music and of course the beers - which feature a description of each one on the pumps and barrels - are spot on. Highlights included Dent Aviator, Cornish Knocker Ale by Skinner's and Southport Brewery's Natterjack.
    Finally a couple of December days-out. Firstly Skipton - an attractive market town that looks great at Christmas time and has some lovely looking pubs on the outside which look awful inside with no real ale.The Cross Keys, for example, is a stunning looking farmhouse cottage building which sells Whitebread Trophy, has horrible striped wallpaper and a pool table dominates the bar when you walk in. The Red Lion is equally awful.
    The Narrow Boat - the town's only beer guide pub - is, not surprisingly, doing a roaring trade. Bland Copper Dragon and an absence of dark beers and milds are its only faults. Elsewhere Wetherspooon's Devonshire is a cracking conversion of country-house type hotel in the centre of town. There's enough little rooms and alcoves to get away from the usual Wetherspoon all-day quaffing hardmen at the bar. There's also the Fleece, offering a full range of Timmy Taylor's.
    A few days later I was in Sowerby Bridge, which, by contrast, looks rather bleak at Christmas, with its forlorn bulbs lining the street. But it does, amazingly for a town of this size, have five real ale pubs in the guide, including two of my favourites,
    The Puzzle Hall, a cosy Taylor's pub down a country lane with friendly cats and dogs, and The Works, a more modern pub on the same lane with about half a dozen real ales on.I couldn't find The Rushcart, another pub in the guide, but I did find The White Lion after a walk up a steep hill past endless back to backs in foul weather conditions - it really was grim up north. Good pint of Tetley's Mild though.
    Camra's best beer of 2007
    August 2007: Hobsons Mild from Hobsons Brewery in Shropshire has been judged to be the best beer in Britain by a panel of brewers, beer writers and journalists at the Great British Beer Festival. There were 50 finalists in eight categories.
    The Silver award went to Mighty Oak brewery in Essex for their Maldon Gold. The Bronze was awarded to Green Jack brewery in Suffolk for Ripper.
    Gold Hobsons Mild
    Silver Nottingham Rock Mild
    Bronze Brain's Dark
    Gold Castle Rock Harvest Pale
    Silver Twickenham Crane Sundancer
    Joint Bronze Surrey Hills Ranmore Ale & Fyne Piper's Gold
    Best Bitters
    Gold Purple Moose Glaslyn Ale
    Silver George Wright Pipe Dream
    Joint Bronze Fuller's London Pride & Nethergate Suffolk County & Station House Buzzin'
    York Centurion's Ghost
    Silver Inveralmond Lia Fail
    Bronze Brain's SA Gold
    Speciality Beers
    Gold Nethergate Umbel Magna
    Silver Little Valley Hebden Wheat
    Bronze St Peter's Grapefruit
    Golden Ales
    Gold Mighty Oak Maldon Gold
    Silver Oak Leaf Hole Hearted
    Bronze Otley 01

    June 07: Three beer festivals, two old haunts, trips to Halifax and a train which sells beer - these are a few of my favourite things.

    Just like last year, the festival at the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury was blessed with glorious sunshine. My head looked like a boiled sweet after being sat at a table without an umbrella.As I wrote last year they've made a lovely job of the outdoor extension and this year they've added decking (that's right - decking in Dewsbury. Take that fancy dans in that there London).

    The festival was entitled Beer, Bangers and Blues and the languid blues tunes were ideal for the lazying weather. The only band I saw was the Gillroyd Parade - featuring a chap I knew from a former job. Shamefully I called him the wrong name and he knew my Christian and surnames - doh!Rob (for that was he, not Guy as I thought) is a tech-y and banished all my prejudices about musical techies (they only play Apples and press about three buttons during a gig because it's all been pre-programmed) by having a lovely crooning voice to tunes such as Goodnight Irene (I think), Folding Money and that Leadbelly song that Nirvana did (How Do You Sleep at Night?).

    Here's their MySpace site http://www.myspace.com/thegillroydparade . I think they're named after a street in Morley.

    The festival was heaving by four on a Saturday but I did manage to try Springhead Liberty, Orkney Dark Island, Oakham Bishops' Farewell and some sausages flavoured with Tabatha the Knackered beer (mmm!).

    A week before that festival I met the Southport crew for a real ale birthday excursion for my pals John and Al in and around Keighley.Starting in The Corn Dolly in Bradford at 11.30am we had a beer on the Keighley and Worth Valley train (Salamander I think) and quaffed Taylors at the Fleece in Haworth and the Boltmakers in Keighley, where regulars were amazed that people from Southport were visiting Keighley.

    As for the train, it's £9 return to stand on a packed carriage for a 50-minute round trip. If it was a modern service there'd be a lot of grumbling but there's something magical about ambling through fields in a steam train with all the volunteers in their fancy uniforms.

    It does seem like going in time and you half expect to see Bernard Cribbins shouting: "Oakworth, O-oakworth!"

    Yet again I took a wrong turning from Haworth station in an attempt to find the rest of the village and ended up going up the wrong hill to be met by the eerie abandoned Bronte cinema. Everyone congratulated me on my brillaint sense of direction and said how much they enjoyed going up two steep cobbled hills instead of one.

    We finished in Fanny's Ale House in Saltaire, a UN World Heritage site like the Taj Mahal (that's Saltaire not Fanny's, although the pub should be!).

    A splendid excursion and all the trains were on time!

    Earlier in May I went to the Square Chapel in Halifax for Mayfest.No matter how good the beers are, a festival depends on a good venue - Wakefield's has never been the same since they moved out of the sumptuous town hall and into an underground gymnasium.

    The chapel in Halifax is a lovely building - high, ornate ceilings and pillars in the walls. Built in 1772 it was almost demolished in the 80s.

    It's also a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon - Guardian, pint, comfy chair - bliss. The beer range was relatively small, but good, with plenty of familiar names - Cains Bitter, Arran Blonde - and a few I hadn't tried such as Dorset Durdle Door and Gorton Chocolate Frog.

    I've been visiting Halifax regularly recently now my mate Derek's returned from his world travels. The Three Pigeons is always a port of call - a multi-room Ossett beer pub with splendid art deco trimmings - and the Pump Room nearby - new owners but beer quality just as good, and they're still one of the few pubs to favour rugby over football.

    I think Derek was at the Star Inn beer festival in Lockwood, Huddersfield, at the end of March.They could put many official town beer festivals to shame with the range of beers they put on - I think here were 60 or 70 on - the highlights for me included Coach House's Caramely Mild (just like it says on the tin), Goose Eye Mild, Summer Wine (new brewery in Holmfirth, can't remember beer name), Northern's Mighty Crowded, Allendale Wolf and Falstaff's Norman Wisdom - although when I started drinking this I inadvertedly spilled beer over the head of a stern faced man with a fob watch and round glasses then started laughing in his face and shouting: 'Mr Grimsdale, Mr Grimsdale.'

    Elsewhere in Hudds I've mainly been supping in The Grove and the The Rat and Ratchet. The Rat has deservedly won Hudds pub of the year - it's a handsome, lively pub with a good range of northern guests backing up excellently kept Ossett ales.

    The Grove is a rather more sedate place with a greater range of beers although there's too many light, headless southern ones for my taste.

    Picture of my veiny hand - the lovely P

    WHAT TO DRINK ON CHRISTMAS DAYDec 2006: Here's Camra's advice for appropriate beers for various meals - although after drinking and eating all this lot, you'll be probably ready to blow like Mr Creosote ("a wafer-thin mint sir?")

    BREAKFAST: Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs TRY: An English style wheat beer WHY: The beer will complement the delicate flavour of the fish, but is not too hoppy as to overwhelm it.RECOMMENDED: Meantime Wheat Grand Cru (Contact brewery for stockists) or O'Hanlon's Double Champion Wheat. (Available at Booths, Thresher and Majestic).

    DINNER: For an Aperitif, try fruit beer such as Meantime Raspberry Grand Cru.(Contact brewery for stockists).STARTER: Vegetable Soup TRY: A pale bitter. WHY: The gentle perfume flavours of the beer will complement the taste of the vegetables and leave a pleasant hoppy aftertaste.RECOMMENDED: Coniston Bluebird Bitter. (Available at Asda, Booths, Co-op, Sainsbury's, Waitrose)

    MAIN COURSE: Turkey TRY: Malty Ales WHY: The bittersweet malt will bring out the subtler tastes of the turkey without overpowering the flavours in the vegetables and trimmings.RECOMMENDED: Fuller's 1845 - picture from Fuller's website. (Available at Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose).

    VEGETARIAN: Nut Loaf TRY: A Malty Ale suitable for vegetarians WHY: The spicy, smoky flavours of the malt will complement the nuttiness of the dish.RECOMMENDED: Black Isle Organic Scotch Ale (Suitable for vegans. Contact the brewery for stockists).

    DESSERT: Christmas Pudding or mince pies.TRY: A dark stout or porter WHY: The roast coffee and chocolate flavours in dark stout or porter are a perfect match with sweet desserts (including the after dinner chocolate mint).RECOMMENDED: Titanic Stout. (Available at Sainsbury's).As a digestive try a barley wine such as the 2006 Champion Winter Beer of Britain, A over T by Hog's Back Brewery.(Available at Harrods).

    STAR QUALITYJuly 2006: Doh! Even though the Star Inn beer festival was on my website, I forgot about it until I was in the pub on July 7.

    The Star, in Lockwood, is one of Huddersfield's best pubs and doesn't just add a couple of extra beers at the bar, they erect a whacking great marquee at the back.

    I thought they'd be serving 20 beers, or even 30, but they were serving SEVENTY!And they were selling parkin - ginger food of the gods!

    Real ale AND parkin, did I die and go to heaven in a big white marquee? (There was also cheese - boo!)

    In a Norman Wisdom-esque entrance to the big tent I dropped my glass, but fortunately I was allowed another one for free and quaffed two or three excellent dark ales.

    June 2006: Can there anything be better than lazing on a Saturday afternoon - in Dewsbury?

    The West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury train station, held its annual beer festival from June 1-4 and named it The World Sup in honour of some minor association football tournament.
    Part of the car park at the side of the pub has been sectioned off, a fence erected and most of the area is covered, plus there's a little stage at the end.

    It doesn't sound much but with a glorious day and 26 quaffable ales it was very relaxing, plus some spirited versions of Oasis/Small Faces songs by a couple of well-oiled fellas.The Red Lion Chardonale was beer of the festival.


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