I originally wrote this in 2007 as a reaction to the lack of northern winners at the Great British Beer Festival the year before. I updated it in 2008 and 2010 as I've realised there a few regular breweries who never let you down and thanks to Locale there is more chance to regularly sample Yorks and Lancs brews. On the other hand, Springhead and Phoenix have dropped down the top 10 as I rarely see their beers in Huddersfield these days. The Locale effect? New entries to the top 10 are Saltaire, Salamander and Acorn, Leeds and York drop out.
1 MOORHOUSES: Is this the best thing to come out of Burnley since the A6114? Started brewing real ale in 1978 although the company set up as a drinks manufacturer in 1865.
Best beers: No duff ones here - Black Cat (mild), Premier Bitter, Pride of Pendle and Pendle Witches are all good.
Best places to drink: Moorhouses-owned pubs - Rising Sun, Blacko, Lancs; The Stanley, Burnley; Gerneral Scarlett, Burnley; Craven Heifer, Rawtenstall, Lancs; Pendle Witch, Atherton; Dusty Miller, Bury.
The Grove, Leeds, always has Black Cat on.
2 SALTAIRE Does anyone do flavoured beers better? I don't think so. Triple Chocoholic is a SIBA winner and Hazelnut Coffee Porter is a delight. Real chocolate in the first, ground coffee in the second. They also do cherry, elderflower, raspberry and blackberry. The brewery is based in an old tram generating hall near Saltaire.
3 MARBLE: Organic and vegan beers (although you can still get a steak sandwich in their pubs), the brewery was established in 1997.
Best beers: Ginger Marble tingles on the lips and tongue and feels healthy. For those who think it tastes like medicine try Manchester Bitter. JP Best won best beer brewed in Greater Manchester at 2007 Food and Drink Festival.
Best places to drink: Where it's brewed - the Marble Arch Inn, on the outskirts of Manchester. Plus The Knott, near Deansgate Station, and Marble Beer House, in Chorlton.
4 OSSETT: Since brewing started in the west Yorkshire town of Ossett in 1998, business is booming with a chain of pubs established in west Yorkshire. It's also taken over Riverhead and Fernandes breweries but is still brewing their beers.
Best beers: Best known for Silver King and Pale Gold, the sweeter and stronger Excelsior is my favourite.
Best places to drink: Ossett-owned pubs, including Dewsbury (Shepherds Boy), Elland (Drop Inn), Halifax (Three Pigeons), Hipperholme (Travellers Inn), Liversdege (Black Bull), Marsden (Riverhead), Sowerby Bridge (Shepherds Rest), Wakefield (Fernandes Tap) but the best is the Rat and Ratchet in Huddersfield.
5 ACORN Barnsley Bitter and Old Moor Porter are the stars of this Barnsley brewery but their seasonal beers are always worth a punt.
6 LINFIT There's one place you can get Linfit Beers - in the Sair Inn, in Linthwaite, near Huddersfield (Linfit is how locals pronounce Linthwaite, just like nearby Slaithwaite is pronounced Slawit). Started brewing in 1982 although ale was brewed in the beautiful cottage-like premises in 19th century.
Best beers: Everything from light coloured bitters, through to stouts, milds and 8 per cent beer Enoch's Hammer. My favourites are Special and Old Eli.
7 ALLGATES Straight outta Wigan. Consistently excellent milds, porters and others from the folks behind the town's excellent Anvil pub.
Best beers: Mild at heart
Best place to drink: The Anvil, Wigan
8 SALAMANDER Golden Salamander is always a treat from this Bradford brewery but they've produced hundreds of specials
9 SPRINGHEAD: Civil War names for the various beers from this Newark brewery, established in 1990.
Best beers: Manages to produce a light colured beer without a bitter aftertaste (Springhead Bitter) also Puritans Porter and Roundheads Gold.
10 PHOENIX: Another reliable range of bitters. Established in 1982. Moved to current base in Heywood, Greater Manchester, in 1991.
Best beers: Best Bitter, Monkeytown Mild. Also do Arizona.
Best places to drink: Sandbar, Manchester
OTHER BREWERIES WORTH LOOKING OUT FOR:
BANK TOP (Bolton - Dark Mild)
BAZENS (Salford - Black Pig Mild) Bazens
BRAINS (Cardiff - Dark, Bitter, SA, Rev James) Brains
COTTAGE (Lovington, Somerset) CottageGOLCAR (Golcar, Huddersfield - Dark Mild) GolcarGREAT HECK (Goole - Dave)
LEEDS (Leeds - Midnight Bell) Leeds Brewery
ORKNEY (Stromness, Orkney - Raven Ale, Dark Island)
ROOSTERS (Knaresborough, N Yorks - Hooligan, Special)
YORK (York - Centurions Ghost Ale) York Brewery
Pic: Moorhouses. Some info: Good Beer Guide