I’m writing this from the real ale backwater that is my birth town of Leicester. I’m sure the place has real ale pubs, in fact I know there are many listed in the Good Beer Guide, but I never seem to get to them somehow. Elsewhere you experience the green wash that is Everards in pretty much every other pub you visit. Their Tiger is a decent beer, drinkable and the best of their regular brews they offer. However after drinking in Calderdale, the taste of relative blandness pervades the taste buds.

Talking of blandness, its time to give Greene King some well overdue criticism, although I have had to limit it to mild annoyance this week. As you know they support the Beer Matters campaign in a major trade magazine, and their Trade Quality manager was interviewed this week. I’m glad to see that he doesn’t consider their beer to be real ale, instead referring to it as cask ale, a technically correct term for how it is made. Part of his job is showing publicans “best way to care for cask ale, as well as educating them about kegged products, line cleaning and how to serve the perfect pint”. It must be hard to achieve the last part of his job when he has to work with Greene King products. Start with a good product and he may have a chance one day. My annoyance, you ask, was the misfortune to consume a half of their Abbot Ale over the weekend and it was still as bland as I remembered.

Fortunately I had took a mini pub crawl from Brighouse to Southowram last week and sampled several excellent ales in advance of my weekend away. Firstly, another new brewery for me, Toad, based in Doncaster. Their Blonde on Blonde (at Shoulder of Mutton, Southowram) is a hoppy pale beer as you would expect from the name, goes down very nicely and leaves a nice aftertaste. The same pub also do the very good Saltaire Blonde as a regular beer. The second at the end of my journey was the excellent as normal Ossett Silver King at the Cock and Bottle, Bank Top. There was a third beer at the Ship Inn, but I forgot to note the name of the brew, however I can remember it was a rather good dark ale.

Last week I mentioned that a visit to the Copper Dragon complex at Skipton was worthwhile. Obviously many more people agree their beer is worth it as their sales went up 15% in 2010. They are one of the best of our larger real ale breweries and their success can only help the ale market as a whole. I’ll not linger on the Champion Winter Beer Award too much as it was covered in more detail last week. The winner was Hop Back Entire Stout (4.5%, described as a dark rich stout), with Manchesters’ Marble Brewery “Chocolate” taking silver (their “Pint” is recommended if you spot it) and Praetorian Porter (Dow Bridge) proving Leicestershire is not a real ale desert, I merely am not finding the oasis. In other news the people behind the seemingly ubiquitous Cask Marque logo are to introduce a scheme for the creme de la creme of their marque holders. Titled Beautiful Beer, the award will be given to up to 250 pubs across the country who excel in the realm of Cask Ale. Given the rarity, it will be a good sign of potentially cracking ale, and hopefully some of our local hostelries will receive it, as they so deserve.

Maybe one of those pubs will be in the CAMRA 2010 Pubs of the Year for Halifax & Calderdale. The main award went to the Old Ship Inn (Brighouse), a well deserved victory in my opinion. The Cider award goes to Stubbing Wharf (Hebden Bridge), again an excellent pub, however facing a lot less competition within the category. Also announced was the Pub of the Season award for Autumn 2010, with the winner being the Big Six (King Cross), a hard to find, but such worthwhile place to visit and sample some fine ales in a traditional pub setting, with the entire pub being a collection of differently shaped snugs.

Remember to partake in your “up to a pint” to accompany your new found Mediterranean diet from last week and it just leaves my wish you Happy Supping!