Pubs serving up a perfect pint have once again been rewarded by real ale enthusiasts in a prestigious annual prize-giving.
The South East Lancashire (SEL) branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has announced its annual awards for the best watering holes in Leigh and the surrounding area.
It’s becoming harder and harder to pick the winnersSEL Camra chairman Steven Prescott
The top prize for Pub of the Year was won for the first time by the Travellers Rest in Lowton, which was recognised for serving superb real ales alongside a high-quality food menu.
The Club of the Year was less of a novelty as stalwart Gin Pit venue the Astley and Tyldesley Miners’ Welfare Institute picked up yet another piece of silverware to add to its impressive collection.
Landlords across Leigh and nearby towns still have the chance to impress SEL Camra and pick up an accolade as the Community Pub of the Year prize is still to be decided.
Ale enthusiasts say this year’s prizes prove the local real ale scene is in a very healthy position, with long-established venues and comparative newcomers both excelling.
SEL Camra chairman Steven Prescott said: “It has been a very strong year with an increase in cask beer. There is now a vast choice of beer compared to what Leigh used to be like and these are the places to drink it in.
“The Travellers Rest has won a seasonal prize before but this is the first time it has got an overall award. It’s basically a wayside pub but it serves good beer and has a very good food reputation and a nice, comfortable atmosphere.
“In summer there is also a wonderful beer garden and it backs onto Lowton Moss, which makes it very popular with walkers. It’s a worthy winner.
“The Gin Pit is a real favourite and it has won again because of its commitment to the locality and it is friendly and welcoming.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to pick the winners, which is very pleasurable for drinkers. New places are springing up with cask beer as one of their main attractions every year.”
Travellers Rest proprietor Antony O’Garra was thrilled to add the Pub of the Year prize to the best pub of the season award the Newton Road venue has previously picked up.
He said: “It’s absolutely amazing. It’s great for the pub, all the locals who come here and the fantastic bar staff.”
“It shows we make sure the beer is spot on every time someone wants a drink. We have a good regular trade and we sell a lot of cask.
“It’s absolutely superb to be recognised for something the pub has always had, a good cellar. It’s about maintaining that.”
The pub has four handpulls on the bar, two serving the permanent ales Wainwrights and Theakston’s Best and the other two featuring a selection of guest beers.
At the Gin Pit mining institute drinkers have a choice of five cask ales, with the emphasis given to promoting and supporting local brewers and those across the North West.
Appropriately given the place’s history, AllGates beers from Wigan, many of them named after aspects of the borough’s mining heritage, are particularly popular.
The Gin Pit itself has become a real hub for the Tyldesley and Astley community, with everything from football and cricket to bowling and cycle speedway taking place there and an amateur radio club meeting on the site.
Club steward John Currie said: “Winning again is just as big an honour as it was the first time. The most important job is looking after the cellar to make sure we’ve got a good pint.
“Real ale is getting bigger and it’s very important to be recognised by Camra because it spreads the word.”
The branch’s prize for the best real cider pub of the year went to micropub The Firkin in Newton-le-Willows.
For more information about the branch, visit www.southeastlancs.camra.org.uk/