The Good Beer Guide is, depending on your predilections either a worthless and outdated way of telling you where you'll find good real ale, or, on the other hand, a vademecum, without which you'd never venture out of your home territory on an amber nectar seeking mission. Either way there is little doubt that pubs and breweries value their entry in it greatly and competition to gain entry is very fierce indeed. It is therefore most unusual to have the same pub in it for forty years - just one short of the maximum possible - very rare indeed in fact, with around six others nationwide in the same enviable position.
Thus it was I was called to the Cross Keys in Uppermill to present a certificate to the current licensees to mark this milestone. The Cross Keys is up a very steep hill from Uppermill Village and is owned by JW Lees. Splendidly traditional, with stone flagged floors, it was built in 1745 on the Marsden Packhorse route over the Pennines and became a pub in 1763. It sells rather a comprehensive range of Lees beers and in addition, is home to many different groups including the Oldham Mountain Rescue Team, a Ukelele Club and of course a folk music one. Really a traditional pub at the heart of its local community. The place was packed with CAMRA members, representatives of Lees Brewery and of course locals. It was a very jolly scene on a lovely sunny afternoon.
In my speech I remarked that the award was a tribute not only to the current licensees, but those before them in the previous forty years. I pointed out how hard it is to get in the guide in the first place and the remarkable difficulty of persuading local members year after year of the case for entry. I highlighted the importance to the community of such pubs and their service to local people. It was one of those moments that makes being the Branch Chairman an absolute pleasure. It was equally pleasurable to talk to the licensees. That's essential if you are to do your CAMRA job properly. I tried two beers. Lees Brewer's Dark, a fine mild, was a rare treat in cask format and the seasonal, Hoptimist lived up to it name. The beers were in superb condition. I expected no less.
Lees kindly bought us all a pint. Cheers for that.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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