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Regulars in Castle Rock pubs across the East Midlands and Yorkshire have chosen Bateman’s XXXB as their favourite real ale for 2008. In a very high turnout contest held across the Castle Rock Brewery estate of over 20 pubs, a majority of the 1,100 voters picked the 4.8% per cent bitter from the Lincolnshire brewer as their favourite. Second place went to Thornbridge Brewery’s Jaipur IPA, winner of the contest in 2007; with Acorn Brewery’s Barnsley Bitter coming third.

“In this tenth year of the competition, the result has been as closely fought as ever,” says Castle Rock’s commercial director, Colin Wilde. “What the results clearly show is that our customers know good ale whenever they meet it and aren’t afraid to embrace a broad range of tastes, strengths and locations. This year we welcome Acorn Brewery to the awards’ list for the first time, see a second triumph for Thornbridge and honour one of the country’s leading family owned breweries.”
Voting in Castle Rock Brewery’s pubs was conducted through the Autumn with regulars putting forward their favourites from many hundreds of real ales available through the year.

Stuart Bateman, managing director Batemans, says, “This is an honour we’ll all appreciate for years to come. Not only is it the only competition like this where the drinking public has the sole right to vote; but it takes place in pubs that are among the best in the country where the real ale tradition flourishes, quality is a byword, and the customers’ knowledge unrivalled.”

Speaking for Acorn Brewery, brewery manager John Haig thanked the team at the New Barrack Tavern. “Kev and Steph have been loyal fans of our Barnsley Bitter since 2004, and we’re delighted their customers have voted our beer into the top three. At Acorn, we believe in producing consistently high quality beers, but this award also recognises Kev’s and Steph’s hard work to ensure their customers likewise receive a consistently high standard of real ale.”

In a separate award, the brewer of the year, which recognises a high appreciation across a range of beers as well as outstanding in-trade support, went to Warwickshire’s Purity Brewing Company.

Colin Wilde says, “We believe this is the only regional poll of its kind and its importance, and the interest shown in the result, seems to grow each year. As ever, though, six regular ales didn’t qualify for the event as they come from Castle Rock Brewery, which we own,” he says. “They’ve been excluded to remove any hint of in-house bias.”

The award ceremony was held at the Canalhouse on the city’s Canal Street, Nottingham, on Tuesday 18 November 2008.


Winner: Batemans XXXB. Chris Holmes, chairman Castle Rock Brewery, presents Batemans managing director, Stuart Bateman and marketing director, Jaclyn Bateman with the beer of the year award.


Runner up: Jaipur IPA. Receiving the award, Dave Wickett, consultant Thornbridge Brewery.


Third place: Barnsley Bitter with Chris Holmes, chairman Castle Rock Brewery are Acorn Brewery manager John Haig and head brewer Dave Hughes (right)