The Albatross Club in Bexhill, Dartford Working Men’s Club, Cheltenham Motor Club and Leyton Orient FC Supporters Club all hold their own beer festivals throughout the year and boast a wide range of well-kept fantastic real ales.
The CAMRA Club of the Year competition awards is run in conjunction with Club Mirror magazine with the simple aim of finding the best clubs serving real ale most committed to quality real ale – those which offer a fantastic atmosphere, welcoming surroundings and most importantly, top quality real ale served in great condition. Clubs are nominated by CAMRA branches across the country and judged by a panel of volunteer CAMRA members throughout the year.
John Holland, CAMRA’s National Club of the Year coordinator says: “It is a fantastic achievement to be considered one of the top four real ale clubs in the country. We are seeing more and more clubs making quality real ale a priority, which makes the competition stronger than ever.
“Clubs play a huge role in many local communities across the UK. They provide a safe, social environment in which to enjoy a pint with people who you know and trust. They can help people build and strengthen social networks and can be a lifeline in times of need. To be a part of a club is to be part of a family.”
The four finalists were presented with a commemorative plate yesterday at the Club Mirror Awards night. They will then have to wait until spring next year to discover which will be named CAMRA’s Club of the Year.
The Albatross Club (RAFA), Bexhill
The Albatross Club won Club of the Year last year as well as multiple CAMRA awards. It always serves at least one local ale, often from the likes of Franklins or Rother Valley. They have four handpumps and a comprehensive range of upcoming beers is listed on a blackboard behind the bar. The club holds regular beer festivals in April and September in its large function room as well as many social events such as jazz nights, quizzes and folk evenings. It is very popular among its members and CAMRA members are always welcome. The club boasts an interesting collection of RAF memorabilia.
Dartford Working Men’s Club, Dartford
This CIU club boasts a selection of fifteen real ales on handpump as well as ciders on gravity. The ales come from various micro and regional breweries, with over 500 different beers being served each year. The club is home to the BBC award winning Dartford Folk Club meeting on Tuesday evenings and there is live music every Saturday night and a popular quiz night on the first Wednesday of each month. Up to four beer festivals are held each year and CAMRA members are welcome as guests.
Cheltenham Motor Club, Cheltenham
This friendly and welcoming club, formed in 1906, welcomes CAMRA members and was previously a finalist in CAMRA’s Club of the Year competition. The club usually has five ales on tap and four ciders including Thatcher’s Heritage cider. The club is divided into a bar/TV room, now with an additional snug and a games room separated by a folding partition. The bar is decorated with motoring paraphernalia and an extensive collection of pump clips. The Club has once again made it to the final round because of its clearly demonstrable commitment to high quality real ale and welcoming atmosphere.
Leyton Orient FC Supporters Club
A previous Club of the Year award winner, the Leyton Orient FC has a great supporters club and is very friendly and welcoming. It boasts a fantastic range of high quality beers and knowledgeable staff. Serving real ale since 1995, it now usually offers a range of seven, and one or two ciders / perries, with bar snacks and rolls available. It usually closes during matches but reopens afterwards – it only regularly opens when Leyton Orient FC are playing at home. It has a very busy and good mixed clientele as well as a clean and tidy decor. The club hosts two beer festivals each season as well as several special brewery-themed nights. Free entry is permitted with a CAMRA membership card or a copy of the Guide. It has previously shared the national CAMRA Club of the Year award.