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Over 60s

  Mon 7th March 2011

I got a phone call a fortnight ago from a local brewer and pub owner asking me if I'd like to be one of the judges to find the champion beer of Lancashire during our Beer Festival. There were over sixty entries.

Thursday then, was a very sociable and educational day, partly because I was allocated to the same tasting panel as professional beer writer Melissa Cole. A rather irritating man repeatedly asked her what her favourite beer is. In an excellent display of lip-biting, she tried to explain that beer isn't something that can be ranked like a league table. I managed to extract from him that he was some sort of engineer, but he was texting throughout the tasting, looking up sideways at us to make us repeat our questions which clearly failed to match his texts for interest. It's a privilege to be asked to do this, so turn your fucking phone off. "I could have strangled him," she said to me later.

Melissa Cole at Lancaster Beerfest 2011

I had to introduce her and Roger Protz, perhaps the best known beer writer in the country. I lost my notes so after five hours' drinking had to improvise. It went fine and in fact it looked better to be speaking without them. At last my duties were over and I could enjoy Melissa Cole's entertaining ramble through the winning beers in each category.

The beer to which I gave the highest marks won Overall Champion: if you ever encounter Lancashire Stout by Mayflower Brewery, avail yourself of a pint: it's a divine drink, all dark chocolate and burnt orange, and I'm very pleased that the brewery itself is so happy to have won. I can feel a trip to The Turk's Head in St Helens coming on.

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