The competition begins with Panels selecting the best beers in the various classes - Mild, Bitter, Best Bitter, Golden Ale, Strong Bitter and Speciality Ale. Beers from the East swept the board in the Mild category, won by Oscar Wilde Mild from Mighty Oak of Essex. Second was Elgood's Black Dog from Wisbech and third, from Oakham, Grainstore Rutland Panther.

The coveted champion Bitter award ( won controversially by Greene King IPA in 2004) went to Elgood's Cambridge Bitter. Ironically this is not an easy beer to find round Cambridge though the Waggon and Horses at Milton is a renowned outlet both for this and Black Dog. Very well done to Elgoods, one of our sadly declining number of family brewers and a company which has improved the quality of its ales enormously in recent times.

In the Speciality Ales category there was a silver medal for Straw Dog, a wheat beer from the Wolf Brewery in Norfolk. This ale makes sporadic appearances at the Regal in Cambridge.

That old favourite Woodforde's Wherry (regularly available at the Cambridge Blue, Gwydir Street) picked up bronze in the Bitter class and in the separate Real Ale in a Bottle contest, Greene King's excellent Hen's Tooth came second to Worthington White Sheild.

Last year's overall champion, Crouch Vale Brewers Gold (from Essex) was voted best Golden Ale and, with the other category winners, went through to the final round of judging to decide the Champion Beer of Britain - and, for an unprecedented two years in a row, Brewers Gold came out tops. Second overall was the wonderful Harveys Sussex Best Bitter and third Triple FFF Moondance.

Brewers Gold is a glorious beer, well hopped but beautifully balanced with lots of zesty fruity flavours. It's a regular at the Kingston Arms Cambridge but will no doubt be appearing elsewhere too, albeit in the sadly few local pubs which can have beers of their own choice.

The Great British Beer Festival itself was a terrific success in its new venue of Earls Court, having outgrown nearby Olympia. Visitor numbers were some 40% up at 66,000 and several emergency beer re-orders were required.