We raise our glasses to The Leopold and CAMRA

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No wonder they’re raising their glasses down at The Leopold in Southsea. The Albert Road pub has just been voted best in the whole of south east Hampshire by members of the Portsmouth branch of the Campaign for Real Ale – for the second year running.

That’s quite some accolade and landlord Stuart Ainsworth has every right to be bursting with pride.

Because the award is a ringing endorsement of not just the ale he serves, but also the atmosphere of his pub and the friendliness of both staff and customers.

Behind every good pub lies a lot of hard work. As Stuart says: ‘The pub is very special to me. It’s a lifestyle rather than a job.’

The Leopold’s success fits in perfectly with our Love Your Local campaign, which aims to celebrate all the excellent pubs in our patch and boost their profile at a time when economic pressures are calling time on all too many hostelries.

While drinking to the success of The Leopold, we should also say cheers to CAMRA and its members.

Forty years ago, a handful of real ale fans got together to bemoan the state of British beer and pubs.

They decided to form an organisation and today CAMRA has 100,000 members.

Its lobbying power has helped ensure that big brewers realise the importance of offering real ales alongside mass market beers.

Smaller brewers have been taken over by conglomerates, but CAMRA has convinced them that producing real ale can still be a good business proposition.

At first it may have struggled to shake off an image of beardy men in woolly pullovers who gathered to enjoy drinking warm beer.

But CAMRA grew into an influential organisation that has played an important part in preserving the great British pub and ales that otherwise might have been consigned to history.

There are now approximately 700 breweries in this country, brewing more than 2,500 different real ales.

Without CAMRA’s support, we doubt those numbers would be so high.