CAMRA has named the best four clubs in the country as part of its Club of the Year 2018 competition, run in conjunction with Club Mirror magazine.

Two Royal Air Force Association (RAFA) clubs – the Albatross Club in Bexhill-on-Sea and the Real Ale Farm in Bargoed, Wales make the final four. The Albatross was a finalist last year and took home the national title in 2016. It boasts an interesting collection of RAF memorabilia and regularly holds beer festivals and social events.

The Real Ale Farm is housed in the oldest surviving building in Bargoed, dating back to the 17th century. It offers the best range of quality beers for miles around, selected for flavour and interest and sourced from breweries both near and far. It hosts numerous charity events throughout the year.

Also in the running is another previous winner the Appleton Thorn Village Hall in Warrington. The club has recently introduced a new gin bar, which is also proving to be very popular with members.

Finally, the Flixton Conservative Club in Manchester is in the running after a recent transformation has seen an even wider range of real ales and ciders brought in. The club runs monthly brewery

The aim of the competition is to find clubs with the greatest commitment 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.

Club of the Year co-ordinator Keith Spencer (pictured above)  said: “All four clubs demonstrate a first-class commitment to real ale and a dedication to the respective communities they each serve, making them all absolutely vital to their local areas.”

Publisher and managing director of Club Mirror Sean Ferris said: “Now, more than ever, clubs are proving to be at the heart of the community and we’re proud to have been working with them to secure this position for the past 49 years.

“Next year?  Our determination – and theirs – will be even stronger.  We’ll be campaigning and lobbying to ensure that they remain where they should be, at the heart of the community, despite so many closures in other sections of the local area.”

The four finalists were presented with a commemorative plate in December at the Club Mirror Awards. They will now have to wait until spring next year to discover which will be named CAMRA’s Club of the Year.


The finalists

The Albatross

15 Marine Arcade, Bexhill-on-Sea, TN40 1JS

A most welcoming and friendly RAFA club, the Albatross was awarded National CAMRA Club of the Year in 2016 and is a consistent winner of CAMRA local and regional awards. At least one local beer is always available – often from Franklins, Gun or Rother Valley. Other beers are nationally sourced and regular beer festivals are open to the public. Additionally, there are folk, jazz and quiz nights. CAMRA members are always welcome.


Real Ale Farm (RAFA)

Gilfach Fargoed, Fawr Farm, Cardiff Road, CF81 8NY

A CAMRA award-winning club that offers the best range and quality of beer for miles with up to four guest ales and two ciders or perries, selected for flavour and interest and sourced from breweries both near and far. The building pre-dates the industrial age and has a complex history. Numerous charity events feature and also the occasional beer festival. The short walk from Gilfach Fargoed station presents a modest but energetic climb.

Visitors are welcome but must be signed in.


Appleton Thorn Village Hall

Stretton Road, Appleton Thorn, Warrington, WA4 4RT

The bar serves a cosy lounge and a larger function room with a pool room. Stained glass fringes the lounge while the function room is adorned with period agricultural implements. Welcoming staff will give tasters of the seven regularly changing ales, together with ciders and perries. Sunday lunches are popular, as is the new gin bar.

CAMRA Cheshire regional director Nick Bosley said: “The sign at the front says it all ‘the heart of your community’. As well as its ever-changing range of seven beers and five ciders/perries the club also host multiple community events such as pre-school, brownies and Yoga studio. it also hosts a popular annual beer festival in October.”


Flixton Conservative Club

193 Flixton Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 5DF

With six handpumps on its main bar, this CAMRA award-winning club continues to display a genuine commitment to selling quality real ales and the occasional real cider. A further five pumps upstairs allow the club to run monthly brewery nights with a small entry fee, pie and peas included. Various other events are held including a regular quiz night. The club is home to a wide range of sports teams including snooker, bowls darts, dominoes and chess.

Graham Donning, CAMRA regional director for Greater Manchester said: “The commitment to promoting real ales at this suburban club has seen it be named local branch club of the year for five consecutive years. Six hand pumps on its main bar rotate through an ever-changing selection of ales with local breweries dominating.

“Five more pumps in the upstairs function room are used for monthly brewery nights with a local brewer invited to showcase five of their ales to the club’s guests and the club hosts an annual beer festival. The club is home to a wide range of sports teams including snooker, bowls darts, dominoes and chess.”

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