Dorset members of the Campaign for Real Ale [CAMRA] have several reasons to celebrate, with both the winner and runner-up of the Wessex Pub of the Year competition being in North Dorset.

The 2014 Good Beer Guide is publishedon Thursday [12 September] and includes 31 West Dorset pubs, recommended and surveyed by local CAMRA members.

Additionally, CAMRA nationally is celebrating reaching 150,000 members, thought to be the most successful consumer organisation in Europe.

The Trooper Inn at Stourton Caundle, between Sherborne and Sturminster Newton in the heart of the Blackmore Vale, has won the Wessex CAMRA Pub of the Year title. Only five miles to the west is the runner-up, the Three Elms Inn at North Wootton, three miles east of Sherborne.

“The CAMRA regional Pub of the Year competition includes all the pubs in Hampshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight, Channel Islands with parts of Surrey and Wiltshire,” says CAMRA spokesman Michel Hooper-Immins, “so it is a really remarkable achievement for the top two this year to be from North Dorset. It demonstrates the overall quality of our Dorset real ale houses and we congratulate both licensees.” The Trooper Inn was nominated by the Heart of Wessex CAMRA branch and The Three Elms by the West Dorset branch.

With the publication of the 2014 Good Beer Guide, 31 West Dorset pubs are celebrating being listed in the prestigious UK-wide real ale handbook. Recommended for the second year running is the thatched Royal Oak pub in Cerne Abbas, owned by Hall & Woodhouse. Licensee Nicky Bligh has continued the good work of retired licensee Brendan Malone since taking over earlier in the year and is delighted the iconic pub, which dates back to 1540, has retained the prized listing- primarily based on the good quality of their Blandford-brewed Badger real ales.

Hall & Woodhouse Chairman Mark Woodhouse says: “Hall & Woodhouse public houses aim to serve perfect beer all of the time. I am delighted that Nicky Bligh at the Royal Oak has been recognised for doing so.”

Palmers’ thatched Bridport brewery provides six of the listed pubs, including the Royal Standard at Lyme Regis, the Ropemakers Arms at Bridport and the Thimble Inn at Piddlehinton. Palmers’ Tenanted Trade Director Jayson Perfect is overjoyed. He says: “We are very proud of our Tenants and their awards. The licensees put their hearts and souls into their pubs and it’s fantastic to see their commitment and dedication being rewarded.”

Other recommendations include the Grade II listed Wellington Arms in Weymouth’s St. Alban Street, the Royal Portland Arms in Fortuneswell- visited by King George III- and the awardwinning Colliton Club in Dorchester. On the borders of Dorset are the Bottle Inn at Marshwood- famed for nettle eating- and the Digby Tap at Sherborne.

“We congratulate all 31 pubs, which are chosen by local CAMRA members following a rigorous inspection procedure and recommended for the high standard of their real ales, including many from Dorset breweries,” comments Michel Hooper-Immins.

CAMRA began in 1971 and achieved 100,000 members in 2009. Hitting the 150,000 target was announced last week at the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court. “There’s much more interest in good real ale these days,” comments CAMRA spokesman Michel Hooper-Immins, “our increasing membership reflects the huge number of outstanding real ales made in Dorset and by other UK breweries.” Females now make up 22% of the UK membership.

The 2014 Good Beer Guide, published on Thursday [12 September,] sells for £15.99. It will be on sale at the West Dorset October beer festival at the Ocean Room in Weymouthon Friday 4 and Saturday 5 October.

Michel Hooper-Immins