An extremely close finish between the Globe at Old Linslade and the Wharf at Bugbrooke for the title. I'm almost tempted to declare a draw, but that would be chickening out. (Not that we ate any chicken).
So the winner on the narrowest of margins is . . .
The Wharf at Bugbrooke - a little bit dearer but worth it. Oh dear that is beginning to sound like a Loreal advert.
As for the Best Pint, you may ask why it isn't called Best Beer or Best Ale. That's because we want to include draft cider. People who don't drink such things might think this is all about just booze, but we happen to think that a truly great ale or cider should have the same respect as a great wine.
I have to confess that this is our most devotedly researched category, and we have endured a great many samples in order to provide a short list this year. With a shortlist of only three, some very fine samples have had to be excluded. Real Ale and real cider are of course very dependent on the skill and care of the hostelry, so the pubs take nearly as much credit as the brewers.
Here they are then.
1. Fullers ESB at the Black Horse, Greenford. Fuller's pubs all seem to keep their beer well, but we've had a couple of truly exceptional pints of this classic strong ale here. ESB is rich and malty and satisfying. I have to be careful not to get as satisfied as a newt because it is pretty strong.
2. St Austel Tribute at the Mad Bishop and Bear, Paddington. This, believe it or not is the railway station bar! Not quite canalside, but near enough to qualify. All their beers are beautifully kept and the Tribute - a slightly pale, fruity ale with a lovely hoppy clean taste, is outstanding. The actual bar is quite pleasant too.
3. Our cider! Weston's Old Rosie at Fort St George, Cambridge. Even stronger than ESB of course, slightly cloudy (that's only apple), very fruity and just on the right side of dry. A good job the boat was only a few feet away. The fact that we avoided going back in there on our second night moored outside is a true testament to our will power.