Mark Briggs has been a real ale connoisseur for over 35 years.  A self-professed ‘beer geek’, Mark visits East Lancashire’s pubs for his weekly column. Read of Mark’s adventures in ale at his blog or follow him on Twitter @realaleupnorth

THIS week's review leads me to a pub that has recently been awarded, Blackburn with Darwen’s Most Improved Pub, by the East Lancashire Branch of CAMRA.

The Navigation Inn, is in the Mill Hill district of Blackburn, and is only a five minute walk from the railway station, to its pleasant canal side location, on the Leeds to Liverpool Canal. However, it did take a little longer, as I stopped off at the Old Mill Hill Chippy and enjoyed pie and chips on the canal bank, with the ducks and geese.

On entering the Thwaites owned pub, I found an open plan, one room area, with adequate comfy seating, pool table and an L- shaped bar.

It was rather quiet, as you would expect for a Tuesday lunchtime, and there were just three or four customers at the bar. They had three Thwaites cask ales on offer: two of their core beers, Original and Lancaster Bomber, and one of the 'Signature Range', Stolen Identity.

I went for the latter. And on requesting Stolen Identity, a regular at the bar - who I would describe as a ‘colourful character’ said: “I can arrange you a stolen identity”. I didn't really know whether he was being serious or not.

The beer was in good condition, a light, crisp and refreshing quaff, and I decided to enjoy my beverage in the beer garden, at the rear of the pub.

As my eyes are dodgy, the pleasant, helpful young lady behind the bar, kindly led me to it, via a narrow corridor and some metal steps. It was a small, enclosed area, with a few tables and flower pots. However, it was a rather uninspiring area, in my opinion, and I soon returned to try another one of the ales on offer.

Lancaster Bomber was up next, a consistently good ale - or so I thought.

Unfortunately, the beer was in poor condition. It appeared past its sell-by date and I had to return the ale after a couple of slurps. I have to say there is no excuse for beer in this condition. It was early in the day, and I presumed the beer had been run-off and tasted.

I returned to the bar and explained the situation, and was immediately offered a replacement. Again, it was the excellent, Stolen Identity. However, at three quid a pint, a tad pricey, as you will always find with Thwaites' beers - unfortunately.

Outside there is pleasant view of the canal, and there is a bench seat, a couple of small tables, and a few plastic chairs to sit on.

It was okay sat out with a couple of friendly regulars. However, it was a little disappointing to witness lots of fag ends on the cobbled street outside the entrance of the pub. I presume there had been many smokers who had visited the hostelry over the weekend.

In all honesty, I had set out expecting more of a pub that had been awarded most improved boozer in Blackburn for 2014.

I am always ever keen to promote and talk-up pubs and their beer quality – there's no argument about that. However, I was disappointed overall on my visit to this Mill Hill hostelry.

I will certainly visit the pub again in the near future though as good work must have been done by the tenants, in their first 12 months, in attempting to get 'The Navi' back to being an asset in the local community - the award had proved that.

And I will be happy, on my return, for an opportunity to hopefully redress the balance.