Brewers old and new came together to celebrate winning a golden award for their beer last week, marking the 50th year of the campaign for real ale.

Members of CAMRA presented brewers from Thwaites with their award at a ceremony in the newly refurbished Fox and Hounds pub in Ewood, Blackburn.

And after what CEO of Thwaites, Rick Bailey, called a 'nightmare 18 months' for the pub and wider hospitality industry, he said it was 'amazing to be in a venue that had been part of the business for more than 100 years'.

Mr Bailey said: "To come here without masks, without a Covid pass, to get together without any restrictions, is fantastic.

"To celebrate our award we've brought together brewers from the last 20 years and they love reminiscing and talking about the brewery.

"It's a welcome relief to be here actually, especially at a time when the Government are starting to look at introducing more restrictions."

Lancashire Telegraph: Rick Bailey, CEO of Thwaites, behind the bar at the Fox and Hounds

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), awarded Thwaites with their golden award, after recognising the brewer's long-standing commitment to excellence.

Nominations for the golden awards were made by CAMRA members and locals, with more than 80 nominations submitted.

These were then whittled down to a final list of 18 awardees including breweries and cider makers.

And the award comes after pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants were forced to close as a result of the pandemic, causing many breweries to shut for good.

Mr Bailey added: "The last 18 months has been a nightmare as we have been shut. We don't sell our beer in supermarkets or off licences so the pub is a life line to breweries like ours.

"Even though we were shut we had to keep on brewing in smaller batches all the way through Covid to maintain the yeast, as we couldn't risk it being destroyed.

"We also wanted to keep everything working for when we got back into pubs.

"Looking at where we will be in the future, community pubs like ours are the biggest social outreach programmes in the land. They bring people together; people who live on their own.

Lancashire Telegraph: The new batch of brewers at Thwaites

"I'm very positive about the role of the pub in the future and have confidence that we will get through whatever Covid throws at us next.

"The future is bright and the pub is a precious commodity that needs to be looked after.

"Locking people up at home and taking away the opportunity to go down to the pub and have a bit of respite and relief from ordinary life has really done a lot of damage."

Director of Pubs and Brewing at Thwaites, Andrew Buchanan said the pub was the heart and soul of the brewing business and to be awarded the CAMRA accreditation was 'fantastic'.

He said: "Beer is in our blood, and to be nominated by CAMRA members up and down the country really speaks volumes about our commitment to ale."

When CAMRA was first founded in the 70s, there were very few breweries about, but fast forward 50 years and even though many have closed, there are lots of new breweries popping up in small towns and cities.

Rick Bickhall from CAMRA said: "Breweries are the bed rock of real ale and Thwaites sits up there with the best.

"Without Thwaites some breweries wouldn't have been able to take off, so this award is really to say thanks for being around - if it wasn't for breweries like Thwaites, we wouldn't have real ale today."