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It's been nigh on thirty years since I last set foot in Dewsbury Town Hall. Back in the early eighties the emphasis was on music rather than beer, though a few pints of Tetleys (virtually the only thing on offer then) never went amiss as we attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to become the next Pistols/Magazine/Clash.

The town crier officially opens Dewsbury Beer Festival - the first to be held in the Town Hall since the seventies.

I'm glad to say that the old place is very much as I remember it, with ornate ceiling and unbreachable stage intact - the latter being a necessary feature in those days - but though I've long since swapped my Fender Telecaster for some rudimentary beer knowledge (a step in the wrong direction?), the nerves were nevertheless jangling as I trod the boards once more.

CAMRA's Mike Roebuck introduces special guest Daisy Claeys (middle)

Being invited to take part in the judging at the first festival to be held here since the seventies was a great privilege (thank you Sarah & Ros) and as with all these events it's as much about the people as it is the ale. Our eclectic team, headed up by special guest Daisy Claeys (Belgium's answer to the late Michael Jackson), unanimously saw Fernandes past the post first with the wonderful 'Rum For Cover', whilst grabbing the runner-up mantle was the exceptional 'Niamh's Nemesis' from Five Towns of Wakefield, a stunning IPA of Jaipur magnitude. In the bronze medal position was Leeds Midnight Bell, the brewery's most consistent, though increasingly rare, flagship ale.

I should point out that the available seventy beers had been whittled down overnight (a thankless task I'm sure!) to just eight for the purposes of our judging, so if any one's wondering why (for example Tim) the wondrous Mallinsons Simcoe hasn't featured - it ain't my fault! In fact a host of classy ales are undoubtedly still waiting to be uncovered here, and that, amongst many other good reasons, is why I'll be back again tomorrow!

Judging begins