The sad news recently emerged of Richard's death at the age of 67. His role in the real ale revival was significant. In 1973, just as CAMRA itself was getting going, he started a weekly column, Boston on Beer, in the Guardian. Richard drew vivid attention to the horrible things which were happening to British beer, with the "Big Six" brewers increasingly dominating the market and flooding it with tasteless, fizzy but heavily promoted keg ale. He also highlighted the remaining producers of cask- conditioned beer and encouraged readers to seek out and enjoy the stuff. There's no doubt that the growth of CAMRA owed much to Richard's high-profile and inspirational writing.

"Beer and Skittles", published in 1976, is still a book I treasure. It includes a history of beer, erudite descriptions of the brewing process itself and a powerful chapter, "Modern Times", covering the rise of the mega-brewers and their dreadful impact on traditional ale. Thankfully, the tide turned around this time as customers rebelled against the garbage being foisted on them and the real ale revival gathered pace. The Big Six, who are now the Big Four, still dominate brewing to an unhealthy extent but real ale is firmly established as the drink of choice of sufficient drinkers to make it easily available in most parts of the country (especially round here).

Richard was as interested in pubs as he was in beer and my favourite chapter in "Beer and Skittles" is "The Public House". He writes "In brief, a pub is a place for social drinking. To use a pub only for drinking or only for socialising is possible but goes against the spirit of the place". He goes on to describe the kinds of character you're likely to encounter in a pub, the etiquette of pub-going, pub games (in which he was obviously very interested) and the design and development of pub buildings themselves. On the last, he extolled in particular the wonders of surviving Victorian "gin palaces" (as he called them) like the Philharmonic in Liverpool, the Bartons Arms Birmingham and the Blackfriars London. Nowadays I chair CAMRA's Pub Heritage Group and look back to Richard as one of the founders of the movement to celebrate and preserve pubs of historic and architectural importance.

The final chapter of "Beer and Skittles" is a gazetteer of the remaining breweries which produced real ale. Sadly vast numbers of them are no more (though hundreds of micro-breweries, some of which have grown into full-size breweries, have opened since).

Richard has now gone to the great pub in the sky so let's hope it serves a decent drop of real ale (though a final irony is that his favourite tipple was gin and tonic!).

Paul Ainsworth