Choosing our first winner proved to be relatively simple as one name sprang immediately to most people’s lips – Vincent Castiglione at the Maypole, Park Street, Cambridge.

The Maypole has been in the Castiglione family for 28 years, mostly as tenants with Tolly, then Pubmaster, then Punch. Happily, last year, they were able to buy the freehold from Punch. Mario Castiglione, the landlord, is renowned for his cocktail-making skills and has won a host of awards, displayed above the bar. Recently Mario has started to take a well-deserved break from full-time graft and son Vincent is now Bar Manager. Vincent is a huge real ale enthusiast and even in the Punch days would offer you a choice of four interesting beers. With freedom from the tie, that choice has moved up several gears.

Entering the main bar, the first thing you see is a magnificent bank of eight handpulls (and there are two more in the back bar). Next you’ll notice that they feature a fantastic selection of mostly East Anglian beers, mainly from small breweries. The likes of Milton, Elgoods, Oakham, Nethergate and Buntingford are usually present, with the last now brewing a house beer, Maypole, a lovely golden hoppy 3.8% beer, brewed to Vincent’s personal spec. The eight real ales are complemented by two local ciders from Pickled Pig and Crones.

The third thing you’ll notice is that your beer or cider will be in excellent condition as Vincent is an absolute stickler for quality. He’s also open to customer requests, so if there’s a beer you’d like to try, pop in and see him.

But there’s more. Belgian bottled beers have begun to appear, starting with Westmalle, Chimay, Orval and Timmermans and this could be the next growth area.

The other point to make about the Maypole (as well as its excellent, good-value food) is that, despite its city centre location, it retains very much the atmosphere of a local – a far cry from the “circuit” pubs and bars not too far away.