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Chalford Sports & Social scoops CAMRA award

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The Chalford Sports & Social Club has scooped the title of Stroud CAMRA Club of the Year for the second year running. Ali and Rob Brady were presented with a certificate recording their achievement at a presentation ceremony and celebration on Sunday, writes Tim Mars.

“We had a good turnout of Stroud CAMRA and club members,” reports Tim Mars, Stroud CAMRA Pubs Officer. “It was a bucolic, unseasonably warm and sunny November afternoon which only added to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the club, which sits right at the top of Chalford Hill with a glorious southerly aspect across the tennis courts. Even Stagecoach played ball, with both the outward and return 67 bus services running to timetable.”

Rob Brady runs the Good Beer Company, a leading local wholesaler which exclusively distributes Stroud Brewery beers and supplies the Prince Albert (among many other pubs) with cask ales from a wide roster of breweries across the country.

“Rob really pulled out all the stops this time and came up with an exceptional selection of beers for our delectation. Brew York’s Tonkoko—a silky smooth and indulgent milk stout described as “liquid Bounty in a glass” by its fans—had been held over especially for the presentation.”

Other real ales on tap included Steam Town Reefer from Eastleigh, an amber session IPA, and Ainsty Cool Citra from York, a West Coast American-style Pale Ale, single-hopped with the classic Citra hop, then double-dry hopped with the same to give an intense grapefruit and citrus aroma.

“The club boasts a skittle alley which we were able to use,” adds Tim Mars. “This is a first at any of our presentations. Sadly, Western Alley Skittles is an endangered species in pubs these days, and one of the distinctive features of pubs (and clubs) in the southwest of England and south Wales. Any pub closure is to be regretted, but I am always particularly saddened when it involves the loss of a skittle alley—as with the closure of the Kites Nest Inn at Lightpill on the Bath Road, where the skittle alley has now disappeared under a terrace of new houses.

“Many Stroud CAMRA members are enthusiastic players. So to find a club with a well-maintained and supported skittle alley was a boon.”

Stroud CAMRA and club members enjoyed a fiercely competitive game of Killer, which ended with a tense showdown between Rob Brady and Stroud CAMRA chair Tony Hill. “It was a win for the home team,” reports Tim Mars, “with Rob Brady the only one left standing. I have played skittle many times, but this was the first time I’ve heard of or played Killer.”

The Chalford Sports & Social Club is the sporting and social hub of the village, with around 500 members who pay £15 a year for membership. It is an astonishing resource at the heart of the community, offering a wide variety of social and sporting opportunities, from craft clubs to skittles, fitness classes to sport on TV. It is a warm and welcoming place, very family orientated and where children are always welcome.

The club is justifiably proud of its sporting prowess. It hosts four men’s football teams, with the 1st team currently sitting pretty in the Northern Senior League. Two cricket sides play out of Chalford, with the 1st team playing in Stroud Division 2 and the 2nd team currently playing in Stroud Division 4, as well as a pub cricket team. As if that were not enough, the club has no less than five tennis teams, with their top players battling it out against the best in the area in the premier division. The club boasts five floodlit courts, including two synthetic clay ones.

The clubhouse is an unprepossessing flat-roofed, concrete-block bunker, but it proves to be an Aladdin’s cave when it comes to the range of facilities and activities within. The main hall is big enough to accommodate 150 people and is a popular choice for wedding receptions, parties, concerts and family events. It is also used for short mat bowls, with several sessions each week.

But skittles is at the heart of the club, with several teams, regular competitive and social events throughout the winter and a weekday league in summer.

Ali Brady became manager in March 2018 and from that point on it was all change on the beer front. In came the handpumps and on came the real ale, and overnight the club changed from serving only pressurised keg beers to an oasis of real ale. Rob is solely a volunteer at the club but takes care of beer ordering, line cleaning and also serves behind the bar.

So a good choice of real ale was a given for the presentation with a good turnout of CAMRA and club members gathered to toast Ali, Rob and the team.

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