Best beer has a taste of real bitterness as European Commission closes the tap on guest ales

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Connoisseurs applauded the new "champion beer of Britain" - Wherry's Best Bitter - after it was given gold by a celebrity panel including the England cricketer Devon Malcolm.

But a cloud hung over the festival at Olympia, London, in the wake of Monday's European Commission decision to ban guest beers.

Since 1989 the "guest beer law" has allowed pubs to buy one draught real ale from a supplier of their choice, giving a wider selection and increasing interest in traditional beer. The Commission believes that the law contravenes the Treaty of Rome by discriminating against imports.

A Camra spokesman, Steve Cox, called it "ridiculous". He said: "This is the most absurd attack on the British brewing industry. The United Kingdom is one of the most open markets for imports in the EU. We import over 200 different brands of foreign beer - more brands than any other European country - and beers brewed under licence or imported constitute a much higher proportion of our market than any other beer-loving nation in Europe."

Real Ale, or cask conditioned beer, is fermented twice in its cask and is still "live" when it is drunk, unlike keg beers, which have been pasteurised and filtered.