AT LAST there is some good news for Britain’s beleaguered brewing industry and beer drinkers.

It’s only taken the closure of 10,000 pubs over the last few years, but the Chancellor has finally realised one of the country’s most cherished institutions is on its knees.

The greed and short-sightedness of the big pub companies, the undemocratic smoking ban and a grossly unfair tax system on beer, wine and spirits have seen the pub make its debut on the endangered species list of British traditions.

Last year I interviewed the owner of one such institution, Anita Adams of The Golden Slipper in Goodramgate. Anita is a stalwart of the pub business and I remember her citing the Government’s alcohol duty tax as one of many things crippling the British boozer.

Mr Osborne has now abolished that system (for beer at least) and in another tiny nod to the bloke in the pub, has knocked one pence off the price of a pint.

My opposition to the smoking ban is well documented in these pages, and one of my biggest fears was that once the health paramilitaries had got their way with cigarettes they would turn their unwelcome attentions to alcohol.

It gave me great pleasure, therefore, earlier this month when a raft of patronising measures from the Alcohol Health Alliance, aimed at reducing the nation’s alcohol intake, was widely ignored or, in the case of landlords and beer sellers in York, condemned as draconian and ill thought out.

At the time Ian Loftus, manager of the House Of Trembling Madness in Stonegate, quite rightly pointed out that this country has one of the best and most varied brewing industries in the world.

He was correct, of course. The UK boasts a seemingly infinite number of lovingly crafted real ales, fine single malts, gins, ciders from Somerset and even vodka from Cambridgeshire.

I love alcohol. However you want to dress it up or dance around the issue, whether it’s describing yourself as wine connoisseur, real ale fan, cider drinker – whatever, it all comes down to one thing – I love that buzz after a pint or two of good Belgian lager or bottle of wine.

Some of the best times of my life have been enhanced by alcohol (okay, and a few of the worst). It’s all about moderation, of course, and knowing when you are making an idiot of yourself or seriously putting yourself at risk.

I will never give up drinking because I love it. I’ve been doing it for about 26 years and it has been a good friend to me. It’s never got me into a fight and never put me in A&E and I’m not going on a night out if my old friend isn’t going too.

I know what you are thinking – what about all the idiots who don’t know when to stop and end up blighting our streets every Friday and Saturday night? The answer is education, and I’m not talking about targeting kids in their teens – it’s far too late by then.

We need to catch them before they even get to school by demystifying alcohol and taking the naughtiness out it. (And for those of you thinking of writing in to tell me how alcoholism wrecked the life of someone you know – what you are talking about is a psychological illness which can only be addressed with medical help – not hiking the price of a four pack or selling wine with pictures of rotted livers on the label.)

It gave me great pleasure earlier this week when The Press ran the story of group of new mums who had set up a regular social event at their local pub.

I loved this for a number of reasons. One was the women’s lack of snobbery in choosing a pub to meet with their little bundles of joy. Another was how they realised a pub doesn’t have to be about alcohol at all; it can be a community hub.

But the best thing for me was the hope that those tiny babies will experience the friendly atmosphere of a pub and that like children in France or Spain, they will take that with them as they grow, and see the pub and, in turn, alcohol as something to be enjoyed and cherished, not abused or demonised.