The beer hunters... devoted drinkers tick all the boxes in search for a pint

Brian Moore is a legend. Not that you'd know it.

The grandfather-of-three is a quiet, unassuming kind of Yorkshireman, but in real ale circles his reputation nearly always precedes him.

Affectionately known as The Champ, the 71-year-old belongs to a distinguished group of pub-goers known as the beertickers. Their aim is to sample as many new ales as possible, noting down in the well-thumbed log books, the name, the originating brewery and most importantly its alcohol content.

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If there were awards for long service in the real ale fraternity, Brian, who at the last count had tried more than 46,000 different beers, would have received his gold watch many years ago.

Beerticking, described as a little bit like trainspotting, except without the trains and a lot more beer, has until recently has been a bit of an underground hobby. However, real ale has recently found itself in vogue and with Brian the star of a new documentary, the days of nursing a quiet pint in the afternoon may soon be over.

Beertickers: Beyond The Ale, the brainchild of Sheffield-based filmmaker Phil Parkin, follows Brian and three fellow enthusiasts – Gazza Prescott, Dave Unpronounceable and Mick the Tick – as they notch up "winners" at pubs and beer festivals around the country.

"The only way you can begin to understand the art of beerticking is by giving it a go," says 32-year-old Parkin, who set himself a target of tasting 500 beers during the filming of the documentary. "There were a few days when I woke up the morning after the night before with a slightly sore head, but beerticking is not an excuse for getting drunk; it's about appreciating the subtle flavours of real ale.

"The vast majority of those involved are responsible drinkers, although most tickers would admit they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They want to record as many numbers as possible, but you know as a human being you can't drink all of them, especially when you go to a beer festival and there's upwards of 20 or 30 new 'winners'."

Moore, a former gardener, began his ticking career 30 years ago at Sheffield's award-winning pub The Fat Cat. At the time, real ale drinkers were seen as an old-fashioned lot, who no longer had a place in a world of new wine bars and alcopops.

"It wasn't a conscious decision to become a beerticker," says Brian. "I just started keeping a note of the ales I enjoyed and then I met some more guys who said, 'We do this as a hobby, we travel around the country trying new beer'.

"It was all very civilised, you knew everyone personally. Now when you go to a beer festival, there are guys sat at tables with their books out, who you've never seen before. Clearly, it's catching on."

The renaissance of real ale is a welcome piece of good news for the troubled pub industry. According to the Campaign For Real Ale, while 39 British pubs close each week, the UK now boasts more breweries than at any time since the Second World War. Last year, 71 new breweries started production, taking the nationwide total to 711 and the real ale revival has been particularly felt in Yorkshire.

According to Camra, West Yorkshire is now home to 34 operations – the most of any county – and with North Yorkshire close behind on 28, the rapid growth of recent years shows no sign of slowing. Since filming the documentary, even Gazza and Dave, have set up their own micro brewery, Steel City Brewing, with the tagline "We know what hops are for..."

"I don't think we'll ever lose our pubs entirely, but many landlords have been through very difficult times recently," says Phil, who has developed an iPhone app, to allow beertickers to share their discoveries with fellow enthusiasts. "There's a tendency to think of real ale drinkers as anoraks, but that's not what I found at all.

"Some beertickers are pure obsessives, who would leave a pub without buying a drink if they didn't have an ale they hadn't tried before, but most have a much more relaxed attitude.

"Of course, you'll get those who fit the stereotype of big beards and even bigger bellies, but it's more about lifestyle rather than just drink.

"People criticise beertickers for being unsociable, but it's actually the opposite: Brian can travel anywhere in the country and see someone he knows. For a thousand or more years, the pub has been the centre of British society and it's that heritage which the real ale drinkers are keeping alive.

"That's why I wanted to launch an app for the iPhone, it's my way of saying thanks to the beertickers and also a way of showing my support to the Great British pub."

Since retiring, Brian admits he has more time than ever to devote to real ale, but even he admits that every so often he allows himself a night off to spend with his wife of 40 years.

"If I'm socialising with my missus, I don't say, 'I'm not drinking that because it's not a new beer', I'll have a couple of pints of whatever I like.

"She doesn't mind me beerticking as long as it's not every day – and she enjoys real ale too. On Saturday night, we'll find a real ale pub that's got some live music on and she's quite happy with that."

Despite his years of beerticking, Brian's hobby doesn't appear to have had any negative effect on his health.

"Last time I went to the doctor it was nothing to do with drinking. I had a bit of a chest infection a couple of years ago and while I was there they checked my weight and my blood pressure and both were fine. I did mention that I liked to drink real ale, I didn't go into numbers, but the doctors just said, 'Oh, carry on'.

"Occasionally I might go over the top a little bit. I can still always find my way home, but whether it's because of my age, I can't drink 20 halves in a day, like I used to."

While his milestone of 40,000 beers has been captured for posterity in the Beertickers film, Brian says he's now on about 46,000 – and so long as their are breweries producing new ales, he'll be there with his log book to tick them off.

"It's the 64 million dollar question isn't it? Everybody asks me, 'Are you going to get to 50,000 and then pack it in?' But numbers don't count – I enjoy doing it. I travel round the country, I socialise and meet people and while it's still enjoyable, I'll keep doing it."

Beertickers: Beyond The Ale is on Blighty on Saturday, August 21 at 8pm.

The film is also going on tour being shown in real ale pubs up and down the country, including the Hillsborough Hotel in Sheffield in October. For more information visit www.beertickersfilm.com