A LANDLORD is the toast of the town after he transformed a struggling boozer into an award-winning pub.

The Shoulder of Mutton in Wantage has this week been crowned the best pub in central southern England by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

Landlord Peter Fowler said after taking on the business less than two years ago he had made a big effort to change the pub’s image.

He said: “We now have a very good following of all sexes and ages and no trouble whatsoever.

“It’s taken a lot of effort to swing the ship around but I am very glad I have done it.

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed we have won this award.

“It now puts us firmly on the map and will hopefully bring people into Wantage and bring business to other people as well.”

The pub is one of 16 regional winners to go forward to compete for the national title, which will be announced in February.

Camra made the announcement as its 40th Good Beer Guide is published today.

The book details the best 4,500 real ale pubs in the country and is compiled by local Camra members.

A summary of the Wallingford Street pub in the new guide reads: “Corner pub recently renovated by an enthusiastic landlord, renowned for its friendly atmosphere. “The 10 beers are constantly changing, with a strong emphasis on local ale.”

Last month the Oxford Mail reported how the county had lost 50 pubs in the last five years with landlords blaming the recession and Government tax hikes on beer.

Neil Crook, chairman of the White Horse Camra branch, said the success of local pubs in the beer guide proved the industry could continue to thrive despite tough times.

He said: “Given the right attitude and the will and freedom to do it, there are people out there who are wanting to come out and enjoy their evenings still.”

Sandra Gill, Camra central southern regional director, added: “The Good Beer Guide has always been about celebrating the best community pubs serving a high standard of real ale, and in the Guide’s 40th year, the competition to become one of the 4,500 pubs included within it has never been greater.”