One of the endearing things about the many different brews of real ale that have been produced over the years are the names they are given – most of which come with a fascinating story.

Take Old Speckled Hen, for example. This brew dates back 30 years to the moment when the MG Car Company celebrated the 50th anniversary of its move from Edmund Road, Cowley, to Abingdon and asked Morland to brew a commemorative beer for the occasion.

Old Speckled Hen sounds an unlikely name for such a beer, but once you discover the origin of it, drinking this brew becomes much more fun.

The MG Featherweight Saloon, made from a black speckled cellulosed fabric speckled with gold that was stretched over a wooden frame, was an experimental car brought to Abingdon when the factory moved. It became the factory’s general runabout and as it chugged around the factory, people would say: “There gus the owd speck’ld un.”

The winning entry in a competition for Old Speckled Hen’s label design was won by the employee who suggested the entry bore the MG marque linked by a length of chain to the Borough of Abingdon’s Coat of Arms and printed in the MG colours of cream and brown.

That was 30 years ago. The brew proved so successful that 33 million pints of Old Speckled Hen are now drunk annually in the UK and it is exported to 42 different countries. Its 30th anniversary was celebrated at The Dog House, Frilford Heath last week.

Beer writer Tim Hampson was among the guests celebrating the anniversary. As there’s not much Tim doesn’t know about beer, it was good to chat with him, particularly as he is as concerned about the continued closure of pubs throughout the UK, as I am.

While sipping our Old Speckled Hen, he agreed that Oxfordshire’s rural pubs were under threat as never before and said: “Too many are closing, leaving behind communities bereft of a place to meet and talk and celebrate the ups and downs of life.”

Tim sees pubs as part of our past. “They have helped mould our culture and traditions. They are places that should resonate with the sounds of good conversations and laughter. If we want them to be part of our future we should use them now.

“If we don’t, they will close forever and the memories they hold captured within their sturdy walls will be lost.”

We then discussed our favourite pubs, those little gems that we have made part of our life over the years.

Tim waxed lyrical about some of his favourites and I spoke of the many fantastic pubs I had been visiting with my border collie recently. We spoke of the new licensees who have taken over The George in Botley Road, Oxford, and turned it round in just a month, and of several pubs in north Oxfordshire that deserve to be busy.

We then discussed the Oxfordshire pubs that we have come to love over the years and the two recently published books in which they feature for 2010 – Camra’s Good Beer Guide (edited by Roger Protz, at £15.99) and The Good Pub Guide (Ebury Press, £14.99).

On opening both books last week, I had been delighted to discover that one of my favourite pubs, The Plough at Finstock, a free house run by Joe McCorry and Martin Range, was given a main entry in both and was described in The Good Pub Guide as very much the hub of the village and a pub that appeals to a wide mix of customers as it is run with care by friendly licensees.

Joe and Martin were thrilled to discover they were also given a dining, wine and beer award.

Joe said: “It was great to be recognised in this way. We bought the pub four years ago at the beginning of what we now know was several years into a downward spiral for the pub’s fortunes, with little or no care for the property or investment in its fabric.

“At the time we bought it, we didn’t realise the profound change that was happening in the nation’s social habits.”

During the past four years Joe and Martin have had to contend with the smoking ban and a trend towards staying at home with a multitude of competitors (television, the internet, social networking, gaming and loss-leading supermarket pricing of alcohol).

Thankfully Joe and Martin have managed to buck the trend and are proud to own and run what is an increasing rare entity– a thriving village pub.

As we drank to their success Tim and I agreed, that pubs such as The Plough deserve to succeed, as Joe and Martin put so much energy into assuring their customers are happy. But, in the end, even popular pubs like this will feel the pinch, unless we, the public, remember that if we don’t use them, we will lose them.