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Fergus: It’s been a while...

By Fergus Fitzgerald, also posted in News on

Great British Beer FestivalI haven’t written anything for the blog for a while now, I’ve been struggling with what to write about since my last post. Nothing seemed important enough, but I’ve decided that nothing probably ever will be so just best to get stuck back in. I went to Olympia last week to the Great British Beer Festival. We had two beers in the judging but, unfortunately, we didn’t get anything this year. However, our friends in Lowestoft, Green Jack, did come away with a Gold for Trawlerboys in the Best Bitter category and a Silver overall.  The overall winner, the new Champion Beer of Britain, was No. 9 Barley Wine from Coniston. The result has led to a fair amount of criticism, particularly in the pub trade, not because the beer isn’t considered a great beer, but because it’s felt it won't do anything to help pubs sell more cask beer. In previous years, the winner of Champion Beer of Britain would see a big uplift in sales as real ale pubs around the country rushed to get it on to the bar. At 8.5%, Coniston No. 9 is unlikely to generate the same reaction (although it would be nice if pubs used the opportunity to perhaps stock a small selection of higher strength bottled beers). There have been suggestions that lower abv beers should have been given higher scores to allow for the ‘session-ability’ of the beer in question. I don’t agree. If the competition is to judge the best beer, the beer that most meets the criteria for its style, the beer that has, on the day, the least amount of technical brewing faults, then that beer should be declared the winner regardless of how many pints you think you could drink. The problem probably lies not in the result, but in the fact that the Judges were asked to come to a decision at all. I think it's difficult enough judging similar beers against each other let alone judging a great example of one style of beer against a great example of completely different style. Why not just have winners within each style, and then instead of having one beer named as overall winner have an overall ‘Champion Brewery of Britain’. Pick the brewery that has performed well across a number of categories. The brewery would gain the recognition for the work they do and pubs that want to benefit from the result and help promote cask beer can choose to showcase any beer from the Champion Brewery or the winner from the category that best suits their pub and their customers, whether that’s a Bitter or a Mild or, heaven forbid, a fantastic Barley Wine.

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Fergus Fitzgerald

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