Since I started writing for The Brew Club I confess my interest in beers has been rekindled, to the point where I have joined the British Guild of Beer Writers. I’m not sure how many of their events I’m going to be able to attend – but recently I received an invite to the results presentation of the 2009 International Beer Challenge – the world’s premier annual competition for packaged beer.
Over 30 expert judges from the international beer industry blind tasted 300 beers and bronze, silver and gold medals were awarded. The highest scoring beers went on to be re-tasted at super-jury stage to find the best in each category and the overall IBC 2009 champion. A quick scan of the finalists in each section and I knew there were going to be some beers there that I was going to enjoy.
The trade event took place in the vaulted cellars of the Royal Society of Arts in London’s West End and, as far as I could see, all 300 beers were represented.
Jeff Evans has listed the prize and award winning beers on his excellent website here, but for brevity the award winning beers were:
Best Ale: Fyne Ales Highlander
Best Lager: Boston Beer Samuel Adams Traditional Bock
Best Stout or Porter: Harveys Prince of Denmark
Best Wheat Beer: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier
Best Fruit Beer: Redoak Framboise Froment
Best Speciality Beer: Thornbridge Bracia
Best No- or Low-Alcohol Beer: Harveys Bill Brewer
It was interesting to see Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier crowned supreme champion in this year’s International Beer Challenge. The Bavarian weizenbier, brewed in Freising, in Bavaria, has won the overall title twice in six years now.
Weihenstephan claims to be the oldest brewery in the world, tracing its origins to the year 725 AD when Saint Corbinian with twelve companions, founded a Benedictine monastery on Nährberg Hill, Freising. Historical records in 768 AD show a local hop garden being required to pay a tithe of ten per cent to the monastery so it’s reasonable to assume that they were using those hops for the purposes of brewing.
I will find a few bottles of their Hefeweissbier for review more objectively because, as I’m sure you can understand, it was an ‘interesting’ afternoon!
I started with good intentions, pouring small samples of beers and making copious notes, but later in the afternoon in the company of several brewers there were a lot of ad-hoc “have you tried this?” samples poured and it became impossible to keep track.
One of the brewers I met was Andrew Hepworth who was formerly the head brewer at the well-respected ‘King and Barnes’ brewery in Surrey and subsequently founded ‘The ‘Beer Station’ brewery in Horsham. I knew Andrew’s name rang a bell, and it slowly dawned on me that he had brewed the ‘Curious Lager’ that I gave a single star to in the summer… “Oh yes, we brew that one.” – open mouth, place BOTH feet in, and pray for the ground to open.
Ah well… an interesting afternoon, some good friends made and some beers identified for later sampling and reviewing for The Brew Club.