A few weeks ago I was invited to attend the finals and awards presentation for Sainsbury’s ‘Best Beer in Britain’ competition on behalf of The Brew Club.
You might recall that I attended the announcement of their ‘final sixteen’ beers in the summer, and gave my initial opinions, but as they were garnered over a couple of hours on a sunny day they may not have been overly accurate.
Anyway, the final sixteen brews were stocked in a number of Sainsbury’s stores, and the best selling eight brews invited to the finals, which was hosted by Olly Smith, a well known TV Presenter and writer on Wines and Beers.
Those present included representatives from the finalist brewers, beer writers and, of course representatives from Sainsburys. We all enjoyed a very pleasant lunch, designed to match the various brews present, and a short ‘beer quiz’ (my team won) before (drum roll please) The Final Judging.
The twenty or so judges sampled all the final brews and made their judgements while us lesser mortals chatted and drank with the representatives of the breweries. It was a great opportunity to taste the beers in more relaxed circumstances than previously. Actually quite a lot of drinking an chatting as the final result necessitated several recounts. To win the ability to see your brew stocked in a major supermarket chain is quite significant for a small brewer and the tension became palpable.
In the final event, the result was (dim the lights and play tension building music… I’ve watched reality TV)…
Well, the runner up was Caesar Augustus fromWilliams Bros. in Scotland. It’s a lager/ale hybrid created by dry hopping a lager with traditional ale hops – designed as a gateway to ales for lager drinkers. I reviewed their ‘Kelpie’ ale for The Brew Club, and while I wasn’t over impressed, in conversation with the Richard McLelland – their Sales and Marketing Director – he conceded that it would probably be too subtle for the export market.
The ultimate winner was ‘Bad King John’ a badass dark 6% ale from Peter and Zanda Scholey at the Ridgeway Brewing Company in Oxfordshire. Back in the summer I described it as “3½ stars but dangerous”. Not only are Peter and Zanda worthy winners, having rescued the old ‘Brakspear’ brewery when it closed, but they’re also really nice people. Really nice people who brew really nice brews; they had two brews (Ivanhoe and Bad King John) in the final eight.
As Peter and Zanda basked in the glory of their victory, it was time for me to leave, only to be grabbed by Paul Walker the owner and brewer of the Hunter’s brewery in Devon – would I like to take this pack of his brews home with me to review for The Brew Club?
So… not only do I have the Bad King John on my ‘to review’ list – at least I know where to find it – but also a selection of fine brews from Hunter’s.
And when I returned home, there were a few beers from the Golden Dragon Brewery in Skipton (Yorkshire) waiting for me.
As the saying goes, ‘some days are better than others’; some are much, much better!
Bob the Brit