Had to get up at 6am yesterday to get the train to Kensington Olympia for the Champion Beer of Britain Briefing Meeting, which was to be held at 9.30am. Just as well I did, for there was some confusion over badges. Arrived at the famous Gate B, the staff entrance. My bag was searched and tagged, then I wandered up to the Staffing Office for a badge. But, shock horror, I should have been given one at the gate! They didn't have any judges' badges at Staffing for some reason, and referred me to the Press Office, which was locked. After a while someone found some visitor's badges and I acquired one of these. Didn't get an actual badge till 10 minutes before the debrief, reason being that some of the badges had printing errors, like Raplh McTell's 2004 (sic) version :-D and had to be reprinted at the last moment.
To my delight I was chosen to taste the Golden Ales, a brand new category of golden, hoppy beers of less than 5.3%. I love hops, me. Doug Fish, a fellow branch member, was given Best Bitters to judge. The other Golden boys and girls were Chris Smith from XFM, Keith Bott from Titanic Brewery, Fiona Shoop from Fresh Magazine, Nina Bates from Flying Firkin and the chairman Phil Roberts from Exeter and East Devon CAMRA. We did comment we were maybe such a girly panel (Keith had a pink shirt on) as Golden Ales appealed especially to women!
To explain the rules: there are 6 tasters to a table for the category tastings, usually with the two CAMRA people at either end. The tasters are usually from different backgrounds - some brewers, some suppliers, some beer writers and some MPs/DJs etc with no beer tasting experience (and therefore less prejudices!). Seven beers are tasted from each category. The CAMRA tasters try to let everyone have a say and discourage people from guessing the beers etc. Marks are given out of 10 for appearance, aroma, taste and aftertaste. The top 3 beers on average score win Gold, Silver and Bronze in their category, and the Gold medallists (9 of them this year) go forward to the final panel to find the Champion Beer of Britain.
The first beer up was brown rather than golden, which was a bad start, and had a serious haze on it which was another! There was some discussion with the Best Bitter tasters, who had a rogue golden beer amongst their brown offerings, but apparently there were no changelings and we'd been given the correct beers.
However the next beer was absolutely superb - golden, flowery and citrussy, with a fantastic hoppy aftertaste. The fourth beer was very nice with a delicious aftertaste. The fifth absolutely reeked of sulphur and tasted sulphury as well, overwhelming and hop or malt character which might have been present. A shame, I thought, if it were in better condition it might have been a really good beer.
We all agreed that we weren't quite sure whether to go for the second one, so we ordered some more of it, just to make sure ;-) Number four was another contender so we tried a bit more of that as well. Then Phil handed our score sheets in.
After a quick dash to the Ladies we adjourned to the buffet whilst the Final Panel sat to judge the Champion Beer. There must have been fierce arguments (not just Ralph McTell and David Davies, heh heh) because the announcement wasn't made till 3pm! Also on the final panel were Nigel Bardon DJ and 4 CAMRA bods, including the ever-popular Roger Protz.
Champion Beer of Britain: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold
(our nomination won! Quite right too)
Second: Grainstore Rutland Panther
Third: Woodforde’s Wherry
Gold: Grainstore Rutland Panther (Rutland)
Silver: Brains Dark (Cardiff)
Bronze: Elgood’s Black Dog (Cambridgeshire)
Gold: Woodforde’s Wherry (Norfolk)
Silver: Holdens Black Country Bitter (West Midlands)
Joint Bronze: RCH PG Steam (Somerset)
Belvoir Star (Leicestershire)
Best Bitter Category
Gold: Harveys Sussex Bitter (East Sussex)
Joint Silver: Mighty Oak Burntwood Bitter (Essex)
Joint Bronze: Timothy Taylor Landlord (Yorkshire)
Olde Swan Entire (West Midlands)
Golden Ales Category
Gold: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold (Essex)
Silver: Jarrow Rivet Catcher (Tyne and Wear)
Bronze: Oakham JHB (Cambridgeshire)
(I love all these beers so I was well pleased with the outcome)
Strong Ale Category
Gold: Hanby Nutcracker (Shropshire)
Silver: Bullmastiff Son of a Bitch (Cardiff)
Bronze: Fuller’s ESB (Fullers)
Gold: Cairngorm Tradewinds (Inverness-shire)
Silver: Young’s Waggledance (London)
Joint Bronze: Daleside Morrocco (North Yorkshire)
Ridleys Rumpus (Essex)
Real Ale in a Bottle category
Gold: Durham Evensong (Durham)
Silver: Young’s Special London Ale (London)
Bronze: Titanic Stout (Staffordshire)
Shame that Triple fff Pressed Rat & Warthog didn't win, it was absolutely superb at GBBF, but the trouble is, it's not a classic mild...I wouldn't change it for the world though!
Met up with Martin, Jenny and Roy from East and Mid Surrey, Julie and William from Surrey/Hants Borders, and also bumped into loads of friends as one does including the Lash Brothers, Kath Gammon and Dan Barr (who kindly gave me a huge bundle of beermats he'd won on the tombola).
I won a GBBF 2002 t-shirt, just a BIT too big for me at XXL (think I'll give it to Bill) and a Battersea Beer Festival sweater (size L, much better). I ate a very nice pork and chive sausage hot-dog with spinach instead of onion, then got more beer - but I forgot what I'd bought!! It was definitely time to go home so I caught the 18.17 train back towards home.
Was so drunk that I walked home, went for a lie-down till 10pm, then realised I'd left my bike at the station! Had to get dressed again and go and get it!! I'm such a lush :-)
26 minutes ago