Saturday, August 11, 2007

Small is Biggest at GBBF

30 years running this year, the Great British Beer Festival is held annually in London, UK at the start of August - a festival and competition celebrating British cask ale. The winner is crowned Supreme Champion Beer of Great Britain. It's the largest cask ale festival in the world.

The requirement that beers entered must be cask-conditioned (for the most part) puts large and small breweries on a level playing field.

The US festival - the Great American Beer Festival, held annually for the past 25 years in Denver in early October - doesn't require that. (Imagine asking Coors or Anheuser-Busch to cask their beer!)

Instead, the US organizers have added categories for mainstream NAILs and ILLs, and a multitude of other craft and import directed categories, many identified by hair-splitting differences. In fact, the current list approaches formalism, with 69 different categories, some merely based on brewing procedures.

It might be a tautology, but it is the answer to the question "How does the beer taste?" which really matters when we taste beer. The brewing procedures followed to reach that point are interesting and vital, but it's the end result that we drink.

Now, compare the American Festival with the British Festival: 69 categories for the former, merely 8 categories for the latter, with the eighth being best of show. With so many fewer categories, might success be grander of an achievement at the British fest?

Now, check out Rate and Beer These are two of several on-line communities of US beer drinkers-as-reviewers, whose memberships' overriding bias is toward more alcohol, more hops, more bigger-ness. It's almost as if US beer aficionados are afflicted with mass sinusitis that eschews perception of subtlety or beauty.

So what beer was awarded overall Gold at this year's Great British Beer Festival?

It was Hobson's Mild.

Mild is not a condition, but
a style of ale that is full-flavored and dark, and is brewed to less than 4.5% abv, and in this case of the 2007 champion , to only 3.2%!

Such a mild ale could never win the collective accolades of many US beer fans. It might find the going likewise arduous at the Great American Beer Festival.

But at the Great British Beer Festival, there was no Hobson's choice (a choice that really is not a choice), but a clear and resounding acclamation. It was this little beer, this session beer, this Hobson's Mild, that vanquished big braggadocio.

Hobsons Mild from Hobsons Brewery in Shropshire was today judged [11 August] to be the best beer in Britain by a panel of brewers, beer writers and journalists at the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court.

The Shropshire brewed beer was chosen as the overall winner from over fifty finalists in eight categories including beers from tiny micros to major regional brewers.

Nick Davis, Director of Hobsons said: “What a great surprise! It's a nutty mild and despite being only 3.2% abv, it's packed full of flavour."

A few other relevant postings:

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