The occasion is a competition as well, crowning the Supreme Champion Beer of Britain, and other winners in seven style categories. The breweries must enter their beers in cask-conditioned form (although there are some draft and bottled choices for festival-goers). From CAMRA's website:
After a year of local tasting panels and regional heats leading up to the finals, CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is today proud to announce that Castle Rock (of Nottingham) brewery's Harvest Pale has been crowned the 'Best Beer' in Britain at the Great British Beer Festival, Earls Court, London.
Harvest Pale, which has an ABV [alcohol by volume] of 3.8%, is described in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2010 as 'blonde and refreshing with distinctive citrus hop.'
The Nottingham brewed real ale was judged the Supreme Champion over a host of other finalists in 7 different beer categories (Bitters, Best Bitters, Strong Bitters, Golden Ales, Milds, Winter Beers*, and the Speciality class), including beers from both small microbrewers and large regional brewers.
Writing as I do from the mid-Atlantic region, I'll take some pride in another competition held at the GBBF: The 2010 CAMRA Michael Jackson Award, an American cask real ale competition:
The Award is named after the world renowned beer writer, Michael Jackson, also known as the Beer Hunter, and author of titles such as The World Guide To Beer, who sadly passed away in 2007. In dedication to his efforts to promote good beer, the competition is judged by a panel of Great British Beer Festival volunteers, and assessed on taste, aroma and finish. <...> With over 180 beers from the United States at the Great British Beer Festival this week, CAMRA is pleased to showcase the biggest selection of US cask real ale probably ever seen! CAMRA can happily report that demand for American craft beers at the Festival is extremely healthy, and invites people from across the world to its flagship Festival.
Coming in 2nd was Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale, an IPA (7.3% alcohol-by-volume) brewed by Heavy Seas of Baltimore, Maryland. Congratulations to the brewery, its brewers, and to its cellarman, Steven Marsh.
Proper respect is due of course to the winner. Smuttynose Brewing Company of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, took top honors with its Big A IPA (9.7% alcohol-by-volume).
Smuttynose's success today means the New England brewery has now won this award three times, and remains one of the most successful brewers in the competition's history.
- From Steve Jones of Oliver Ales, more about other Maryland beers at the GBBF.
- Caveat lector: As an employee of Select Wines, Inc. —a northern Virginia beer & wine wholesaler— I sell the beers of Heavy Seas Brewing.