Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Champion Beer of Britain 2016, with vanilla tossed in.

Oh, the humanity. A cask-conditioned 'vanilla' stout has won Champion Beer of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival.

Binghams Brewery's Vanilla Stout, brewed in Berkshire, was named the best beer of 2016 at the Champion Beer of Britain Awards Dinner held on Tuesday evening (9 August) at the Hilton Hotel, Olympia, London. Bingham’s Vanilla Stout is a 5 percent Dark Stout infused with vanilla and dark malts to create a smooth and dark beer [...]packed full of comforting flavours.

GBBF 2016

The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), now in its 39th year, is Britain’s largest beer festival, with over 50,000 attendees. On the festival tasting floor, there are over 900 (cask-conditioned) real ales ranging from "microbreweries to the most well known British brands, and hundreds of bottled and foreign beers, and a selection of real ciders and perries." (Yes, the Brits still say, "microbrewery"!)
Prior to the festival, tasting panels comprised of CAMRA members (Campaign for Real Ale) judge the beers [ALL CASK-CONDITIONED; the size of the brewery, large or small, notwithstanding] in their geographic area of the UK. The recommendations of these panels are put forward to nine regional panels, with the winners of these qualifying for the finals in August."

Rounding out the champions are
  • Old Dairy Brewery in Kent, winning the silver for Snow Top, a 6 percent alcohol-by-volume (abv) Old Ale.
  • Tring Brewery in Hertfordshire, winning the bronze for Death or Glory, a Barleywine of 7.2 percent abv.
To repeat, all the beers at the GBBF are judged in cask-conditioned real ale form, thus putting all the breweries, large and small, on an even playing field, in ten categories. By comparison, at the Great American Beer Festival, all beers are judged poured from bottles (or cans), in which the technology of better, and thus more expensive, packaging lines can offer a competitive advantage to those breweries that can afford them. And there are ninety-six categories.

The remainder of this year's GBBF winning beer are, by category:
Congratulations to all.

Even as I was typing this post, a Twitter post was addressed to me by an ex-pat British brewer, long in the U.S.:
A 'craft' beer containing such "traditional" and 'craft'-like ingredients as tert-butyl-hydroquinone and polyglycerol polyricinoleate? Ugh. At least the British specialty casks only contained vanilla, cocoa, chocolate 'essence,' and 'natural' plum flavoring.

You and others can have all that. For me, no cocoa-puffs or dingleberries, please. I'll be happy with a slice of bread, a hunk of cheddar cheese, and a glorious pint of cask conditioned ...
Colchester No. 1
1042 og, ABV 4.1%
A classic English best bitter, copper in colour. Whole leaf Boadicea hops for flavour and the definitive aroma of East Kent Goldings. The same recipe as when it was our first ever brew.

  • The GBBF press release announcing the winners: here.
  • CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale, a consumer-based cask ale advocacy group based in the U.K. and the organizers of the Great British Beer Festival) defines 'real ale' (its term for cask-conditioned ale) as
    a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served [without extraneous gas pressure] through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers, and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide.

    To that, I would add that 'real ale' is fresh, unfiltered, and unpasteurized; the yeast in the cask is still active. The level of carbonation is less gassy than that of draft or bottled beer. The ale is served at what is called 'cellar' temperature, in the low to mid 50 degrees Fahrenheit (never at room temperature!): the beer's flavors, especially those of lower-alcohol cask ales, are more evident at this temperature.

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