beer judging

And here we start… cheese n bread ready

Wednesday at the beer festival – what is always the quietest day for numbers through the door (Thurs will ramp it right back up today I’m sure), but it was personally a fantastic day.

I arrived at the beer festival venue about 10:50, to be greeted by local brewer, and for the new few hours, CAMRA judging session organiser, Steve Saldana.  Or as I and many call him, Texas Steve.

I didn’t know any of my fellow 30 or so judges, but that doesn’t matter, as after about 24 beers (and some cheese n bread), everyone was getting on like a house on fire, or at least old tipsy friends!   Steve explained to those who had never done the judging before (my third time) that you have to DRINK the beer when judging, no spitting out when you’re sampling ale.

Each table would sample and rate beers from four different styles, our table had bitters to start (nice n easy strength for 11.30 am), then had Stouts n Porters, new brewery, and then strong bitters (can be pushing 7-8% I think).  The new brewery section had some great beers, and so did the stouts – I didn’t find a bitter/strong bigger which really jumped out at me this year.

At one point we thought a dark beer had got into the strong bitters – but now I can see that Fullers 1845 won the silver award, I realise it was that – I still marked it very highly, as it was such a great rich beer, even if it didn’t ‘feel’ like it should have been in the bitters – remember most STRONG bitters are now gold hoppy beers.  

It turned out that our best dark beer went on to win the final judging (which I this year got picked to do), where the best of each 8 categories were judged against each other to find the best beer of all.  So well done to Nene Valley brewery, a local maker of ale, who won with their Bible Black.

The judging was very well run, it probably overran due to us getting on so well in the end and probably chatting a little too much.  But it’s not easy work tasting that many brews!   We were treated to some grub in the staff canteen – top notch and just what was needed.  It’s amazing how well all the volunteers do – it’s like a military camp how ordered they have everything.

So what do you do when you’ve had 30 beers from 11.30 – 3pm?  Go into the main festival and have some more, that’s what!  I managed to have a half of the Arbor ales lemon & lime IPA – an 8% IPA with a lot of lemon / lime in there.  Quite a refreshing half pint that.  I know I had a few more – for some reason my memory isn’t working so well… I watched the first session of the band, the Rocket Dogs, who were a good local rock band, banging out some sing along tunes to a filling music tent.

I’m heading back to the festival again today – probably mid afternoon to get in before 3pm when I’d have to pay (lunchtime session free to CAMRA members).  A couple of interesting looking bands on tonight – quite different so I’m not sure how the crowd will find them.

Overall Champion

Texas Steve judging

‘Texas’ Steve running the judging, I’m on the left laughing it seems :-)

Gold

Nene Valley Bible Black
Silver
Bad Seed Expresso Stout
Bronze
Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild

 

Bitter (< 4%abv)

Gold
Jo C’s Norfolk Kiwi
Silver
Steel City He’s not the Messiah
Bronze
Digfield Chiff Chaff

 

Best Bitter (4%abv to 4.5%abv)

Gold
Lacons Falcon
Silver
Bristol Beer Factory English Golden Ale
Bronze
Cullercoats Jack the Devil

 

Strong Bitter/Ale (4.6%abv to 6.4%abv)

Gold
Grain Year of the Hops
Silver
Fullers 1845
Bronze
Flowerpots IPA

 

Light and Dark Mild (< 4.3%abv)

Gold
Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild
Silver
Firebrick Tyne 9
Bronze
Dark Star Art of Darkness

 

Speciality Beer

Gold
Bad Seed Expresso Stout
Silver
Bexar County Cellarmans Stout
Bronze
Grain Blonde Ash

 

Stout & Porter

Gold
Nene Valley Bible Black
Silver=
Elland 1872 Porter
Silver=
Harrogate Porter

 

Barley Wine and Strong Old Ales

Gold
Parish Baz’s Bonce Blower
Silver
Greenjack Ripper
Bronze
Bexar County Papa Steve

 

Best Beer from a New Brewery

Gold
3 Blind Mice To Pea or Not to Pea
Silver
Squawk Stout
Bronze
Pig and Porter Red Spider Rye