A pair of sour beers and an elderflower-infused ale will be battling it out with a proudly Cornish lager and an American Pale Ale in the Brewers’ Den on the first day of in the show’s inaugural beer competition, following the first round of judging at Fullers’ Centre of Excellence.
Bison Beer, Green Jack, By the Horns, Keltek and The Celt Experience will pitch for the audience’s vote in their bid to win a trip for two to Budvar Brewery and a seasonal listing with The Draft House.
The challenge – to create A Beer for Summer – had a typically Imbibe twist: while a great tasting beer was vital, so was the label design and the rationale behind its creation. How would entrants make their beers this summer’s bestseller?
What is a summer beer?
So what did the judges want? Refreshment and technical excellence was the bare minimum. ‘It’s got to have personality and character,’ said John Keeling, Fullers’ head of brewing. Charlie Gorham, SIBA’s Burton Manager, was after a beer she could ‘enjoy in a beer garden’, Charlie McVeigh, founder of The Draft House, was after something ‘Very clear and probably straw colour, with some froth and not too fizzy’, while David Cunningham, programme director for There’s A Beer For That, was looking for a beer that would ‘become the taste of summer 2015’.
Entries arrived from breweries young and old, large and small. Tasted blind using the rigorous judging protocol adopted by the US Brewers Association, 27 beers were debated down to a shortlist of 11 beers.
Some brewers followed up the ‘refreshment’ angle, while others were more experimental. The fruit and speciality beers proved the most exotic, with ingredients lists including lychee, strawberries – even watermelon. Essex Street Brewing Co created a Pimms/pale ale hybrid, while Brecon Brewing entered a true G&T beer, with fresh limes in the brew, followed by a month spent lagering at 4°C on a host of botanicals.
The 11 longlisted beers were re-tasted alongside an examination of the branding. While many embraced the summer brief, unfortunately, several good beers failed at this hurdle. Following a strong debate, the five finalists are:
Green Jack Brewery, Summer Dream, 4% An easy-drinking, elderflower-infused beer with a summery label.
Keltek Cornish Brewery, Swifties, Cornish Craft Lager, 4% Punching well above its abv weight, with a distinct whiff of Cornish malt.
The Celt Experience Ltd, Goddess of the Spring, 6% ‘A stunning, bold fruit beer,’ said Dorber.
Bison Beer, brewed at Vibrant Forest, See Side APA, 5% A ‘brassy’ American Pale Ale.
By The Horns Brewing Co, Sour to the People, 4.8% ‘The Tooting Popular Front have gone lactic with this Berliner Weiss/Saison blend,’ said Dorber.
London Beer Factory, Savour Beer, Hackney Brewery, Greyhound Brewery and The Hop Studio featured on the longlist.
Overall, the judges were happy with the quality and the variety. ‘I’m particularly pleased to see we have a couple of sours,’ said Keeling. ‘People have underestimated how refreshing this tart style is.’ ‘There were some very characterful, provocative entries,’ said Dorber. ‘Some great flavours and textures.’ ‘The five we have chosen show the diversity of beer,’ said Cunningham. ‘It’s further evidence that the category is alive and showing great experimentation.’
The final of a Beer for Summer takes place at Imbibe Live, 12.15pm, Monday 29 June, The Brewers Den, Centre Stage. The finalists beer will be available to taste in the Hop & Apple Garden, and will feature in the 1 July Beer Club run by There’s A Beer For That.
Thanks to our sponsors and supporters, Fullers, SIBA, There’s A Beer for That, The Draft House, Budweiser Budvar