The End of the Witch Hunt
The torches were out at the recent SIBA South West Maltings beer competition, but this was no witch hunt as 3 of Moor Beer’s unfined ‘natural’ beers won medals. This was the first time the updated competition rules took effect, and the judges had a clear feeling about what makes a great beer. Apparently clarity was no longer one of those things – something Moor has known for years.
Since restarting the defunct Moor Beer Company in 2007, owner and head brewer Justin Hawke has turned it into one of the world’s top rated breweries. They export their highly sought after beers to 4 continents and grace the bars of Britain’s top establishments.
Moor Beer’s list of accolades continues to grow steadily, with 8 major awards racked up already this year, including just being crowned the South West’s Supreme Champion by CAMRA. As pleased as they are about all the recognition, it is their influence on the industry that they are extremely proud of.
All Moor beers are unfined ‘natural’ – which means they don’t contain isinglass fish finings to clear the beer. The beers are all naturally hazy, which delivers more aroma & flavour, a fuller mouth feel, and a beautiful sheen. This approach is the way beer was traditionally done and is still prevalent in the other great brewing nations as a visible mark of superior quality, much the same way people prize cloudy juices, cider, and other beverages.
Moor successfully lobbied SIBA to amend the competition last year to allow for this increasingly popular method. They have inspired other brewers to follow suit, and even have a whole page on their website linking to similar minded brewers.
Speaking about the change, Justin said “It was a little daunting to stand in front of hundreds of brewers and tell them in a Californian accent that there is another, better way. Much to my surprise, there was not a dissenting vote against the change. The first competition to put the change into effect was a couple weeks ago, where we won 3 medals in the toughest categories. It was hugely rewarding to see these judged best next to hundreds of traditional, clear beers. It validated what we fought for all along.”
One thing Justin is very clear about is why he has brought this approach to Britain. “It’s all about the flavour. Adding isinglass does clear beer, but you sacrifice so much as it strips out too much yeast, hop oil and flavour compounds leaving a hollow, poorer drink. Every side-by-side competition we’ve heard of has seen consumers prefer the natural version. Who wants fish guts in their beer anyway?”
But what about the competition? Justin has this to say, “We actively encourage other brewers to join us. Many already have, as you can see on our website (http://moorbeer.co.uk/who-else-does-it/). I appreciate the trepidation other brewers may have. Will the beer sell? Will I have issues in trade? Will consumers reject it? Will I lose out in competitions? We’ve proven the business model, from sales, through numerous awards, and top consumer ratings. There was systematic bias previously, but now that it’s been removed we all have an open playing field where there is the opportunity to pursue your vision of what great beer can be – without
constraints. It wasn’t long ago when there was no category for craft keg. Look how far that has come in such a short period of time. It is now a very valuable segment for many modern breweries. Unfined natural beer offers a similar step change in the industry. I’m happy to offer advice if anyone is thinking about selling natural beer or entering it into competitions. Just get in touch.”
CAMRA, SIBA, judges and consumers all seem to agree. It certainly hasn’t dented sales, as the brewery’s beers have all been presold since the beginning of the year and they have just taken on a new member of staff. Naturally that’s worth raising a glass to.