Champion Winter Beer of Britain
The hunt for Britain’s best winter beer
Nik Antona, CAMRA National Director
To say it is no easy feat being crowned the very best winter beer in Britain would be a bit of an understatement. At the turn of the 21st century traditional winter beer styles such as Old Ales and darker Milds were under threat, with many historic recipes being overlooked in the face of dwindling consumer demand.
Fast forward a decade and the United Kingdom can now boast about over 1150 breweries regularly producing way in excess of 8,500 different real ales. A renaissance has occurred in recent years and particularly in the field of outstanding dark, malty, rich and roasted beers for those colder months of the year. British beer drinkers are faced with more variety and choice than ever. You will need only to take one look around National Winter Ales Festival running from Weds 19th until Saturday 22nd February 2014 for proof!
Such huge variety means that it has never been a more difficult time to judge the Supreme Champion Beer of Britain. While only a select number of real ales make it to the Finals to be held at National Winter Ales Festival – falling into the categories of Old Ales/Strong Milds, Porters, Stouts and Barley Wines – in reality the competition itself begins at grass roots level right across Britain soon after the 2013 Finals have taken place.
With its vast local branch structure, CAMRA relies on its members to vote for their favourites using branch and tasting panel nominations for the beers produced in their area. Regional or area competitions are arranged for the beers to be expertly judged and assessed in style classes – then only the very best progress through to the Finals. The Finals for winter beers are held annually at CAMRA’s National Winter Ales Festival with a special invited judging panel usually consisting of brewers, publicans, drinks writers and CAMRA members deciding upon the overall winners or Champions.
Last year at the National Winter Ales Festival in Manchester it was a small brewery from West Yorkshire, Elland, who were crowned Supreme Winter Champion for their “1872 Porter”, just piping the beer with probably the longest name in Britain “Bartram’s Comrade Bill Bartram’s Egalitarian Anti-Imperialist Soviet Stout” from Suffolk – to the title. In 3rd place from East Renfrewshire, in Scotland was “Kelburn Brewing Dark Moor”. While these three inspirational winter beers stole the show in last year’s competition, the most exciting aspect of judging at these Finals is in tasting the sheer depth of quality on show.
With the future looking bright for traditional winter beer styles at National Winter Ales Festival you’ll find champions both past and present each with their own unique flavour profiles. Try a few and you’ll realise exactly why being a beer taster and judge is such a difficult and thankless task. Cheers!!
Gold – Dunham Massey, Dunham Porter
Silver – Cairngorm, Black Gold (SIBA member)
Bronze – Exe Valley, Winter Glow (SIBA member)
Old Ale/Strong Mild
1st – Exe Valley, Winter Glow (SIBA member)
2nd – Beowulf, Dark Raven (SIBA member)
3rd – Grainstore, Rutland Beast (SIBA member)
1st – Dunham Massey, dunham Porter
2nd – Ayr, Rabbie’s Porter (SIBA member)
3rd – Batemans, Salem Porter (SIBA member)
1st – Cairngorm, Black Gold (SIBA member)
2nd – Ascot Ales, Anastasia’s Exile Stout (SIBA member)
3rd – Marble, Stouter Stout (SIBA member)
Barley Wine/Strong Old Ale
1st – Kinver, Over The Edge (SIBA member)
2nd – Moor, Old Freddy Walker (SIBA member)
3rd – Green Jack, Ripper Triple (SIBA member)
3rd – Highland, Orkney Porter (SIBA member)