Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Great Northern Beer Festival

The Society of Independent Brewers or SIBA for short, hosted the Great Northern Beer festival in Manchester last week with help from Greater Manchester CAMRA.

A collection of 250 casks and 100 bottled beers from the Northern region were gathered together in a hotel in Manchester. Hardknott Brewery were responsible for 2 of the cask beers Continuum and Infra Red and one of the bottled beers Queboid. Not many I hear you say. Well this was the first time we had entered beer into a SIBA competition and we weren't really sure what to expect.

Knowing how Hardknott Dave doesn't like to miss anything (can't keep his mouth shut) he also volunteered our services to help on the day of the competition. I received an email telling me I was running for 3 hours. I don't do running!

After an interesting journey of driving around Manchester and delivering beers to The Font and Port Street Beer House, followed by walking, buses and trains I eventually found the entrance of the hotel with the help of Dave. Luckily I grabbed some lunch on the way in as I was too late for any food.

After a quick lesson I learned that running was more like quick walking up the stairs into the cellar to collect jugs of beer for the judges blind tastings.My first table of judges were judging the third round of specialist beers in cask. This included beers such as fruit beers and ginger beers. After a few trips up to the cellar all of the beers had been delivered and the voting papers collected in.

After a short break it was time for the final judging. There were only two tables. One judging the best of the best cask beers and the other judging the best of the best bottled beers. I was running for bottled beers this time. Luckily it wasn't too far. Back wards and forwards to the stage which was the location of the bottled beers. However, judging the best of the best is much more difficult. How can you easily compare a stout against a bitter against an IPA against a ginger beer. I had a good few trips refilling the jugs while the judges contemplated amongst themselves. Eventually all the judges were satisfied and the forms were handed over. With tables cleared I could join Hardknott Dave with Becky & John from Stringers Brewery for a beer or two.

The full list of winners can be found on the SIBA site here. So I don't want to duplicate it. However, I would like to continue with the story from my perspective.
The winners were announced in reverse order. The following awards were for Cumbrian breweries. 
Bottled bitters
A Gold Award for Cumbrian Legendary Ales Langdale 4.0%,

Bottled bitters greater than 5%
Silver for Stringers IPA 5.5% and Gold for Coniston Infinity IPA at 6%
Nothing for Queboid but at least it was beaten by 2 good friends and 2 good beers.

Bottled old ales and stouts next

Silver for 9.3% Mutiny from Stringers.

Cumrian Legendary Ales were awarded Bronze overall for Landale in the bottled beers.

Lots of Cumbrian winners for bottles and lots of Cumbrian smiles.

Then it was time for the Awards for cask beers. By this time we had been joined at our table by Alex from Hawkshead brewery. Just in time for the commencement of the cask awards.

Standard Bitters
Bronze for Watermill with Collie Wobbles 3.7%
Silver for Prospect with Whatever
Gold for Hawkshead for Windermere Pale 3.5%

2 more awards for Cumbrian Breweries

Best Bitters  next with
Bronze for Cumbrian ledendry Ales Langdale 4.0%

But alas no award for Hardknott Continuum. Oh well at least Continuum was beaten by our good friend Roger at CLA.

HardknottDave with disappointment written all over his face, disappeared off to the bar. That was that. His hopes for Continuum were over. Nothing left now except to have a few more drinks. However, I knew we had one more beer category to listen to and I was enjoying lots of our Cumbrian friends winning awards.

Dave returned just as they were starting to announce winners for Strong Premium Bitters over 6%

Bronze for 3rd place was awarded to Hawkshead for NZPA. my heart skipped a beat. Well at least that was our greatest Cumbrian competitor in this catagory out of the way and one less in the running for the final 2 places.

Silver - Awarded to Hardknott brewery for Infra Red !

You did it Dave! His face taking on a happy but amazed look he bounded up on to the stage with chuffed pleasure returning with a certificate for all to see.

Gold was awarded to Elland for their 1872 Porter.

Two IPA's beaten by a Porter in the Premium bitters - I obviously don't understand beer categories. Nevermind.

All in all Cumbrian Breweries did very well with Hawkshead brewery winning over all with Windermere pale.

I would like to congratulate all of the Cumbrian Breweries in their Successes.

For me personally I needed a drink. After scanning down the list of 250 cask beers and trying some tasters I found there wasn't any beers strong enough to appeal to my beer enjoyment. So after numerous visits to the bottle bar in anticipation of them selling any remaining bottles I was eventually able to purchase a bottle of Queboid, Furness Abbey and Croglin Vampire for my nights drinking. Being reprimanded by HardknottDave for buying beers which we have in our own brewery. However, he was drinking Continuum and we have that in the brewery too!

Despite my comment that there wasn't any beers strong enough for me, my favourite beer of the night won the Gold award for the best bottled beer. I had been told about this beer only a week previously by Hardknott Andrew on twitter but hadn't yet had the pleasure of trying it. I managed to buy the only remaining bottle of Peerless brewery's Ninja Jinja and really enjoyed it. For me the bottled range held the greatest.

See also HardknottDave's post http://hardknott.blogspot.com/2011/10/flavour-taste-preconception-and-fashion.html

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