No resting on laurels for Britain’s new champion brewer, Chris Bingham. ‘We’re brewing today and tomorrow,’ the founder of Binghams Brewery told Imbibe, two days after learning his Vanilla Stout had beaten all others to scoop the coveted CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain crown at this year’s Great British Beer Festival.
While distribution is concentrated in the south-east at the moment, with the number of wholesalers now getting in touch, Bingham says it’s likely to be nationwide by the end of August. In the meantime, supplies have been rationed. ‘We’re down to just 20 bottles, which we’re hanging on to,’ he said, adding that, as well as a mention on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show with Nigel Barden on Thursday, the beer is set for an appearance on The Saturday Show on Channel 5 with Pete Brown.
Very quaffable, the 5% beer tastes like milk chocolate in a glass. For CAMRA judging panel chair Christine Cryne, it was its ‘full-flavoured nature’ that made it stand out. ‘The dark roast chocolate character gave a dryness that balances the sweet, smoothness of the beer and the vanilla notes add complexity,’ she told Imbibe.
Whole vanilla pods are infused into the beer after its first fermentation, something which ‘mellows the roast malt character,' Bingham says. His favourite Vanilla Stout story? The one about the lady who swore she never drank beer, but was persuaded to try a sip of her husband’s pint – they were on a brewery tour – and then wouldn’t leave unless he bought her a case.
Bingham has long been a fan of stouts, regularly carrying six in his range. His dog, a labradoodle, is called Stout, and the base for all his stouts – the brewery’s popular Doodle Stout – was one of his original recipes.
Founded in 2010, Binghams is based in Twyford, near Reading. ‘I love real ale, beer and pubs,’ says the lad who organised his first brewery tour while still in the sixth form and joined CAMRA when he was 18. ‘I think pubs are critical for the country’s tourism and its general well-being.’ Having been a home brewer for decades, Bingham – now in his 40s – spent five years learning the professional brewing ropes at Hogs Back Brewery in nearby Surrey before setting up on his own.
Announced following final judging on the first day of the GBBF, the Champion Beer of Britain can be a game-changer for smaller breweries. Many may have caught last year’s winner, Tiny Rebel, at Imbibe this year. It is about to move to new, larger premises.
Second place this year went to Kent’s Old Dairy Brewery with its Snow Top, a 6% winter ale, packed with flavours of raisins, plums, chocolate and coffee, while third went to Tring Brewery’s Death or Glory, a 7.2% barley wine with raisin and sultana notes alongside hints of Seville orange marmalade.
‘Winning this award is absolutely massive,’ said Bingham. ‘Especially with a stout. Because not everyone knows stouts, except for Guinness, and perhaps Murphy's.’ Judging by the queues whenever a cask was tapped at this year’s GBBF, that’s likely to change quite soon.
The Great British Beer Festival continues until Saturday at Olympia, London. With 900 beers and ciders on offer, the festival expects over 50,000 visitors