Following a titanic tustle with fellow semi-finalists, Barworks’ Pints & Noodles, London Village Inns’ Wanchor Spankers and Nicholson’s Pubs, it was NWTC’s MOBsters and B&K’s Hopstars that won the day, prompting a rerun of the 2018 final.
Amid the glamour of Doggetts Coat & Badge pub overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral, in true Masterchef style, the semi-final was preceded by a day of high-level training courtesy of beer sommelier Annabel Smith and Beer & Cider Academy cider director Gabe Cook.
With the prize of an all-expenses paid trip to Stiegl, the renowned Austrian brewery dating back over 500 years, up for grabs, the teams immersed themselves in everything from cask dispense to cider 'throwing' and fault analysis to food matching.
Then crunch-time arrived, and Imbibe Live beer ambassador Mitch Adams, beer and cider editor Susanna Forbes and Imbibe’s Ed Warr joined to scrutinise the teams’ semi-final performances. Letting rip with a fast succession of probing questions, remarkably Pints & Noodles, Hopstars and MOBsters scored a clean sweep.
Hopstars and Nicholson’s Pubs led the fray with the cider role-play, conjuring up imaginative choices for a Thai green curry lover and a cheeseburger-dining couple. Next up was the infamous brewing timeline jigsaw. More tricky than it sounds, only Hopstars scored 100% on this task.
Finally, marks were doled out for teamsmanship, before the judges had to make the final call. The Wanchor Spankers displayed fine technical knowledge and entertained throughout, while Pints & Noodles worked well as a team particularly on the tricky brewing jigsaw and Nicholson’s showed good all-round knowledge. But ultimately, it was the MOBsters and the Hopstars whose excellent knowledge and real engagement propelled them to the final.
'The level of knowledge far surpassed previous years, showing how much these businesses value training and continue to invest in their staff,' said Adams.