Imbibe Live 2016 roundup

Gaëlle Laforest

06 July 2016

After two days full to the brim with tastings and talks, Imbibe Live 2016 is already over – and what a good one it was. Here are some more of our highlights from the show.

Imbibe Live’s Beer & Cider Hub was busy throughout the two days, with the National Association of Cider Makers' Gabe Cook relating the fast-moving recent history of cider, before diving into a pair of Sheppy’s single variety ciders. ‘Some might find this one a bit challenging, but I guarantee I’ll find a cider for everyone by the end.’

World-renowned cider maker Tom Oliver continued the apples and pears theme, sharing some of his own award-winning ciders, including one of our favourites, his At the Hop, the UK’s first hopped cider. In deciding what ciders to stock, offer something different, he said. ‘Find a niche.’

Meanwhile founder of Pivovar and such beer hotspots as the Euston Tap and Sheffield Tap Jamie Hawksworth took time out from the Czech Beer Garden to show how the Czech Republic offered so much more than simply pilsner. ‘If there was the Velvet Revolution 25 years ago, it’s now the brewing revolution,’ he said. Jug upon jug of fresh beer arrived, illustrating the flavour and complexity emerging as brewers marry modern techniques with centuries of traditional experience.

Cider also took to the stage of The Cocktail Lounge in the form of the final of Aspall's Shrub it Up competition, which saw White Lyan's Zoë van der Grinten win a pair of tickets to New York for her Queen Anne's Lassi, made with a carrot and curry leaf shrub and topped with Aspall Premier Cru.

Earlier that day, elBarri's Marc Álvarez gave the audience a whistle stop tour of the drinks menus at the group's eight venues, laying out the foundations of his cocktail creation. Each drink follows the three Fs – flavour, 'fancy' and fast – in search of gastronomic links, extra value for the customer, and rapid service. Drinks he presented included the Pastor Margarita, with flavours of meaty richness, salsa verde and pineapple, presented in a fibreglass taco vessel.

Centre Stage was host to many of the show's biggest competitions, which consistently drew crowds. On day one, West Berkshire Brewery's Wheaty McWheatface won the Imbibe Live Wheat Beer Challenge, before Craig Harper won the Very Important Personality cocktail competition – despite having been brought on board at the very last minute to replace Lyndon Higginson. Finally, day one ended with the Bartenders v Sommeliers trophy falling back into the hands of cocktail shakers, after two years of somm wins.

On day two, Imbibe Live's £5,000 challenge returned, with sommeliers putting their knowledge to the test in front of their peers. Hakkasan's Olivier Gasselin was the sharpest of them all, winning himself cash money as well as a Coravin device, and a decanter, carafe and glasses from Nude.

To close the show, Birmingham put its bar scene firmly on the UK map by winning our Shakes & The City competition, thanks to a Martinez twist.

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