Brewer of the Year Jenn Merrick from Beavertown, and Meantime founder Alastair Hook are joining Imbibe Live’s 2016 beer competition judging panel for its newly launched Wheat Beer Challenge. Their mission: to whittle the entrants down to five finalists, who will battle it out for the audience vote on the first day of Imbibe Live 2016.
Entrants must submit a new beer for 2016 with at least 25% wheat. All the finalists will appear at Imbibe Live on 4 July, with the winner securing a listing at a selection of leading Mitchells & Butlers pubs and a trip to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic – and once again, the public will be invited to help pick the winner.
With their exotic perfumes, heightened texture, and often tangy notes on the finish, wheat beers offer complexity as well as food-friendliness. Yet they are tricky to brew with, says Mark Dorber, Imbibe Live Beer Ambassador, founder of Boudica Inns, and more recently, microbrewer himself. ‘The high gluten content and lack of husk causes stickiness issues in the mash tun,’ he says. But together with malted barley, the mix works well. ‘Wheat is the perfect mirror for a variety of ingredients, particularly citric fruit and hops, as well as a range of spices,’ Dorber says.
‘We’ve had great success in 2015 with wheat beers such as Blanche de Bruxelles and Stiegl Weisse, so challenging the UK brewing scene to come up with a winning entry to be poured in some of our leading pubs, is certain to see some high quality entries,’ said M&B’s craft beer and cider procurement manager Ben Lockwood.
Imbibe Live is partnering once again with SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, pan-industry campaign There’s A Beer For That, and Fuller’s, whose Centre of Quality will host the first round of judging.
‘SIBA hopes that as many of our craft brewing members across the UK enter the competition as possible,’ said SIBA’s Neil Walker. ‘This is a chance to flex those brewing muscles and produce a truly fantastic wheat beer, something which requires great skill and care.’
Green Jack’s Tim Dunford won this year's inaugural Imbibe Live beer competition with his Elderflower Dream, securing a listing with The Draft House and travelling to the Budvar Brewery in the Czech Republic. ‘It was excellent,’ he said. Will he be entering the beer competition again? ‘Absolutely! I’d like to win twice in a row!’ And any tips for fellow entrants? ‘Create something that you want to drink yourself,’ he wisely advised.
Details regarding the entry process will be available in the new year. Meanwhile, there's more information on the Imbibe Live website.