In the wake of announcement of the International Brewing & Cider Awards top trophy winners last week, we sat down with chair of judges, Bill Taylor, to reflect on a busy year at the world’s only competition to be judged solely by brewers.
'We try to be perceptive,' Taylor said of the decision to add in categories for sour and zero gluten beer, and one for beer north of 10% into the 2017 IBCA. 'We always take the customer’s point of view – abv is a fundamental – but we like to encourage innovation – providing it’s done well,' he added.
Observing 'a lot of excitement' surrounding the new Sour category, Taylor expressed his 'surprise’ at not just the acidity, but also the complex sourness of these beers. 'They are perfect as an aperitif,' he said.
Elgood’s Brewery picked up the inaugural Sour Beer Gold with its Coolship Fruit, while Green’s pulled off the double in the Zero Gluten category, with its dry hopped lager and IPA.
Blighty leads the way
Twenty-one countries won medals in the IBCA, held in Burton-upon-Trent. England led the leader board with six Golds, while Japan came in a surprise joint second with the USA, each taking home three Golds.
As well as a clean sweep of cask ale Golds for Lacons, Small Bay and Shepherd Neame, the English winners were represented by Camden Town Brewery with its Pils Unfiltered Lager, Fuller’s with Frontier, Joseph Holt with Diamond Lager, and Saltaire on the dark side with its Kala Black IPA. Honours north of the border were shared between Innis & Gunn with its rum finish and Swannay with its Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout.
Japan’s wins went to brewers large and small, with Asahi scoring with its Premium Hojo, while boutique brewer Ise Kadoya beat Thornbridge into second place in the smallpack 5-5.4% Ale category with its elegantly grassy Pale Ale, and AJI Beer picked up not just the Strong Ale Gold but also a Bronze in the Stout category.
Hat trick for Irish cider
Meanwhile, the Cider Awards saw MacIvors from Northern Ireland pull off an impressive treble, picking up Golds for its Dry, Medium, and Plum & Ginger Ciders. Aston Manor struck Gold with its Knights Malvern Oak, while Hogan’s Cider picked up the inaugural Speciality Gold, with its Killer Sharp.
'Of great excitement, for me personally, was the level of innovation,' said judge Gabe Cook, NACM. 'The influence of craft beer and wine making was clear to taste. How fantastic to have a spicy Canadian Saison Perry, a bold and fruity New Zealand interpretation of French Cidre Demi-Sec and a bone dry, Styrian-hopped, Austrian cider all achieving success.'
'We are looking for those ciders whether from innovators or traditionalist, that are better integrated and more refined, not just a lot of sugar,'said Taylor. While the increase in entries of a third was welcomed, Taylor noted the low number of perries. 'I’d hope for a few more in 2019,' he said.
The International Brewing Awards Champions 2017
Champion Cask Ale - Encore: Lacons Brewery, Great Yarmouth, UK
Champion Dark Beer - Kala Black IPA: Saltaire Brewery, Shipley, UK
Champion Keg Ale - Maltings Irish Ale: Sullivan’s Brewing Company, Kilkenny, Ireland
Champion Keg Lager - Frontier: Fuller Smith & Turner, London, UK
Champion Smallpack Ale - Easy Jack: Firestone Walker Brewing Company, California, USA
Champion Smallpack Lager - Pils Unfiltered Lager: Camden Town Brewery, London, UK
Champion Speciality Beer - Coolship Fruit: Elgood’s Brewery, Wisbech, UK
Champion Strong Beer - Rurik Russian Imperial Stout: The Galbraith Brewing Co, Auckland, New Zealand
Non and Low Alcohol Beer - Birell: Plzeňský Prazdroj a.s, Nošovice, Czech Republic
Cider Awards Champion 2017
Cidre Demi-Sec: Zeffer Cider Co., Auckland, New Zealand