Scotland did the double at this year’s SIBA National Independent Beer Awards, announced during the association’s Beer X conference in Sheffield.
Williams Brothers and Fyne Ales picked up two supreme awards, with the third going to Burning Sky, the innovative brewery founded by former Dark Star head brewer, Mark Tranter.
Williams Brothers won the coveted Supreme Cask Gold award for its Black, a quaffable 4.2% mild. 'It’s one of the first three beers we brewed when we set up,' co--founder Scott Williams told Imbibe. 'Mild has an image as an older, more old-fashioned style but it’s a great beer. Maybe Mild is the new IPA!'
At the other end of the strength spectrum at 9.5%, Fyne Ales picked up the Supreme Gold for Packaged with its Mills and Hills Imperial Stout. Initially created in collaboration with de Molen, the pioneering Dutch brewery, hence the ‘Mills’ alongside the Fyne Ales ‘Hills’ in the name.
One of the first beers to be crafted on Fyne Ales new brewkit , while malts take centre stage, the deft mix of hops, with Sorachi Ace shining particularly strongly, provide a modern twist on this complex style. Look out also for future bottlings from the portion of beer left to age in a Grappa barrel with some brettanomyces.
Keg on the rise
Keg was the section of the competition which saw most growth, attracting 400 beers, an increase of more than 50% on last year. Mark Tranter, founder of Burning Sky brewery in Sussex, spoke of his pride in accepting the Champion Keg for his pine-infused 6% IPA. 'It’s a massive result for the whole team,' he said.
Other notable wins this year went to Norfolk-based Grain, which picked up both Supreme Silver and Bronze in the keg competition, respectively for Slate, its smoked porter, and Weizen, its wheat beer infused with orange peel. Charnwood Brewery, just two years old, beat far more experienced set-ups to walk away with keg Golds for both its IPA and APA.
Wantsum, the Canterbury-based brewery, picked up cask Gold for its Simcoe-infused best bitter, Montgomery, while St Austell won Gold for Big Job double IPA in cask.
Williams explained how he used the mathematical 'golden ratio' concept to draw up not just his malt bill, but also the hop mix.
Packaged Gold winners included Purity for its Longhorn IPA and Brass Castle with its malt-forward yet gluten-free Helles Lager in cans, and Thornbridge with its AM:PM session IPA in bottle.
The Scots advantage
Commenting on the Scottish success at the Independent Beer Awards, Fyne Ales Jamie Delap said how well the Scots breweries worked together, citing the benefit of being close to 'markets of discerning drinkers', such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Speaking of his Supreme Champion beer, Black, Williams explained how he used the mathematical 'golden ratio' concept to draw up not just his malt bill, but also the hop mix.
'There’s a lot of information about these ideas and the number phi (1.618…) giving the indication that nature finds these proportions divine, so I decided to try to use the premise in brewing,' he said. 'Take the first of seven malts, divide that by phi (1.618), and do that until you have six fractions of the preceding number and you have the quantities of each malt. We did the same with the hops. Quite complex, but it worked, and not only did it produce our award-winning Black, but also our Joker IPA, our best selling beer and the second best selling craft beer in Scotland after Brewdog’s Punk IPA.'