The cider kings of the south will take on the beer gurus of the north as The Stable Cider Masters face up to Pivovar’s Tapped Untapped in the final of The Tapsters on 4 July, Centre Stage at Imbibe Live.
The finalists have already competed against opposition from the North Bar and The Ale Team from Brewhouse & Kitchen in The Tapsters semi-final, held at The Beer & Cider Academy.
Designed to find the best beer and cider team in the land, the competition is run in partnership with The Beer & Cider Academy, the ALMR, and prize sponsor, Sharp’s Brewery.
An intense day of high-level tuition led by beer sommelier Annabel Smith and the Ciderologist, Gabe Cook, was followed by three testing tasks.
Flavor Activ’s involvement enabled a session on off-flavours, using four taints to illustrate and explain key destructors of quality in the bar environment. Beers and ciders supplied by a number of Imbibe Live exhibitors provided the benchmarks for key beer and cider styles, Spanish specialists Mevalco provided Trabanco’s iconic sidra for a ‘throwing’ cider demonstration – a skill the teams will need to master prior to the final.
Assessment took place throughout the afternoon, ensuring that the judging panel, chaired by Beer Ambassador, Mitch Adams of Borough Wines & Beers, had a full picture of each team’s capabilities. As well as checking out the teams’ understanding of beer and cider, their provenance and appeal, the final tasks assessed the teams’ abilities to engage customers with their knowledge.
A close battle
While beer knowledge was strong with North Bar and Tappers Untapped throughout the semi-final, the Tappers’ greater knowledge of the brewing process and understanding of off-flavours saw them edge ahead in the early round, an advantage they retained until the end.
With marks allocated for blind tasting, fault identification and technical knowledge, prior to the test tasks, The Stable Cider Masters and Tappers Untapped were neck and neck, with The Ale Team just a point behind.
Despite a strong performance from The Ale Team’s captain, Emma Jones, on several of the tasks, a flawless response from The Stable’s Beth Buckell May to the cider role-playing task – how do you interest someone who says they don’t like cider – enabled The Cider Masters to secure its place in the final.
The Ale Team’s breadth of knowledge, across cider as well as beer, the judges felt was particularly commendable.
'It’s fantastic that we can hold our own against a beer group,' said a clearly thrilled Tim Gibb, The Stable’s captain. 'The best thing about the day? Learning so much about cider and broadening our cider horizons,' said Tappers’ captain Sam Wheatley.
Adams described the day as 'belting', praising the 'valiant efforts from all'. 'We’ve got two really strong teams going through,' said Imbibe beer & cider editor, Susanna Forbes. 'It’s fantastic to see such dedication and talent. Roll on the final – it’s going to be quite a battle.'
The victors on 4 July will win an all-expenses trip to Sharp’s Brewery in Rock, Cornwall, plus £500 spending cash. Sharp’s beer sommelier Ed Hughes will join Gabe Cook and Pete Brown as the expert judging panel at the Final, midday, 4 July.