West Berkshire Brewery has won the 2016 Wheat Beer Challenge with Wheaty McWheatface, beating off four finalists at Imbibe Live yesterday.
‘He nailed the wheat style,’ said chair of judges Mark Dorber, the show's beer and cider ambassador, adding: ‘The balance was exemplary. It was crisp, fresh and spoke of English material.’
Contestants from up and down the land had been whittled down to five by an expert judging panel in the first round. It was then up to the audience at Imbibe Live to pick the overall winner.
While the audience sipped the beers, each brewer shared the ideas and the brand imagery behind the beer. Comprising members of the on-trade, beer experts and brewers alike, the audience made their decision Ready Steady Cook-style, with coloured cards.
The variety of styles allowed by wheat beer brewers was apparent; fellow finalists included Harviestoun Brewery, with its deftly spiced Wheat Beastie, and Boss Brewing Company, with Boss Bix, which had orange and herb-tinged notes.
Clad in a pigeon head mask, Tom McNeill of Heavy Industry Brewing explained how he fell in love with the hop Mandarina Bavaria, inspiring the brewery’s Pigeon Toed Orange Peel weissbier, while Richard Newberry joined a matador-clad Paul Hutcheon to advocate for The Little Beer Co's orange-zest-laden Running of the Bulls.
‘West Berkshire tends to do very traditional beer,’ said head brewer Will Twomey, as he explained his British take on this international beer style. He created Wheaty McWheatface on the pilot brewkit specially for the competition, using British ingredients throughout, from the 50:50 blend of wheat with Maris Otter, via the Kent First Gold hops, through to his own ale yeast. ‘I’m very proud of this beer,’ he said. ‘ I really like beers where you want to get a second or third.’
West Berkshire Brewery wins a pair of tickets to visit Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic, as well as a seasonal listing at a selection of M&B’s leading pubs for Wheaty McWheatface.