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Britfest champ sets record

Tasting notes from the Great British Beer Festival

The Champion Beer of Britain, 1999, is Timothy Taylor's Landlord, from the North of England. This is the fourth time Landlord has won the title in the past two decades. No other beer has such a record, though the London brewery Fullers has over the years picked up four championships with three different products (ESB, London Pride and Chiswick Bitter).

Timothy Taylor's is an old-established regional brewery in the town of Keighley, in the county of Yorkshire. Its top-of-the-range Landlord is a medium-strong Bitter Ale.

The Championship was decided in a blindfold tasting on the opening day of the Great British Beer Festival (August 3-7) at the Olympia exhibition hall in London. The festival is organised by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Around 50 beers chosen by regional panels were judged at Olympia. The top six went into a final taste-off. I was a judge in the taste-off, along with fellow beer-writer Roger Protz; CAMRA activist Kathy Hadfield; Keith Thomas, who runs Brewlab courses; Sarah Bennett, a sensory specialist at Brewing Research International; and brewer David Welsh, of Ringwood.

The beers were presented with code-numbers, and judged blind. "Classic English hops!" enthused Thomas, nosing the beer that turned out to be the winner. His talk of "earthy" hop aromas suggested East Kent Goldings. That diverted me from a suspicion that the beer might be Landlord, which usually has more of a Styrian hop character. I loved the length of its hop character: aroma, flavour especially, and bitterness, in a beautiful interplay with malty sweetness. Bennett and Welsh were less convinced about its balance, but all the judges liked the beer.

A more American-tasting beer, with a huge hop aroma and bitterness, against a firm, lean malt background, turned out to be Jeffrey Hudson Bitter, from the Oakham micro and brewpub, in Peterborough, in the East of England. This won the Gold Medal in the category for a regular-strength Bitter and Silver Medal in the overall championship.

A hoppy beer with a more delicate balance emerged as Deuchar's IPA, from the Caledonian Brewery, in Edinburgh this won Silver in its category and Bronze in the overall championship.

The top award in the category for an extra-strong bitter went to the honeyed, herbal-tasting, Nyewood Gold, from the Ballard's micro, of Petersfield, Hampshire, in the South.

Gold medal for Mild was aarded to to another persistent winner, Bateman's, of Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, also in the East of England. Bateman's Mild, with a cherryish aroma, notes of licorice and an almost peaty finish, put up a robust performance despite the typically low alcohol of the style.

George and Pat Bateman, renowned for their successful fight to retain the independence of their family brewery in the 1980s, have both endured bouts of ill-health in recent years. It was good to see them smilingly doing the rounds of the festival.

The complete results.

Published: AUG 4, 1999
In: Beer Hunter Online

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