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    Friday, 23 January 2009

    Why Is There A Champion Winter Beer?

    Oakham Atilla has been crowned Champion Winter Beer Of Britain at The National Winter Ales Festival.

    Well done Oakham say I, although I'm calling for this competition to be scrapped and the Champion Beer Of Britain judging in August to include all styles of beer. The only time I've had the beer was in October 2004 at The Bedford Beer Festival which it could be argued is the Winter although I'm not convinced. Looking at the other ratings on RateBeer most people on there drank it in the Autumn or even the Summer, so although it the type of beer that just doesn't see the light of day at GBBF, it's probably inaccurate to call it a "winter beer", so even the name of the competition is folly.

    The categories which are judged at NWAF are old ales and strong milds; porters; stouts and barley wines. Any beers fulfilling these categories struggle to gain floor space at Earls Court, instead being showcased in Manchester. I really cannot agree with these beers being described and judged as Winter beers. I'd like to see them available all year round, but CAMRA calling them and judging them as such is not helpful to the necessary promotion of these styles.

    So CAMRA, by all means have a huge beer festival in the North at this time of year, but let both festivals have the best of all British beers and just have the one big best beer of Britain competition.


    haddonsman said...

    Perhaps CAMRA don't want too many stronger beers on sale at GBBF? Perhaps those styles wouldn't go down so well in summer with the mass market that GBBF attracts?

    And far from showcasing 'winter' styles, NWAF devalues them in context of the Supreme Champion competition by lumping several styles together and only allowing one to go forward.

    Perhaps they're scared of a seven percent beer winning Supreme Champion. Or they're worried that they can't madly promote a winning beer that wasn't available at the summer festival and may not be brewed again for several months.

    Paul Garrard said...

    I've never really agreed with the idea of awards, be it for beer, music, films etc. These things are about personal taste.

    Rednev said...

    In principle I tend to agree with Paul about awards, but no one seems to have addressed the point that their main purpose is publicity. In this the winter ale awards are successful, regardless of any quibbles about their format. I'm not a regular dark ale drinker, but I welcome any positive publicity that such awards give to real ale.

    Mr Johnson said...

    I'm partial to Attila myself; it's available quite frequently at one my locals, more or less year-round.

    I'm also pleased to see CAMRA giving a major award to a strong, ambitious, tasty beer instead of the ordinary session bitters they tend to favour.

    Mark said...

    I agree with you. And just because it's a strong beer doesn't necessarily mean that I will only want it in the winter, likewise I will happily drink a cold pale ale all year round. Good beer is good beer.

    Haddonsman, you make wise points indeed!

    And I think that there should be a Champion Beer of Britain but I had this years winner at the GBBF and thought it was the weakest beer I tried all day. I guess it's like the Oscars - everyone has their own opinions but it's voted for by those higher up with (perhaps) vested interests.

    Tandleman said...

    To be eligible for Champion Beer of Britain, you have to have all year round availability. If you think this through, it is sensible. Some beers are just brewed for winter, hence a Champion Winter Beer. That seems sensible too, otherwise some excellent beers couldn't gain recognition. If your beer is brewed all round you can be in both. Some companies simply couldn't afford to brew certain beers all year round as they wouldn't sell.

    All seems logical to me.

    Dubbel said...

    Thanks Tandleman, that explains why Wickwar Station Porter was in the overall competition last year but other winter winners haven't been. Personally, I take no issue with having a Champion Winter Beer of Britain and the brutish Atilla is a worthy winner.

    Mark, I agree fully about 2008's overall winner - underwhelming to say the least. For me it's a travesty that Dark Star Hophead has never won the accolade.