The five finalists – Geipel from North Wales and the Bristol outpost of Zero Degrees, plus Fourpure, Brick Lane and Coalition from London – will pitch for the audience’s vote in the Beer & Cider Hub.
The final sees New Wave British lagers face up against more traditional European styles, all chasing the prize of a seasonal listing in a selection of M&B’s leading pubs.
The competition is run by Imbibe in association with the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA). Round 1 was held at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre, as a prelude to SIBA’s annual Beer X conference, and attracted a record entry.
“The huge number of entries we received this year from independent craft brewers shows quality lager is here to stay, and I’d like to personally offer huge congratulations to the skilled brewers named as finalists.” said SIBA’s Neil Walker.
Three breweries were also Highly Commended for their entries, Windsor & Eton, Enfield Brewery and Fourpure, the latter already in the final with another entry.
More tricky to brew than popular perception would have you believe, not all the entrants nailed the style. “Some beers lacked yeast character and a sense of true lagering, that is, ageing,” said chair of judges, Mark Dorber of The Anchor at Walberswick.
The idea behind the competition is not only to celebrate excellence, but also to share with the Imbibe Live audience the ideas behind and the challenges associated with brewing quality beer. “I think everyone can benefit from attending a final like this,” said Nathan Price of M&B’s The Shipping Forecast in Liverpool. “Finding out the winner will be interesting in such a tight final. I will definitely be attending.”
“Since launching Unity Lager last year we’ve had really positive feedback from both the trade and consumers alike,” said finalist, Coalition Brewing’s Will Parkes. “It’s very gratifying to receive this kind of endorsement for our beers from the judges. Put simply: we’re chuffed!”
Imbibe Live Beer Ambassador Mitch Adams, of Borough Wines & Beers, will MC the final. “The first round was tough with some great beers narrowly missing out,” he said. “We have emerged with a vibrant raft of beers showing the diversity of British brewing and clearly highlighting the demand for flavoursome lagers.”
So, who will win? Will it be the fledgling Coalition Brewing, with its take on a classic pilsner? Or Fourpure’s Indy Lager, in the style of a traditional Germany Helles? Redchurch entered one of its original creations, Brick Lane Lager, while Geipel won through with its toffee and caramel-infused Bock. Finally, the veteran of the finalists, the Zerodegrees group, called on Bristol for its entry, the easy-drinking, well-balanced Bohemian.
“This is an excellent shortlist of quality British lagers,” said Bundobust’s Marco Husak.
All finalists’ beers will be available for the duration of Imbibe Live at the show’s popular Hop & Apple Bar.
For more on the five finalists, check out the Summer issue of Imbibe, out in June.