The Great North West Homebrew Competition | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Great North West Homebrew Competition

It all began with a few drinks and a healthy debate about which homebrew group would win in a beer based duel. And so, organised by homebrew groups from Chester and Manchester (soon joined by others including Macclesfield and New Mills), the Great North West Homebrew Competition was born. Hosted at the super-cool BrewDog Manchester, with homebrewer and BrewDog man Tom at the helm, we arrived on a gloomy and humid Sunday morning looking forward to the proceedings.

Marking the beers were six judges - a triumverate of Jims from Salford Beer Festival, BrewDog Manchester, and our very own Mr M representing Blue Monkey, alongside Nathan from Seven Bro7hers, Duncan from TicketyBrew and Angelos from BrewDog HQ.

The judges took their seats around the top table with a sense of palpable trepidation, knowing full well that 91 homebrews were on the cards for consumption over the coming hours.

The beers, split into 6 categories, ranged in strength from 2.8% to 11% with every type of beer you can imagine making an appearance and demonstrating the sheer diversity possible.
Judges working hard
The unanimous winner of round one, the session beers, was a wonderfully refreshing Berliner-Weisse which looked akin to Fentiman's lemonade, and came in with a low ABV of 2.9%. The second bottle acted as a mid-round palate cleanser for the judges. One judge gave this a "punk" rating of 23/23, commenting "You are an artist, sir". High praise indeed for brewers Tom Lewis and Bruce Wilcox.

Next up - the "Bests", which included beverages such as a passionfruit and sage pale, witbiers and bitters. A pretty eclectic competition in this round, which was won by Dave Harrison-Ward's Lemon and Cardamom Hopfenweisse - a great combination of flavours which resulted in a delicate but tasty beer at 5.2% ABV, receiving absolutely full marks from one judge.

Strong beers came to the fore for the third round, with ABVs between 5.5% and 10.2%. Lots of barley wines and high strength saisons in this one, with some innovative combinations of ingredients such as an IPA made with Granny Smith's apples, and chardonnay soaked oak chips. David Bishop's fine example of an imperial stout (9%) took first place, with the strongest beer of the round, Peter Sidwell's barley wine "Cascadia" coming in a very close second, receiving top marks for "Knockbackability".

After a quick burger break for the increasingly rosy-cheeked judges, it was on to the IPA round. Chris Clough's "Puny Human" IPA at 5.8% took the glory for this one, praised for being utterly quaffable and having a "real nice" nose brimming with Simcoe aroma.

The most hotly contested round, stouts and porters, came next, with 19 brews battling it out. Although closely fought, the winning beer was Matt Dutton's Imperial Brett Stout, a truly fantastic imperial stout made with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast usually found on the skins of fruit) that gave some wonderfully sour notes that elevated what would otherwise still have been a great beer to a whole new level. Described as "punk as fook" on the score sheets, the judges were all impressed by the skill involved in creating a beer which took them on a journey from dark and malty to sharp and lip-smackingly good. Scoring the highest marks of the day, this beer was also the overall winner, giving some extra bragging rights to Manchester homebrew club.

Finally, an array of weird and wonderful beers were sampled for the "Anything Goes" round, from melon Scotch ales to mince pie beers. The winner of this one was Chris Clough's "Black Ash", a peppered rauchbier, smoky with a prickle of heat and really well balanced.


The day itself was a triumph - well attended, with plenty of beer chat and just the right amount of friendly competition. It's clear that the interest in craft brewing and the rise of the industry show no sign of slowing down any time soon. A handful of the beers offered are already available commercially, with brewers such as Steve (@BeerNouveau) licensing their homebrew kits, and it wouldn't surprise us if more were to follow suit, with a number of beers sampled which wouldn't be out of place alongside big-hitters such as Beavertown and Magic Rock.

Cheers,

L&J

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