Sunday, 30 April 2017

The 41st Newcastle Beer Festival. Battle of the beers.

I win again. Fourth Battle Of The Beers win in six years.

So it was that time of year again. The trade session at Newcastle Beer Festival is always a great get together for the local industry. From brewers, to landlords, to wholesalers, this year I got to meet the folk from some newer breweries such as Stu Brew and the respective Errant Brewery. Although it seemed a tad quieter this time the stage was still set to unveil this years Battle Of The Beers winners.

This year Battle Of The Beers was a contest of who could brew the best IPA between 4-6%. Being style specific for the first time this removed the 'paper-scissors-stone' dynamic of previous years where if you entered a big porter style beer you automatically had advantage over a mild. So with the many sub styles of IPA the majority of entrants went with US style IPA, followed by some UK style traditional IPAs then the odd farmhouse IPA and even a Peach IPA from Box Socal brewing.

The Mordue entry this year was 5PA a west cost style IPA. The number 5 represents 5% abv and the use of five hops. It's also double dry hopped and unlike most of its competitors it was fined (don't mention this to any unfined elitists they won't believe it). Yet from the brewery I was 89% confident of defeat. Out of the tank 5PA had so much late bitterness it was bound to divide a judging panel. Yet on cask 5PA mellowed into a bold ride of grapefruit and citrus pine, I didn't ever think it would be in such superb form.

This year our very close runner-up was Almasty Brew Co Mosaic IPA, a 6% NZ-US hop combo this time unfined. It was reasonably hazy, bold but mellow with lots of complex Nelson Sauvin over a medley of soft fruit and pine. Since 2014 the ex Mordue and Tyne Bank brewer Mark McGarry, now Almasty's head brewer, has entered the local scene with a resolve for on-trend bold, uncompromising beers. His second silver at BOTB  was always going to look good on paper. Like an old tennis rivalry, the former chef vs the biochemist we have both undoubtedly added a great deal to the local beer scene.

So, after the overwhelming realisation of winning despite being convinced it wasn't going to happen and trying for so long it was time to try new beers. Flash House Iron Giant IPA (BOTB third place) was soft-bodied, unfined and citra led. Yet it got to a point where IPA became tiring and I had to sort myself out with some Leeds Midnight Bell, 4.8% dark mild. Shortly after, the recent SIBA award winner 5.3% Daleside Monkey Wrench was tried with its dark fruit and boozy caramel malts.

Elland 1872 the former champion beer of Britain was also on, another big beer with lots going on. All in all only a small range of beers were tried in comparison to what was available but it was a great day out. I learned Olicana hops are nothing like Jester and that Stu Brew would kindly let us borrow there tiny brew kit to do short run Panda Frog batches. Just splendid.