Admirable ale triumph

14 November, 2008

This week OLN gathered together influential figures from the brewing world to announce the winners of this year's International Beer Challenge. Here we round up the results

Each year, the International Beer Challenge discovers and rewards the finest beers from across the globe in association with Off Licence News.

Entries are divided into 12 classes and are

judged and assessed on both taste and packaging by a panel of the industry's leading beer experts, headed by chairman and

beer writer Jeff Evans.

The winning beer from each of the 12 classes,

the overall Supreme Champion and winning international entry

were awarded at the prestigious IBC awards ceremony, held this week at the Bluebird restaurant

on London's Kings Road.

International Champion and Best in Class Beer above 7% abv

Samuel Adams Utopias, 27% abv

Utopias breaks new ground in the world of beer, taking it into fortified wine and spirit territory. From the oaky port and brandy aroma, through the slick and smooth flavour

to the warming finish, this is a beer to sip and savour. In the mouth expect sweet oranges, raisins, plums and caramel and a restrained

oaky character, but don't expect lively carbonation - this is a flat beer. The packaging is outrageously different, too, with the bottle taking the shape of a brew kettle. The most talked-about beer among the judges by a long way.

Best in Class Ale up to 4.2% abv

Brains Dark, 4.1% abv

This Welsh icon is

now achieving the success it has long deserved. A garnet-coloured mild (slightly stronger in the bottle than on draught), it drinks rather like a porter, being fairly dry and mostly bitter, but with a touch of sweetness. Plain chocolate and roasted malt flavours come through on the palate, before a nutty, coffeeish, dry, bitter finish.

Best in Class Ale between 5.6% and

6.9% abv

Fuller's 1845, 6.3% abv

Fuller's is leading the way in producing strong, bottle-conditioned beers in the UK, and it was 1845 that set the ball rolling. This is designed to taste like a Victorian ale, hence the use of amber malt and Golding hops, ingredients available at that time. It's a full-flavoured, smooth and malty dark ale, with complex fruit from the hops and a good balancing bitterness.

Best in Class Lager up to

4.2% abv

Atlas Latitude Highland

Pilsner, 3.9%

It's now three years in a row that this exceptional Scottish beer has claimed a Best in Class title. You can put the reason down to flavour. Although there's 3.9% of alcohol, this lager is bursting with spicy, grapefruit notes from the hops. The packaging is always a hit too, with classy labelling that suggests

there's real pride in the beer.

Best in Class Lager between 4.3% and

5.5% abv

Whitewater Belfast

Lager, 4.5% abv

The reputation of British-brewed lager has improved dramatically in recent times and one of the beers that is set to keep the standard high is this straw-coloured brew from Northern Ireland. ­Whitewater's creation is exceptionally tasty and well-balanced, bittersweet and lemony to taste with a keen hop character and a cleanness and crispness you associate with the very best lagers.

Best in Class Lager between 5.6% and 6.9% abv

Zywiec, 5.6% abv

Poland's biggest beer export is a full-­bodied, smooth and very nicely balanced strong lager brewed in the south of the country. Creamy pale malt leads the way on the palate, backed by gently sappy, herbal hops and faint suggestions of almond. The bittersweet flavour turns slowly bitter in the drying finish as the tangy hops take more control.

Best in Class Fruit Beer

Timmermans Strawberry Lambic,

4% abv

Refreshment is what this Belgian beer is

about. It's not one of those mouth-puckeringly sour beers the country is famous for, but

a lusciously fruity drink, packed with strawberries and with just a little tartness to counter the full sweetness.

Best in Class Wheat Beer

Sharp's Honey Spice Wheat, 6.4% abv

New and exciting products are emerging from this Cornish brewhouse all the time. Honey Spice Wheat has received the broadest welcome. It's a complex, golden-yellow beer laced with cinnamon, coriander and mixed peel. The full-bodied taste is bittersweet and blends both citrus and tropical fruits with perfumed spice notes, all against a honeyed smoothness.

Best in Class Stout or Porter up to

6.9% abv

Batemans Dark Lord, 5% abv

An attractive ruby beer with a full, creamy malt character, named in honour of English Civil War commander Thomas Fairfax, who led the Parliamentarians to victory close to Batemans' Lincolnshire home. The beer is a porter in style, offering silky-smooth chocolate notes and a spicy warmth, before a dry, bitter, malty and increasingly hoppy finish. "Really exciting, diverse flavours," enthused one judge, while others applauded Batemans' informative back label.

Best in Class Dark/Black Lager up to 6.9% abv

Samuel Adams Octoberfest, 5.3% abv

The dark lager class covers styles of lager that are darker than the predominant golden pilsners, exports and helles. Sam Adams Octoberfest is a fine re creation of the Bavarian festival beer style, a super-smooth and easy-drinking dark amber/reddish brew with a creamy, velvety, malty-sweet and raisin-like flavour, backed by light hop resins.

Best in Class Non-Alcoholic and Low Alcohol Beer

Clausthaler, 0.5% abv

Alcohol is fundamental to the character of a beer, so it's not easy to produce a drinkable alternative without the kick. But that's what this German brewery specialises in.

It won this class last year with a different beer, so

it

is certainly at the head of this particular field. Clausthaler Premium is a dry, crisp, herbal-hoppy drink with a clean bitterness and a dry, herbal, bitter finish.

Supreme Champion and Best in Class Ale

between 4.3% and 5.5%

abv

St Austell Admiral's Ale, 5% abv

Once again, in the face of intense global competition, a British beer has claimed the IBC's Supreme Champion title.

The

recipe does not use pale malt , which is universally employed by other brewers because of its abundant fermentable sugars that darker malts normally cannot provide.

For this beer,

St Austell has created a new kind of dark malt called Cornish Gold, sending Cornish barley to Tucker's Maltings in Devon where it is toasted at high humidity

to keep

the important sugars available.

The result is a beer with a soft, nutty character offset by an adventurous choice of Slovenian Styrian Golding and American Cascade hops

which bring

citrus and tropical fruit flavours.

But

it's not just taste that dictates the winner . Judges also loved the "fun and informative" packaging with its colourful, modern Nelson cartoon and no shortage of useful details about the beer inside the attractive bottle.




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