I have the best bosses in the world. Nope--the UNIVERSE. Not only did they send me down to London to "network" at Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), but they also gave me the opportunity that a lot of people would give their left arm for: I got to be a judge for the final round of the Champion Bottled Beers of Britain (CBBOB)!
The final judging took place the day before GBBF opened and consisted of a panel of six judges--including me--who were tasked with picking the bronze, silver, and gold bottled beer award winners. Even though you may think that sitting around tasting beers and talking about them with some esteemed beer industry people would be easy: it wasn't. The final nine beers we tasted had made their way to us after a YEAR of multiple levels of selections around the country--to include two more panels before us on the same day.
A fellow judge--none other than Mr. Roger Protz
Suffice it to say, once the final nine are selected and passed on to the final round, these are the crème de la crème. Picking one of them to be the best is no easy task, especially considering that there are so many deserving beers and brewers that deserve to be recognized. Nevertheless, the task was ours and we all (rather gladly) accepted it.
The process was easy: look, sniff, taste, score--all blind, of course. Basically what we were looking for was whether the beer was pretty true to style, interesting, and--most importantly--did it make you want to drink a lot of it?! There was a little chatter amongst us judges with regards to certain flavors and aromas that we were getting and, on a general level, whether we liked it or not. Ultimately our scoring was done individually and anonymously.
I sampled more smartly as they went on!
Once we had finished all the tasting, we took a moment to confer with each other about whether our scores that we had given each beer truly represented the best beers of the lot--and a few judges took another taste of a couple of beers to confirm. We then collectively confirmed that we had the same top five beers just to ensure that there wasn't a rogue outlier that we should revisit. Once we were satisfied that we had all independently, but collectively, determined the top five the scores were handed in to be tallied. And then there was nothing to do but wait until the big announcement!
With regards to my voting, I'm pleased that my favorite--and my #1--of the day was ultimately declared the Gold Champion Bottled Beer of Britain award winner--Marble Chocolate Marble. What won it for me was the absolute glut of aromas and flavors of licorice, molasses, raisins, and coffee. Yet, despite its bold flavors it is still was very drinkable. Beautiful ruby highlights and a frothy tan head just further proved my point.
While all of the beers were deserving, there were definitely a few other standouts for me: The ultimate Silver winner St. Austell Proper Job, Bronze Winner Spire Prince Igor Russian Imperial Stout, and Moor Revival (who were my #4, #2, and #3 respectively.)
I'm so grateful that I had this opportunity to judge--I would love to do it again. It was such a blast and I felt like a very important person walking around with my "Judge" badge on. This was truly was a GBBF to remember.
******Not to get all "business-like on you, but if you fancy trying to prove me and the other judging panels wrong, we at Beer Hawk have a CBBOB case that we put together of 15 of the beers that made it to the final rounds. We don't have all the beers from the round that I judged, rather, it's a collection of beers from the final three rounds. It DOES include the Silver winner and a few others from our final round--and it will soon include the Gold winner once the brewery brews it again! Just visit this link below to purchase. Be warned, though--it'll sell out soon!******