It would seem that I am going through a lager stage of beer appreciation. On my holiday the only draught beer on the cruise ship was San Miguel, good for refreshment value but if there is a more highly carbonated beer than this I have yet to come across it. Then last week I had the pleasure of the company of the boys from Namibian Breweries and enjoyed supping the Windhoek Lager.
This week my lager quest is continuing. Yesterday, I was invited to be a judge at the International Beer Challenge, a competition for packaged beer that has been held for many years and is one of the year's most significant competitions. The judging this year was held at the White Horse, Parsons Green, the judges were hauled together by Des Mulcahy, organiser of the fabulous Beer Exposed event held in 2008, and the judges were led by beer writer, Jeff Evans
There were over 400 beers to judge and six tables of six judges. You don't have to be an arithmetic champion to work out that this was going to be a long day.
First up was pale lagers and the second flight was the stronger lagers over 5%. I thought I was being punished for previous indiscretions but given that most of the packaged beer sold in this country is some sort of pilsner derivative, it appeared that most of the tables were on lager and most were now realising it was the International Beer Challenge. Our group was definitely challenged but we awarded some medals to those beers which were clearly better than standard.
Next up was a group of golden ales, where I found my beer of the day, a beer with a dominant hop aroma and bursting with citrus and spicy flavours. An clear gold medal for me and the judges were unanimous. I'll be very interested to learn what this beer was when the results are announced in a week or so.
After lunch we moved onto best bitters, dunkels and other dark beers, and closed the afternoon with Trappist, trippel and Abbey beers which livened up my tired palate no end.
My day was complete when my body finally rejected a mouthful of water which came straight back up and nearly nearly sprayed over fellow judge, Richard from the Rake/Utobeer.
Some went to the bar for a pint, others went of to the Rake for an Italian beer tasting. I went straight home after the most exhausting day for a long while. Who says this is easy ?
It was a fun day and always interesting to drink beer in the company of experts. Although I knew many people in the room, there's always new people to meet who have similar passion for beer as myself - particularly those who are lucky enough to work in the industry rather than us enthusiastic consumers.
If you are interested in the results, you will find them at www.ibc-awards.com in due course.