Monday, 1 August 2011

Is this really the Best of British Beer?


I've just had a thorough look through this year's GBBF beer list and a couple of things stand out and require comment.

Firstly, as I've stated earlier in a previous blogpost, the range and choice of the international beers is simply fantastic. From New Zealand via Belgium, Japan and the USA is not only out of this world but it represents the best examples of beer from the four corners of the globe. Credit must go to the person in charge of choosing the international beers. Hats off and glass raised in appreciation.

However, having spent some time going through the UK cask beer list, I find myself asking, "Is this really the very best of British beer at this moment?"

It goes without saying that there are some super UK cask beers on the list and available at the GBBF this week and that this list is extensive and offers beer drinkers a diverse variety and choice this but it struck me that some of the best British beers from some of the best British brewers are conspicuous by their absence at the GBBF.

Take, for example, Fyne Ales. They produce some of the best light, hoppy and golden beers currently available in the UK. Their Avalanche, Hurricane Jack and Jarl beers are absolutely superb yet absent from the list. Fyne Ales' Jarl has blown the socks off nearly everyone that has tried it and has earned rave reviews from all over the country since it was launched last summer. This 3.8% Citra based session beer regularly sells out in under a handful of hours when it appears in pubs and it was recently awarded the SIBA overall champion beer of Scotland. I'm mystified as to why this beer and others from the Fyne canon are not available at the festival. Instead, the only beer from Fyne at the GBBF is their Highlander, which is a relatively nice heavy style beer but it's not what I would have picked from their stable for the GBBF.

Take also, for example Camden Town brewery which have only bottles and no cask available. Likewise, The Kernel which have, again, no cask and only bottles. For Manchester Brewery, Marble, they fare a bit better with a cask version of their chocolate stout available but not their better known beers such as Dobber and Marble Pint. Some breweries don't even figure at all at the fest, such as Hardknott Brewing from Cumbria.

Maybe, I'm splitting hairs but if you hold a beer event and call it the Great British Beer Festival then you should, surely, go to the effort to ensure that you carry the best of British beer.

Can someone explain the beer selection process for the GBBF beer list as I can't work out why some cracking cask has been left off the menu?

Despite this, there are more than enough different beers and beer styles to go round and I'm sure that everyone will have a blast.




  1. First thing is to define "best".

  2. I'm personally gutted hardknott are not making an appearance, their granite is epic.

  3. Britain's No1 Carling is missing again. British beer fest? Bearded beer fest.

  4. As Velky Al says "best" is very subjective, everyone will be able to point to a favourite pint that isn't available at GBBF but there's more than enough good beer on offer - I challenge anyone not to be able to find a session's worth of beer to their taste. Overall, I think the listing gives a good picture of the current real-ale landscape - the big regionals, the family brewers, the more tradition-minded micros and the new breed of "craft beer" innovators. However, I also think its right that relative newcomers such as Hardknott (much as I like what I've had from them)and other geek favourites should have to demonstrate a bit of a track record and, if you like, pay their dues before earning a place on the bar (mind you in the case of Hardknott Dave, slagging off CAMRA on his blog every other week probably doesn't exactly endear him to the organisers !)As for Kernel and Camden, neither actually do that much cask and may not even be in a position to supply the quantities required(Kernel were hard pressed to provide just 4 casks for tonights meet the brewer at the The Cask for example) , as it is they will have an opportunity to demonstrate their considerable flair through their bottled beers and hopefully as they grow and expand they'll be on the bar in years to come.

  5. What Reading Tom said - my thoughts almost exactly, get out of my head! :) *dons tin foil hat*

    I also don't get why everyone's so hung up on Fyne Ales Jarl. I tried it at it's launch at Fynefest last year and it was indeed a lovely beer - didn't 'blow my socks off' but a very nice beer nonetheless. I've had it a couple of times since and it's been distinctly "Meh.." I think at it's launch everything was in perfect alignment - the glorious weather, the location, the atmosphere etc, all contributed. I've filed it under "You had to be There" beers.

  6. I am with the beer monkey on this one. I'm off to the GBBF tomorrow and I am aiming to get a table near the US cask ale. Although there are many good British beers available it's the American and Belgian beers that have drew me in - it is some of them that I really want to try. I was dissapointed to see that Liverpool Organic, my local brewery, have only one beer - an elderflower ale. The 6.5% Shipwrek IPA they do is fantastic. It's a shame to see no Magic Rock - I really want to try some of there beers. To me the point of a a beer festival is to give people the oppertunity to try new beers from new breweries - not the same standard Fullers (8 beers at gbbf) and Marstons (10 beers at gbbf). Don't get me wrong, the festival is going to be great, but it won't be the British beers that will make it great for me.

  7. Brief guide to GBBF selection:
    1. In January an invitation is sent to all branches to submit their suggestions for beers to be ordered (and those not to be ordered).
    2. No beers are "carried over" from previous year's orders.
    3. Not all suggested beers can be taken up.
    4. Breweries must:
    a. be able to supply at least 4 kilderkins (18 gallon casks) of each beer.
    b. each supplied beer to be from the same gyle.
    5. Certain beers are included to form the CBOB judging panel - these are chosen throughout the year in various regional and national competitions, e.g. CWBOB (winter beer).

  8. @anon

    thanks for a breakdown of the beer selection procedure.