THE WINNER IS…

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There were no fewer than fourteen entries for the home-brew competition we announced at the last Leeds Home-Brewers’ meet up at the end of July – a number that far exceeded our expectations – with the judging having taken place yesterday afternoon at the Mitre in Knaresborough.

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We put together a five-man judging panel that comprised of Adam Gray, the manager of The Mitre, Stuart Goddard and Des Tinline, manager and assistant manager respectively of Ake & Humphris, a top notch wine and beer shop in Harrogate, with two representatives from Rooster’s completing the line-up.

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Adam, Stuart and Des all have a strong pedigree when it comes to wine tasting and judging (Adam holds a WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits and is a qualified trainer, having previously worked in such a capacity for Oddbins. Stuart, a home-brewer himself, has over ten years’ experience of tastings and working in the off-trade, whilst Des is a wine and beer enthusiast, who’s been actively tasting for more than fifteen years), so it wasn’t a difficult job when it came down to choosing who should help us with the competition.

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Given that there wasn’t a set brief for the competition, with the emphasis being on quality, rather than brewing to a particular style, we had a wide range of beers to sample, from a classic English bitter to a pumpkin brown ale, with pretty much everything in between. We organised the beers in order of perceived intensity, from pale ales all the way to the other, darker end of the spectrum.

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Judging was based on appearance, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and an overall opinion, with each judge giving a score out of fifty, before discussing the beer as a group. It was agreed, as it is with such competitions, that, once all the beers had been scored, the highest and lowest scores would be removed from that beer’s total, with the remaining number being divided by three. This was to ensure that any personal preference or dislike towards a particular style could be eliminated from scoring, as we wanted this to be all about the quality of the beer, how well it had been brewed and whether it was a good representation of the style.

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Suffice to say, the quality of what had been offered up was very good, very good indeed, with the final result being a close-run thing.

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The names of the brewers behind the beers were kept in sealed envelopes and only became known to everyone around the table once the winning beer had been confirmed. So, without further delay, in reverse order, the top three beers on the day were as follows…

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3rd Place -

Saison De La Maison (6.1%) – Neil Gardner
A delicately-balanced Saison, this beer was an understated triumph. Far from being brash and in your face, it was a beer that quietly went about its business in ticking all the boxes for the style, without being over the top or ramming it down your throat. Lovely stuff.

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2nd Place -

Amber Ale (6.5%) – Jon Ainsworth
There wasn’t a great deal to get excited about in terms of aroma with this beer, but the complex bitter-sweet flavours that had been brought together resulted in a very well-balanced and moreish beer, with a good length of flavour, that proved tricky to put down.

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1st Place -

Transatlanticism (6.8%) – David Bishop
A hop-forward porter in the modern style, this beer screamed HOPS at you from the glass. Bursting with juicy fruit aromas amidst a touch of coffee, backed up by a big hit of roasty bitterness, the carbonation was spot on and it retained its head well. A worthy winner.

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We’d like extend our gratitude to all those who took part and will arrange for a small token of thanks to be delivered for each brewer to either Friends Of Ham or Beer Ritz, depending on where the beer had originally been dropped off, along with the judging sheets for each beer. We hope the brewers involved will find the feedback useful.