Beer Masters 2019: results in full

The year’s Beer Masters showed the development of styles in the sector, as well as the the growth of the low- and no-alcohol category.

WHEN WE launched the Beer Masters in 2014, the craft beer industry was starting to mature. Now we’re seeing much more variety in the sector, from barrel-aged imperial stouts and low-ABV pale ales, to hop-forward IPAs and lagers made from leftover bread. We may not yet have seen see smoothie-thick New England IPAs and double-fermented cranberry Goses in supermarkets, but the list of beers entered into our Masters this year shows just how the UK’s everyday beer-drinking culture has changed in the last five years. This year’s Global Beer Masters judging panel consisted of nine industry experts, ranging from sommeliers and buyers to ZX Ventures insiders, who oversaw a broad range of brews organised into seven style categories.

In a bid to level the playing field and make this a competition aimed at the everyday drinker who buys beer from the supermarket as well as aficionados, small craft brewers were judged side by side with the world’s biggest producers. Overall, there was a shift in the lager category towards more malt-forward, Helles styles over the Pilsners that dominated our blind tasting last year. Craft lager was the hot topic of 2018, and dozens of beers we tasted in 2019 sought to replicate its crisp, floral flavours and bitter finish. But, as co-chair Shane McNamara noted, this year showed “a shift towards balance.

“While hop-forward beers were still present in the line-up, they were backed by more malt presence without being dominating.” Malt-forward Helles-style lagers, he said, were more present this year. “This would appear to follow a consumer trend in the desire for a clean, crisp malt-forward lager with floral aromas rather than a clean, crisp, slightly more bitter lager with herbal aromas.”

While there may have been fewer Gold medals handed out in 2019 than in 2018, beer sommelier Natalya Watson said she thought this was no bad thing. “It’s better to have more good beers overall, than to have a few outstanding beers in a pool of mediocre ones, which would shake out to the same average.”
Though Helles styles came into play, our largest category was, again, hop-forward ales, which Watson said comes as no surprise, because consumers “can’t seem to get enough bitterness these days”.

About the Beer Masters

While the Global Masters runs a series of blind-tasting competitions throughout the year focused on wine varieties – from Chardonnay to Cabernet – and wine styles, from rosé to sparkling, along with key wine regions, such as Champagne and Rioja, the programme of events also includes judging sessions on other categories, notably cider, and most recently, beer.

The beers in this blind-tasting competition were judged over the course of one day on Friday 30 August at the Brewhouse & Kitchen on Geffrye Street in Hoxton, London. This report features the medal-winners only.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the opportunity to feature online and in print – please call +44 (0)20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

LOW-RISERS
Last year, we included a low- and no-alcohol category in our competition for the first time. Globally, volume sales of mainstream lagers are falling, along with overall alcohol consumption. We see countless reports and surveys telling us that the new generation of consumers barely drinks at all, and when they do, they want it to add value to their lives. The beer industry has been quick to act, and no-alcohol beers have been launching on a weekly basis for several years. With brewers striving to make something that is so much more than a consolation prize for the designated driver, it seemed appropriate to widen the remit of our awards to offer sober-curious consumers guidance on the beers to seek out when they’re taking a break from their regular choices. Last year, we were able to award a Gold medal to Heineken’s newly rolled-out 0.0 lager, but this year, the category’s only Gold went to a newcomer; Small Beer Brew Co. Coming in at 1% ABV, the dark lager not only signals a marked improvement in the quality of low-alcohol beers within just one year, but also in the range of styles available.

McNamara said the types of low-ABV beers on the table this year “continue to show the progress of brewers and their ability to craft flavoursome fault-free beers that fulfil the drinkers desire for taste and not just no/low alcohol”. Another beer that fared well in this category, from Storm Brewing in New Zealand, was lighter in style, proving that all over the world, beer businesses are getting better at delivering low-alcohol lagers that are consistently good. Watson said she found Storm’s Light Beer “flavourful and well balanced, which is tough to do with a low-strength brew”.
Though beer and alcohol are familiar bedfellows, it’s clear that our judges are open to new experiences.

Nick Bell, wine, beer and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols, said he wanted to see a “larger variety” of guilt-free beers at next year’s competition.
Watson also said she wanted to see more low- and no-alcohol beers entered in the 2020 competition to find out “how they’ve improved by this time next year”.

POWERFUL PINTS
At the other end of the spectrum, beers that packed a punch with ABVs in the double figures also proved popular. Breweries such as Duvel in Belgium and Porterhouse in Ireland are experimenting with barrel-ageing, and the results are promising. Porterhouse Brewery picked up a Master with its Celebration Barrel-Aged Stout, which comes in at 12%. Matured in Bourbon and Port casks left over from the Dingle Whisky Distillery’s spirits maturation, the pitch-black beer is charged with toffee, vanilla and coffee, carrying all the flavours well, with a rounded texture owed to time spent in barrel.

As a whole, the hop-forward ale beer category yielded strong results, with Golds awarded to a deep ruby Yorkshire ale from Black Sheep Brewery, as well as to St Peter’s in Bury St Edmunds for its cream stout. Nick was particularly pleased with the darker brews this year, noting that the porters and stouts had some “absolutely stunning entries”.
But dark and brooding weren’t the only ways brewers caught our judges’ attention this year. Another high-roller was Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery, which fared well in last year’s competition. This year the judges gave it a Gold. Watson said this beer performed well because its high strength “is balanced by its fruity esters and grainy sweet-malt backbone”. The results show that high strengths pay dividends, provided the beer’s flavours stand up.

GREEN FUTURE
Looking to 2020, our judges were keen to see more low- and no-alcohol beers on the table, as well as Belgian styles, which, as Watson put, it “tend to perform well”. But Alex Stevenson, Beer Academy Sommelier, Certified WSET educator and co-chair of our panel, also thought the time is right to focus on brewers who are not just making great beer, but doing so with the planet in mind.
Taking in the industry as a whole, he said, “the main trends I am seeing tend to be around sustainability, low-ABV and also quality over quantity”. While this year we had more low-ABV beers than ever, Stevenson still felt there was a lack of options on the table, “and not much was said regarding sustainability”.

Some of the brewers who entered our competition have their own eco-friendly credentials. It takes roughly 10 pints of water to brew just one pint of beer. Small Beer Brewing claims it has cut this down to 1.5 pints at its own facility in south London. Toast Ale, meanwhile, is brewed from leftover bread. Perhaps we’ll see more brewers touting their green credentials next year.

Judges: (L-r) Back row: Shane McNamara, James Kellow, Nick Bell, Alex Stevenson,
Anthony Gladman; front row: Sarah Hyde, Natalya Watson, Edith Hancock

Results: Beer & Cider Masters – Asia

Below are the results of our Beer & Cider Masters – Asia.

Phenolic/Astringent

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Authentic Cider (Perrys) Tremlett England Dry Gold
Authentic Cider Olivers Cider and Perry) Gold Rush #5 England Dry Silver
Authentic Cider (Perrys) Puffin England Dry Silver
Authentic Cider (Dunkertons Cider) Dry Organic Cider England Dry Silver
Authentic Cider (Perrys) Barn Owl Wales Medium Master
Authentic Cider (Perrys) Vintage England Medium Silver
Authentic Cider (Dunkertons Cider) Organic Black Fox Cider England Medium Silver
Authentic Cider (Dunkertons Cider) Browns England Medium Silver
Authentic Cider (Perrys) Redstreak England Medium Silver
Authentic Cider (Hallets) Real Cider England Sweet Gold
Authentic Cider (Dunkertons Cider) Premium Organic Cider England Sweet Gold
Authentic Cider (Perrys) Grey Heron England Sweet Silver

Flavoured

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Authentic Cider Olivers Cider and Perry) At the Hop #7 England Dry Silver

Perry

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Authentic Cider (Dunkertons Cider) Organic Perry England Medium Gold
Authentic Cider Olivers Cider and Perry) Fine Perry England Medium Silver
Authentic Cider Olivers Cider and Perry) Classic Medium England Medium Bronze
Authentic Cider (Hallets) Real Perry Wales Sweet Bronze

Lager

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Harviestoun Brewery Schiegallion Scotland Light Gold

Ale

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Harviestoun Brewery Bitter and Twisted (beer) Scotland Light Bronze
Harviestoun Brewery Broken Dial Scotland Medium Bronze
Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil Scotland Dark Gold
Harviestoun Brewery Old Engin Oil Engineers Reserve Scotland Dark Gold

Speciality (aged)

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Harviestoun Brewery Ola Dunh 12 Year Old Scotland Dark Gold

Speciality

Company Product Name Country Sub Category Medal
Harviestoun Brewery Ola Dunh 18 Year Old Scotland Dark Master

The Beer Masters Results 2018

This year’s Global Beer Masters was our biggest yet. While brewers worldwide continue to innovate with fruit infusions and lower ABVs, our panel found the serves that stayed true to form were the real winners, writes Edith Hancock

What a year it’s been for the global beer industry. The craft boom may have ebbed slightly in the US, but IPAs, pale ales and saisons from independent brewers the world over have continued to make their presence known, from California to Clackmannanshire, and Brits’ appetites show no signs of being sated just yet. New brewers continue to come to the market, and while their branding has become increasingly eye-catching and their followers more passionate than ever, standards wil always vary from business to business. Four years ago, we launched the Global Beer Masters to suss out the serves that were soaring.
Applying our tried-and-tested formula for assessing wines and spirits – which sees the drinks business blind tasting drinks according to price and style, but without prejudice about their country of origin – we added beer to our list of products, hosting an inaugural beer tasting competition in London in 2014.
This year, our 12-strong team of experts worked their way through a wide range of beers, organised into broad style categories that included lager, bitter and stout. There’s just one thing our panel of experts are interested in: quality. So just as in previous years, we blind-tasted beers that have been produced by small brewers and those that come from the stable of large breweries side-by-side.

High Standards

Phoebe French, db, and James Kellow, Crate Brewery, judge the extensive lager category.

 

Given that we saw a high quality level across the board, it’s testament to our panel’s unwavering standards that just two beers were awarded a Master – our competition’s highest accolade – awarded to only the most exceptional drinks in the competition. “Entries came from almost all corners of the beer-producing world and made for a fascinating and varied cross-section of flavours in each style category,” Lotte Peplow, UK and European representative of the Brewer’s Association, and co-chair of this year’s Masters, said. Shane McNamara, co-chair of our Masters judging panel, noted how brews that stayed true to form and focused on quality outperformed some of the more innovative drinks that entered the competition. “This year, the beers once again reflected a strong focus on quality for most brewers, with very few typical unintended brewing faults spotted,” he said.

Light and elegant

 

2018 was the year of lager. Some industry insiders have predicted craft lager to be the next big thing for independent brewers, and this was our largest style category by far. “The lager category was of particular interest because of the range of interpretations of the style, as well as by the sheer number of entrants,” Peplow said. “As one of the hardest styles to brew, all but one of the entrants were of exceptional quality and presented in tiptop condition, a testimony to the skill and expertise of today’s brewers.”

Top of the table

 

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to writers and critics at the heart of the industry, if this year’s blind tasting taught us anything, it was that the world’s most valuable beer brands have vast global followings for a reason. Four Gold medals were awarded to lagers this year, two of which went to Heineken and San Miguel. Beer sommelier Jacopo Mazzeo, who also sat on the panel, said: “Judges (including myself) always seem to be surprised at the fact that mass-produced beers can score highly.
As a beer professional, it makes you think, and I believe delivers the right message to the consumer. The actual quality of the product is what really matters.” Of course, there were some shining stars from smaller businesses. A lager from London craft brewer Toast – famed for making beers from leftover bread – picked up a Gold, alongside a serve from Scottish brewery Harviestoun. “Lagers are technically difficult to brew because of their lighter balanced flavours and longer fermentation and maturation times – there is no way to hide faults in these beers,” McNamara said. “So to see smaller breweries such as Harviestoun produce a Gold medal lager is a wonderful achievement.

Beer Masters 2017: the results in full

The results from 2017’s Beer Masters are out, and we bring you the top medallists and overriding style trends in the category. By Patrick Schmitt MW.

Few drinks categories have reinvented themselves as radically as beer. Formerly best known for big-brand lagers, which delivered reliable refreshment and a standard style that crossed continents, even if locally brewed, today, beer can be credited with kick-starting the ‘craft’ movement – a seismic change that sees the unusual and regionally distinct celebrated by producers and consumers.

However, with the sudden emergence of niche brewers on the market, quality is variable, and, as a consequence, in 2016 we launched The Global Beer Masters. Applying our tried-and tested formula for assessing wines and spirits to beer – which sees the drinks business blind tasting drinks according to price and style, but without prejudice about their country of origin – we added beer to our list of products, hosting an inaugural beer tasting competition in London on August last year, and repeated this year in the same month. Using a team of beer experts (see picture and caption below), we scored and discussed a wide range of beers, which were organised into broad style categories.

Furthermore, like last year, we mixed some of the biggest names in the industry within the selection of craft beers, while, as always, we made sure the judges assessed the entries for one thing: quality.

Nigel Sadler is a brewer, former Beer Sommelier of the Year, and vice-chairman of the Southern Section of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD)

Outstanding brews
This year, it was pleasing to see a high level of brew across the board, with only a few entrants failing to pick up accolades, and a high number of Silver medals and above awarded, and, importantly two Masters – the competition’s ultimate award, which is given only to exceptional drinks.

“There are a lot of good acceptable beers on the market and a few outstanding ones which are well worth seeking out – something born out by the number of Master awards that were given on the day,” commented one of the judges, Nigel Sadler, who is a brewer, former Beer Sommelier of the Year, and vice-chairman of the Southern Section of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD).

Another judge, Shane McNamara, a Beer Sommelier and senior technical officer of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD), observed the quality seen in the competition, noting in particular the greater focus on balanced flavours among the entries. “The movement towards more balanced beers was present across the styles tasted this year and the beers that excelled were those balancing aroma, bitterness and flavour with brilliant skill and innovation to produce something that was both bold and moreish,” he said.

Freshness and balance
To consider the categories in turn, starting with the lagers, like last year, the standard was good in a beer style that can show brewing faults clearly, due to its delicate flavour. The judges were impressed by the freshness and balance in some of the larger brands, particularly the Hofmeister Helles and the Peroni Nastro Azzurro. However, it was North America’s Brooklyn Lager that took the Gold in this category in 2017 – an accolade earned by the brewery last year too.

Distance and quality
The Pale Ales and IPAs impressed the judges too, and it was this style that attracted the highest-scores of the day. “The beers that achieved exceedingly well were those that reined in the bitterness to match the fullness of the flavour in the beer yet provide a bounty of hops in the aroma,” commented McNamara. Noting the success in particular of samples from BrewDog and Pirate Life, it was pointed out that although these two brewers are based in very different climes – Scotland and Western Australia respectively – there is a connection: Pirate Life’s founding brewers Jack Cameron and Jared Proudfoot met while improving their brewing skills during apprenticeships at BrewDog. And, commenting on the Pirate Life beers, which picked up two Masters, McNamara said, “Pirate Life proves that distance is not always a barrier for freshness and quality.”

Indeed, speaking more generally about this issue, he said, “The reverence of quality and logistical care taken by brewers, in particular craft brewers, for their beers to arrive in faultless condition was clear in the tasting. The freshness of the bottled/canned beers from the likes of Brooklyn Brewery (United States of America) and Pirate Life (Australia) was impressive and is something to admire. Beer for the large part is a quickly deteriorating beverage best enjoyed fresh and doesn’t take kindly to temperature shifts or even sunlight – keeping it tasting fresh is no mean feat.”

Shane McNamara is a Beer Sommelier and senior technical officer of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling (IBD)

New World hops
But to return to the subject of style, another judge, Ian Swanson, who is a Cask Marque assessor, Beer Academy tutor and trade quality brewer for Diageo in Africa, said that he enjoyed the New World hop influence, but felt that its powerful impact may be dominating the market. “I liked some of the beers using New World hops,” he said, “but there were just too many of them!” Continuing, he noted that the tasting “Confirmed my view that there is an over-reliance on New World hops – it is harder to hide brewing faults and lose fermentation flavours (good and bad) using mainly English hops.” As a result, he mourned, “It is getting harder to find a classic ‘English Ale’.”

Similarly, but more cryptically, Sadler said having finished the tasting, “There is a beer to suit everyone and not all styles are to the liking of all: some areas are very narrow and repetitive with some brewers but if that’s their reputation then so be it.”

Dark beer brilliance
But to finish on the positive, an area that also stood out for quality was dark beer. “This year the dark beers were a very strong category across the board,” said McNamara. “Bold balanced flavours were matched with finesse and intrigue for the drinker … the biscuit, rich cocoa and chocolate flavours were integrated well with coffee undertones and hints of vanilla in some.”

And, notable among these brews was the Cream Stout by St. Peter’s Brewery, which he described as “delightful with every sip”. And it is, of course, an ability to sustain such gratification that’s the hallmark of a great beer, whatever the style.

The judges (left to right): Pete Hughes, group head brewer at Brewhouse & Kitchen and accredited beer judge; Jacopo Mazzeo, Beer Sommelier, beer writer and consultant; Ian Swanson from Ian Swanson Technical Brewing Services; Patrick Schmitt MW, editor-in-chief at The Drinks Business; Shane McNamara, senior technical officer at the Institute of Brewing & Distilling; Nigel Sadler, Beer Sommelier & IBD accredited brewing tutor

Over the following pages are the beers that did best in the tasting.

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