The beer competition is back!
Following its successful debut in 2015, Imbibe Live’s beer competition will return in June 2016 with a Wheat Beer Challenge for the brewers of Britain.
Imbibe Live’s beer ambassador, Mark Dorber, founder of Boudica Inns, is inviting brewers large and small to enter for their chance to win a seasonal listing at a selection of Mitchells & Butlers’ leading pubs, including the likes of The White Horse at Parsons Green and The Adelphi in Leeds, plus a trip to the Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic.
Partnering once more with SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, and pan-industry campaign There’s A Beer For That, Britain’s newly-crowned Brewer of the Year, Beavertown’s Jen Merrick and Meantime founder and wheat-beer specialist, Alastair Hook will join the expert panel tasked with judging Round 1. Finalists will be invited to Centre Stage on the first day of Imbibe Live, 4 July, where the audience will decide the ultimate winner Ready Steady Cook style, having had a chance to taste the beer and hear the pitch.
Green Jack’s Tim Dunford won the inaugural Imbibe Live beer competition with his Elderflower Dream, securing a listing with the Draft House and travelling to the Budvar Brewery in the Czech Republic. ‘It was fantastic,’ he says. ‘They looked after us so well.’
‘As a small brewery, the 2015 competition was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase our beer at an event such as Imbibe Live,’ said 2015 finalist, Keltek’s Andrew Pringle. ‘We will definitely be throwing our hats in the ring for 2106.’
Why not join him, and put the Wheat Beer Challenge into your brewing schedule?
So what’s the challenge?
Despite being the second most used grain in brewing, ‘It’s not easy to brew with wheat,’ says Dorber. ‘The high gluten content and lack of husk that make it ideal for baking cause problems of stickiness in a brewers’ mash tun,’ he explains, continuing ‘By contrast barley, with its firm husk, makes the ideal filter bed. But together, the two work well. Wheat confers a clean, crisp flavour to this grain mix, both lightening and enlivening the resulting beer, and making it the perfect mirror for a variety of fruit flavours, particular citric fruits and hops, as well as a range of spices.
Entries in all styles are being invited, from the perfume of a bière blanche to the tang of a Berliner weiss, from a sassy fruit wheat beer to a darker dunkelweiss.
To ensure all are able to enter, all formats are welcome, cans and bottles, mini-kegs and mini-casks. The recipe must be new for 2016, have at least 25% wheat in its mashbill, and be capable of being scaled up and replicated should the entrant be the lucky winner, since the beer will need to be delivered to the M&B depot week beginning 16 August, to take advantage of Summer Bank Holiday sales.
All five finalists will be invited to show their beers in the Hop & Apple Garden for the duration of the show. The popular Beer Club run by There’s A Beer For That on 8 July will take as its theme Wheat Beers, with Mark Dorber in the chair.
‘SIBA are delighted to be teaming up with Imbibe Live for the Wheat Beer Challenge,’ says SIBA’s Neil Walker. ‘We hope that as many of our craft brewing members across the UK enter the competition as possible. As well as being a great commercial opportunity, this is a chance to flex those brewing muscles and produce a truly fantastic wheat beer, something which requires great skill and care.’
‘We’ve had great success in 2015 with wheat beers such as Blanche de Bruxelles and Stiegl Weisse,’ said M&B’s Ben Lockwood. ‘Challenging the UK brewing scene to come up with a winning entry to be poured in some of our leading pubs is certain to see some high quality entries.’
There’s A Beer For That’s David Cunningham agreed. ‘The competition is a great way for brewers to showcase how innovation in styles and flavours of beer is helping to drive interest and excitement in the category, as well as showcasing the quality, diversity and versatility of beer.’
Wheat beer – more detail
Archaeological evidence suggest that the first beers brewed would have contained wheat. Popular for many centuries, at times being reserved for nobility, for much of the 20th century, Belgium and Germany remained wheat beer’s keenest advocates. No more. America and Britain are among those emulating these originals and developing their own styles.
Mark Dorber says:
‘Wheat in beer, particularly at our competition ratio of 25% or more of any mash, makes a significant contribution to lightening the texture and body of the beer brewed. The effect is to create a leaner more streamlined base beer, often with what Michael Jackson described as a ‘slightly astringent dryness’. This dryness conferred by the use of raw wheat in particular makes it a good sounding board or reflector of fruit flavours, particularly citric fruits and citric hop character, as well as a range of spices used to notably good effect in Wit beers or bières blanches, from crushed coriander seeds to clove to star anise. This exoticism has rightly made this branch of the wheat beer family very popular, and incidentally a much loved partner to all manner of fish based dishes especially involving crab and lobster.
‘Aromatically wheat, malted and unmalted, is much more neutral than barley malt and so allows natural yeast flavours, fruit and spice additions and of course hops to show well with fewer distractions. Its downside perhaps is that it provides less resistance to the flavours of bittering hops and so good judgment and restraint is essential if the brewed beer is not to taste aggressively and unpleasantly bitter.
‘The best known styles have been the weisse beers of Bavaria, with their banana and bubble gum aromas – the work of the yeast. The witbiers or bières blanches of Belgium have appetisingly citric and clove-like aromas, again a confirmation of yeast and added botanical ingredients, from coriander seeds to curacoa orange peel to grains of paradise.’