Wheaty McWheat Face wins Wheat Beer Challenge
West Berkshire Brewery has secured a seasonal listing this autumn with M&B’s leading Castle group of pubs for Wheaty McWheat Face, its new beer brewed for Imbibe Live’s Wheat Beer Challenge, as well as a trip for two to visit the Pilsner Urquell brewery in the Czech Republic.
Beating off Boss Brewing, Harviestoun, Little Beer Corp and Heavy Industry in a lively final staged on the first day of Imbibe Live, West Berkshire won over the audience with its restrained style of wheat beer.
‘Will Twomey (head brewer) nailed the wheat style,’ said chair of judges, Mark Dorber. ‘The balance was exemplary. It was crisp, fresh and spoke of English material.’
‘Wheaty McWheatface was brewed on our new pilot brewery and is one of several new beers that we have experimented with,’ said West Berkshire CEO Simon Lewis.
‘We wanted a British feel to it,’ added Twomey, who used British ingredients throughout, from the 50:50 blend of wheat with Maris Otter, via Kent First Gold hops, through to the brewery’s own ale yeast. He developed a number of production techniques to dial down the overt banana and clove notes so typical of Belgium wheat beer styles.
‘It’s always nice to win awards,’ he said, ‘But this one is very special. I’m very proud of this beer. I really like beers where you want to get a second or third.’ Speaking of the Wheat Beer Challenge, ‘It’s amazing,’ he said. A huge opportunity for this beer to appear with M&B.’
In second place came Harviestoun, with its Wheat Beastie, where leaves of lemon verbena, lime and coriander contributed to a refreshingly, complex beer. Another debut, this is the first of a new, seasonal keg range from the Alva-based brewery.
‘Fruity, zingy and refreshing,’ said M&B’s Richard Yarnell. ‘We were getting asked for wheat beer by our customers, and when you see a pattern, you know you are missing a trick,’ said Sarah John, co-founder of Boss Brewing, the youngest brewery to make it to the final. Just 14-months old, their Boss Bix leant towards the witbier style, with a marriage of orange peel and coriander seeds in the mash tun.
Orange notes loomed large in both of the other finalists too. Tom McNeil of Heavy Industry Brewing put the new hop, Mandarina Bavaria, centre-stage in his cloudy hefeweissen-style beer, Pigeon Toed Orange Peel, while Little Beer Corp’s Paul Hutcheson arrived on stage in bull fighter regalia, to celebrate the ‘vast amounts’ of Spanish blood oranges that went into the production of Running With The Bulls.
‘This style can have a huge range of flavours, and we, the judges, felt we picked a selection which represented well the diversity of wheat beers,’ said SIBA’s Neil Walker. ‘I think that the standard was extremely high,’ said M&B’s Ben Lockwood.
‘The presentations from our finalists were energising, and it was a really great crowd.’ ‘Picking a favourite was incredibly challenging,’ said There’s A Beer For That’s David Cunningham. ‘So I’m pleased we delegated that to the Imbibe Live audience. This competition and Imbibe Live really helps showcase the quality, innovation & vibrancy of beer in UK.’
‘In the UK wheat beers are something of a sleeping giant,’ said Tim Hampson, chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers. ‘Yet in their countries of origin the many variations on the style are revered. And worldwide, wheat beers have become a must-brew style for serious craft brewers who want to showcase their creative skills. Crisp, refreshing and absolutely entrancing. more beer drinkers deserve to have the opportunity to try these beers.’
‘All too often wheat beers get overlooked by the current beer revolutionaries so it was so heartening to see the quality and the breadth of character in the beers we judged,’ said writer and wheat beer specialist Adrian Tierney Jones.
‘I look forward to seeing more Brit wheat beers in the future.’ ‘Well done to everyone at West Berkshire Brewery,’ said Pilsner Urquell’s Francois Pienaar’s ‘We hope you have a wonderful time at the brewery in Plzen.’