Monday, 22 February 2016

The best Old Ale in Britain

CAMRA move in mysterious ways, and I've never been certain how their competitions work. I think it's something like: win at local festival → regional competition → national competition. They seem to deliberately keep it hush-hush though. I know a brewer that had got through to the final of the Champion Beer of Britain competition who was only told off the record. On the plus side unlike the host of competitions you can pay to enter CAMRA actually buy the beer off you!

Back in early December I got a text off a friend at the Pig's Ear beer festival to tell me that Old Dairy Brewery Snow Top had won the London and South competition. Though I no longer work there I keep an interest in how my babies are getting on, and I passed the news on to the current head brewer. This was the first he'd heard of it, but he must have been kept informed of developments as he let me know at the start of this month that Snow Top was in the final at the National Winter Ale Festival. He didn't actually know when the result would be announced mind, but we figured as the CBoB is announced on the trade day it would be then, so that's when he booked his accommodation for.

I was tempted to head up myself but since I've been struck down with senile lightweightism I try and avoid mid-week CPD. I then forgot when the competition was, but when I saw tweets start about the competition I think it's fair to say my interest was rekindled, and I kept an eye on them throughout the day. When the result was announced I saw Snow Top didn't place so "bollocks to that" I thought and shortly after went home.

When I looked at twitter again on my arrival I saw there was rather more to it though. It might not have placed in the top three, but it won its category. The best in the Old Ale and Strong Mild category is a lot better than nothing and I have to say I'm rather chuffed.

The beer is the second version of Snow Top we did. The first did all that fruit and spices rubbish which, lets face it, doesn't really work. So the second time round I ditched all that and just aimed for a classic Winter warmer: dark malt, No. 3 invert sugar and English hops. I think it's a much better beer for it, and I'm glad to see others agree.

The best Old Ale in Britain
Well done to Glenn at the Old Dairy for doing such a good job of making it.


  1. It's not so much hush-hush as just well publicised or explained. Like most of what CAMRA does.

    Regional beers are nominated by members using an online system. Any member can do this for beers in their region, and the info on how to do it is circulated via email generally. The top 10 or so per-"style" are put up against each other via tasting panels at beer festivals. I.e. my last fest did the East Anglia stout & porter competition.

    This regional system is pretty crap really. I've never seen stats on how many folk actually do nominations but I expect it is a select few who know what's going on. And then not all beers are in the system. So it tends to be a usual-suspects sort of competition and, I suspect, the die easily loaded by breweries clued up on how it works. Branch officers can take nominations from less teched up members and enter them on their behalf, I've never seen a branch actively promoting this at all though.

    Regional winners for each "style" make it to GBBF, plus the winners of the NWAF. I believe entry to the GBBF CBOB requires that you can supply 4x kils of the beer from the same gyle... but I'm not sure. (That's a general GBBF supply rule.)

    That's what my vague perception of the process is from having been involved at some stages of it.

  2. Thanks, that explains it better. I wonder if this means they'll want Snow Top in August?