California triumphs at the International Beer Challenge 2017 awards
Californian brewery Firestone Walker triumphed at the International Beer Challenge 2017 awards as its Union Jack IPA scooped the coveted Supreme Champion gong.
Expert judges from across the industry gathered in central London to re-taste every gold medal winning beer from the 2017 IBC.
They awarded trophies for the best beer in a range of categories, and one of the most competitive was ales above 5% abv.
There was plenty of deliberation but Union Jack IPA – named to honour the Paso Robles brewery’s British expat founder – made it through.
It then did battle with the best of the best in various categories, including lager, stout, speciality and wheat beer.
Debate was fierce as the standard was extremely high this year, but judges eventually agreed on the winner. Everything was tasted blind and chairman Jeff Evans later revealed that the 12-strong panel had opted for Union Jack IPA.
“Bloody marvellous,” roared Adrian Walker as he stormed the stage to collect his prize, his American exuberance brightening up a rainy evening in Bermondsey.
The IBC attracts entries from more than 30 countries across the world and it often transpires that many of the trophy winners are pretty niche for UK consumers and retailers.
We had some examples of this in 2017: Belarusian brewery Lidskoe Pivo won the trophy for the best wheat beer; the best flavoured beer of 2017 went to Nøgne Ø in Norway for its Nødingen; Italy’s Birra Antoniana scooped best lager up to 5%; and Brazil’s Cervejaria Colorado won best speciality beer for its wood-aged Colorado Ithaca.
But there were also some well-known brews in the mix. Mahou, part of the San Miguel line-up distributed by Carlsberg, was named the world’s best lager above 5% for 2017.
Sussex brewery Harvey & Son won best stout or porter for its Imperial Extra Double Stout, while Welsh brewery Tiny Rebel won best ale up to 5% for its Cwtch.
Evans said: “To win a medal in the International Beer Challenge is a major achievement and to claim a gold medal is exceptional, but we then take all the gold medal beers and judge them again to find the trophy winners, so these beers really are outstanding examples of the brewer's art and skill.
“Our judges were astonished by the quality and character of these beers and I congratulate everyone involved.”
Marks & Spencer made it four wins in a row as it was named Retailer of the Year, while Ducato Distribuzione won Distributor of the Year.
The overall Supreme Champion Brewery award went to Boston Beer Co as its beers enjoyed the best average score in the world.
It also won the North America gong, while in South America Brazil’s Kirin Indústria de Bebidas was named the best of the bunch.
Harveys was named the best UK brewer, while Antoniano won the European award.
There was no Asian award this year as no brewery won a gold, but we were able to give out an award for African Brewery of the Year. Previously no golds had been forthcoming from the continent, and that is a prerequisite for winning a trophy, but that all changed this year thanks to the emergence of South Africa’s Anvil Ale House.
Australia’s Pirate Life Brewing had a great year and was named Oceania Brewer of the Year as a result of its medal haul.
We also gave out trophies for design and packaging, as this is crucial for a beer’s ability to sell itself on-shelf.
The Supreme Champion award was shared between Meantime’s redesigned can range and Everards’ bottled range: Beacon Hill, Sunchaser, Tiger and Old Original.
The trophy for the best new design went to Head Twister from the Noctua Athens Brewery.
Finally, the Glen Payne Rising Star award went to Russia’s Crazy Brew, earmarked as a real star of the future by the competition.