After yesterday’s Trade Session the Scottish Real Ale Festival kicked off today with the judging for the 2011 Champion Beer of Scotland. After last year’s win for Highland Orkney Blast it was a question of if Rob Hill could carry on with his brewery’s dominance of the CBoS title, having won three of the last four. The BeerCast were once again invited to help with the judging process, and although there was one of Rob’s beers on the blind shortlist, it didn’t feature in the final top three from the judges selection. Eight different brewers were represented in the final, and it was a tough act to pick a winner.
Whether this was down to the condition of the beer, or the fluctuating nature of cask ale, or just the play of chance, the judges scores were very close. The panel consisted of brewers, publicans, beer writers and CAMRA regional chairs, and after almost three hours of deliberation, the results were announced. In third place, Houston Peter’s Well. Second – Cairngorm Black Gold. The winner – and 2011 Champion Beer of Scotland – Skye Cuillin Beast. Wait…what? A barley wine winning CBoS? In terms of style, that’s good to see – something unusual taking the plaudits – but in all honesty, it was the best beer of the nine on the day of the judging.
With that, it was time to hit the floor to sample some of the other beers on offer. With the lack of expected favourites reaching the CBoS finals, it was time to head for something from Highland (although Dark Munro did win the Mild category). Island Hopping was a good start to the festival day, some sweetness in there but a good touch of hop to offset. We’re all about trying new things on the BeerCast, and the Tinpot Brewery are one of the newest producers in Scotland, putting their interesting recipes out through TSA’s equipment in Stirling. Their Thai Pot (5.0%) had something of the lager tops about it, but a zesty lemon edge that just about worked in it’s favour.
Unfortunately that couldn’t be said about Devon Ales Thick Black Stout. However, this was probably down to the temperature of the main hall more than anything – it wasn’t that thick and the roasty flavours mellowed out a little too much. In fact, the mild I had next topped it – Luckie Ales Midnycht Myld had a lot of things to like about it – the inherent thinness of the style was helped along by a subtle roast and a touch of (probably unintended) sourness that worked really quite well. After that, another dark one with the outstanding Deeside Talorcan. The balance in this one is almost perfect, that mix of roasty malt and woodiness, with a slightly smoky finish.
We had Burnside’s Black Katz Mild yesterday, so tried the Mad Dogz IPA today. There really wasn’t that much to it, some slight hop and then a vaguely bready finish. For the last couple of beers of the day, time to head back to the unusual flavours of Tinpot – Marmalade Pot and Beetroot and Blackpepper. The first, a sweet cordial orange with a beery edge lurking underneath – the second, a classic Marmite beer. For me, I really liked the sweet, earthy beetroot giving way to sharp, bitter black pepper. Really interesting – not to everyone’s taste, admittedly – but you can’t argue it’s not a good way to finish a day at the festival.
Check back tomorrow for Day 2 a the festival – our beer of Day 1 has to be Deeside’s under-rated Talorcan. Keep up with our tweets @thebeercast, and if you are attending, enjoy your beer…