Nowadays, with more breweries up and down the country than any other time in recent memory, producers that arrive on the scene can often face a battle for recognition from the moment they start up. Weighed up against the fundamentals of starting a business are the question of getting people to notice you in a crowded market, fighting for space on already heaving shelves and managing to secure enough raw ingredients to make a play of it.
But at the basest, most pared down level, there’s the simplest of quandries new brewers face. Will anyone actually like their beer? That’s where festivals come in – as I say all the time, finding new things is the main joy of attending them, so for brewers after feedback they can be a godsend. And for Ian McGrath of Beath Brewing Company, the feedback at his first beer festival – entered to give people a chance to let him know how it tasted – was entirely unexpected.
Ian’s 4.0% red ale Are You With Me won Champion Beer of Fife last week.
You may not have heard of Beath Brewing Co, and that’s because the one-man operation has been going for a little under six weeks. Fifty days from the first brew following HMRC Certification of his brewkit in Cowdenbeath, Ian’s entrant – which is not even on RateBeer – scooped up the gold medal at the Kingdom of Fife CAMRA festival, beating out such established breweries as Eden Mill (into second) and St Andrews Brewing Co, who came third with their Mocha Porter. It then became the first beer to sell out at the festival, as is traditional for best in shows.
If you ever needed an analogy to sum up the unpredictable joy of beer festival judging, this is it. Ian has been homebrewing for five years, but only switched to all-grain last year. And well shy of his two-month anniversary, his new brewhouse is now responsible for the Champion beer of his home county. I’m not sure I can remember a similar situation – although it may well have happened before. Sometimes, when you tentatively ask for feedback, you end up with something extremely unexpected indeed. Like a festival trophy…
Thanks for all the messages, I'm still in shock, I was just hoping they didn't hate it! Beath Brewing
— Beath Brewing (@BeathBrewing) April 21, 2016