I spent a day in Bristol on Saturday as a steward for the UK NHC. Our hosts for the day was New Bristol Brewery, where I had previously been on their 3-day brewing course, which was excellent. This time I’d be helping the judges get through 400 beers over two sessions. There were around 36 judges in total and about a dozen stewards.
Being my first time behind the scenes, I wasn’t sure how things went, but after a briefing from the head steward it seemed pretty simple. Bring the judges the beers on the sheet in order and note down the consensus score of each one judged. The high scorers would be put forward to the mini-BoS to decided which from the flight should proceed to the Best of Show round.
I was picked for the amber and dark lager table. There was a fair range even for this fairly close group. Vienna lager, Munich dunkel, dunkelsbock, Czech dark lager and Marzen were all judged together. My personal favourite was the Munich dunkel, which scored 41, but the judges finally settled on the dunkelsbock in the mini BoS.
Following and excellent lunch, I was assigned to the sours table for round two. I thought this could either be really good or really bad, depending on the quality of the entries. In this flight were Flanders red, gose, fruit lambic and mixed fermentation. There were also a few of a potentially new style called Catherina Sour, which form what I’m told is about keeping the fruit levels high, the sourness reduced and should provide a very refreshing fruit beer.
In this session there were two stand out beers – a Flanders red and a fruit lambic, which one of the judges went crazy about. He said it was a Catherina Sour, but hit all of the requirements as a fruit lambic also. It scored a consensus 46 points, which another judge said it was the highest he’d ever seen!
Best of Show
Once all the scores were in the head judge Sam read out the 1st to 3rd places of each flight and medals were handed out. The best of show beer was a fruit beer, which is an unlikely beer to win a competition, and scored 39 in the first round of judging.
I had a really great day and it was a fantastic experience, one I will look forward to repeating (Welsh Nationals?) I also met some new people to talk beer with and hope that we can catch up with them again and maybe do some collab brews between our clubs.
I’m not sure what was going on with this beer, but clearly the brewer was trying too hard! It didn’t score very well in end, and for some reason the crown caps had been scuffed up pretty badly. I hope the brewer picks up on the judges feedback and fixes it for the next comp!