Wednesday, February 20, 2008

SIBA Finalists & Punk Ale

The Society of Independent Brewers has been busy judging fifty six of the UK's finest micro ales at the Barrels pub in Hereford this month. The seven beers in each of the eight categories had won through their regional heats in January to vie for SIBA's national beer awards, the most coveted of the year for small brewers.

The final list has now been whittled down to just sixteen brews with the outright winners to be announced at SIBA's annual conference in York on 7th March. Amongst the lucky few is the staggeringly beautiful Cairngorm Trade Winds, possibly the best beer out of Scotland since Harviestoun's Schiehallion (until recently that is) although it doesn't get out nearly enough for my liking!

I say 'until recently' because my first and so far only encounter with Fraserburgh based Brew Dog's stupendous ale at The Star's winter festival last year was like some sort of religious experience. Their 'in your face' style has certainly raised the standard of Scottish brewing to a new level, with the sort of audacious flair more commonly associated with US west coast brewers. The Scots of course, unlike other gaelic nations, have always been able to produce good beer and it was no surprise at all to see so many outfits from north of the border making SIBA's shortlist.

What did surprise me however was the absence of Brew Dog from even the regional finals - I mean how on earth can that happen? Then it dawned on me. These guys must be The Clash of the micro-brewing world! Indeed I have visions of them deliberately snubbing the establishment and doing it their way, like not appearing for the media lest accusations of selling out be levelled, or refusing to dilute their product in the face of ever increasing prices - even though everybody else is at it!!(??) In any event, sampling as much of their ale, whether critically acclaimed or not, is one new year's resolution I'm determined to keep - that and replacing my worn out copy of London Calling of course!

In the meantime don't forget to check back at SIBA's website next month to discover just who's won what 'cos there's bound to be a surprise, though I sincerely hope it doesn't involve St. Austell.
But that's another story!

For any of you yet to sample Trade Winds from Cairngorm or anything from Brew Dog's stable, may I recommend making the pilgrimage north to alleviate your dire situation asap. Aviemore Beer Festival (7th-9th March) should do the trick or failing that April's always a good month up there - I'm booked in already!


Martin said...

Tradewinds is indeed a wondrous beer. I don't suppose the Brew Dog beers will ever make it down to this side of the world unfortunately.

a swift one... said...

Indeed Martin! Landlords here in Hudders are finding it difficult so your chances are slim in the extreme.

maeib said...

BrewDog beers are really happening. I think nearly all of us British bloggers have said good things about them. They do appear at a lot of fests and their bottled stuff seem to be in most good offies even here in The Midlands, so there's no excuse for not seeking out more samples.

daveyravey said...

They don't put much into casks, already tried, swift one. Had a good evening at the North Bar in Leeds where they have all their beers in bottles. I tried them all an inevitably for me, often erring on the side of black, the riptide was the best!

Lew Bryson said...

Had Tradewinds at the Highlander Inn in Craigellachie last summer... I wanted to try two other beers on offer, and maybe a whisky or three, but damn me if I didn't just have three pints of Tradewinds instead. Excellent pint. Wish someone here would brew something like it, but all anyone here wants to brew is 8.5% ABV overhopped brainwallop.

a swift one... said...

Rather partial to the odd glass of overhopped brainwallop from time to time but without great quality staple quaffing ale like Trade Winds I don't think I'd be interested.
You'll have to retire to Scotland ... I certainly intend to!

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Wow Trade Winds must be a different beast in the cask, bottles of it show up down here regularly enough, when I tried it I wasn't very taken with it.