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There Goes the Beer: Craft Beer Challenge Festival 2013 (GB vs. USA)

By on Monday, 15th July 2013 at 2:00 pm

Editor’s note: I enjoy the odd beer or two, but usually only in Britain, as I think it tastes much better than here in DC for some reason. I got to thinking it might be nice to cover something a little different on TGTF this summer. So this is it, our first foray into a non-music-related festival and Ben’s giving you a front row seat. Err, you know what I mean…

A battle is brewing in East London as the capital’s ale-lovers, stout-slammers and bitter-botherers descended on London Fields Brewery for the British Craft Beer Challenge Festival.

As you may have guessed, this is outside TGTF’s usual remit. But, in the interests of balanced journalism, I went along with just a notebook, £20 note and a dream, to answer the immortal question. That is, “If this beer was a band, then what band would it be?”

First up from us whining limeys is the fruity little red number that is Summer Wine’s Rouge Hop. A heavyweight, tipping the scales at 5.0%, it boasts a thick seam of coal that belies its Huddersfield roots. Taste-wise, there’s no long lasting affection on the palette but the bombast of a 5.0% buzz pulls it through in a live pub setting. I therefore dub it a ‘Bring Me the Horizon brew’.

Next, straight from Spike Milligan’s ‘Jabberwocky’ – it could only be the behemoth that is Ommegang’s Hennepin, a syrupy, 7.4% badass from the Big Apple. There’s a subtle accessibility about its simple taste spectrum. It’s unassuming, but lingers with you in mind and mouth. Doing the simple things well and coming up with massive results, it’s got to be a sip of The Strokes.

An honest, hard-working man’s ale with a hint of rugby shorts and a lot more in the locker than it’s given credit for, this is Manchester’s Lagonda IPA. A child of the Marble brew house, it’s grown into a gruff 5.0% bar-prop with bite. Stingy, uncomplicated and nostalgic, we’ve got a cup full of The Courteeners.

Add malt, wheat, hops, barley and a handful of American ale stereotypes, and you’ve got yourself a Ska True Blonde. Michael Palin used to say that American beer was like having sex in a canoe – f**king close to water – but this is our only example of the day. It had its bright side of life (namely the 5.3% sticker) and, like an alcoholic Alka Seltzer, would make a great hair-of-the-dog. So, let’s call this one a Lumineers.

Love Not War is an eclectic taste of London today from the festival’s own venue, the London Fields Brewery. A complex meld of simmering spices from the globe’s four corners – soul power in a condensed glass. A physical manifestation of the big smoke with an alcohol content of 4.5%, it’s late puking princess Amy Winehouse.

An all-American seasonal brew with the body of a German lager (/shot-putter), New York’s Brooklyn Summer Ale has a yeast content to ensure it’s permanently three feet high and rising. A smooth flow with hop-laden major chords and a myriad of fruity colours, this 4.5% wonder-jar is the summer staple that is De La Soul.

And, the award for the most metal ale-ias of the day goes to… Dark Star’s Revelation! A leaden 5.7% sacrament that blocks out the sun with a smoky brown spectrum of colour, it’s the culmination of years of taste-laden experimentation from this south coast brew house. A mosh-master from Brighton way? How about Architects?

San Francisco fruitiness with tropical hints of Um Bongo, Anchor’s Liberty Ale leans over and spanks you with its 5.9% palm. Tame Americana in name, but with an eccentric sunny edge and a nose full of hops. Both ethereal and guiltless, we’ll chalk this one up as POP ETC.

There are many things the Scots are known for, but health consciousness isn’t one, which is why the intensely meaty – almost marmite-like – potency of Tempest’s Unforgiven (silver medallist in the ‘Metal Ale-ias Awards’) comes as little surprise. A no-nonsense, Loch Ness monster of a pint with a bouquet of what can only be described as Bacon Frazzles; why, it’s Biffy Clyro.

Our last entry is a 5.5% beer-smoothie in a big gulp from Denver, Colorado. Its name – Doggy Style – comes with a mandatory soap opera wink, and its timing means that most of it has soaked into my shirt sleeve. So, what’s dark orange, wholesome as toast, sometimes cheesy but always a spirit of St. Louis? In some states he’s doubtless still number one in the charts today. He’s Mr. Colorado, he’s John Denver!

There we have it; 10 mighty beers locking horns in the quest to be crowned king of the Atlantic. Have the Yanks broken free from their imperialist forebears, or is it another case of “the British are coming”? The crowd have spoken (or at least slurred something vaguely offensive). And, it’s a massive win for our American cousins, 72-41; a result that can clearly be blamed on the resident donut shop attracting an imbalance of clientele, not that I’m biased or anything…

And thus concludes TGTF’s coverage of GB vs. USA in Round 2 of the British Craft Beer Challenge 2013. Round 3, Britain vs. Europe, takes place on Saturday the 3rd of August, leading up to the grand finale on GB vs. the rest of the world on Saturday the 7th of September. Check out the official Craft Beer Challenge Festival Web site for more info on upcoming events.


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TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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