Winning awards is something that brings real pleasure to a brewery. When you've worked, as a team, to build the quality and consistency of the beers to a height that you believe is worthy of an award, it is satisfying to get confirmation from the judges. Yesterday was something of a triumph for Hardknott.
There are a few things I like about the SIBA awards, but one of the main things is that the judges, by and large, are industry people and brewers from other regions. There are obvious controls in place to ensure no one associated with the beers are judging them, and there is tight control around the double blind systems1.
Equally, the beers presented are what the brewer wants to show off. It's a frustration I have with CBOB, for instance, that we seem to fail to even get off the ground, despite obviously having simply top-class beers.
But never mind, at the North West SIBA competition, running off the back of The Bolton Beer Festival, we won a few awards. To say we are delighted would be a huge understatement. I think the SIBA awards, although less well known, are far more prestigious. By the industry, for the industry.
Anyway, Azimuth got Gold in the strong bitters and pale ale small pack category, netting us a swanky glass trophy. It then went on to win Bronze overall in the small pack section2. This ensures we will be in the National SIBA final at BeerX.
Nuclear Sunset gained Bronze in speciality beers small pack.
Azimuth also gained Bronze in cask for strong bitters and pale ales.
Interesting that Azimuth only got bronze in cask. I could point to the fact that I think the extra carbonation in bottle, or in keg for that matter, lifts the aromas in Azimuth. It could just be that there were more entries (over twice the amount) in the cask section. Either way, there are some good beers that we beat, so I'm pleased.
To get a gold, and following on to a bronze overall is a testament I think to the quality of out brewing and our diligence to bottling process. From a pure financial point of view, having our own bottling line is dubious. However, we have full control over quality, the beer doesn't travel far and our determination to not sterile filter, and so we maintain flavours, ensures a superb end result. And the results of this competition are the proof.
1This isn't always the case, and there have been ructions, quite rightly at SIBA meetings, as a result of problems. However, I believe that where these problems have been spotted, aggrieved brewers are quick to jump in and point out that it isn't fair and transparent ensuring a good competition. Run by brewers, for brewers. We get het up when we even imagine someone else is getting an unfair advantage.
2Small pack refers to either can or bottle. At the moment, in SIBA competitions, there are not many brewers who are entering cans. There were none, I believe, in this region. Glass, for now, seems to still be the preferred package.