01:10PM, Monday 23 October 2017
Potent porters, best bitters and barrel blends competed for attention at the latest hop project by Maidenhead’s beer lovers.
More than 1,500 drinkers packed into the Magnet Leisure Centre, in Holmanleaze, for the annual Maidenhead Beer & Cider Festival over the weekend.
From Thursday to Saturday, thirsty punters were able to sample a selection of more than 110 beers and 37 varieties of cider and perry.
"There's been plenty of people who like their real ale," said Steve Goodall, chairman of the Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) which organised the event.
"But also there's the Campaign for Real Ale part of that and that is the campaign to get people to try something different.
"The idea is to put beers on that people might not have tried before, or, where we have people who don't often drink beer, offer them something where they can say 'I like that'."
Recommendations for novice drinkers, as well as the experts, came courtesy of a team of about 100 CAMRA volunteers – a feature Mr Goodall, a chemist in his day job and also the festival’s cellar manager, thinks is vital to the event’s success.
He said: "I think that human connection [with the volunteers] is very important, that's the campaign aspect of the festival.
"And from the volunteers' point of view, that's part of the enjoyment for them, talking to the customers and helping them find something they want to drink."
As part of the festival, deputy editor James Preston was invited along to help judge a regional heat in CAMRA’s search for the Champion Beer of Britain. Here’s what he made of the experience:
While punters were enjoying their first festival ales on Thursday afternoon a team of judges sat down in a small room and were presented with six unnamed beers.
Their task? Decide on the best strong bitter in the London & South East region.
Now I like a good pint, but I immediately felt slightly underqualified on this seven-strong panel which featured long-time CAMRA members and brewing experts.
Thankfully, lead judge Gill Gibson made clear from the start that everyone’s palate is their own and there are no wrong answers.
Judges were free to share their views on the subtleties of each new bitter we tried, but when it came to assigning a score it call came down to individual judgement.
We took our time — nearly an hour and a half — to really appreciate the craft that has gone into the six offerings, including their appearance, aromas and, of course, their taste.
We weren’t told what we’ve been drinking until after the judging to make sure our scores aren’t influenced, so I faced an anxious wait to find out Dark Star’s Revelation had beer crowned a worthy winner.
Believe me, it’s well worth seeking out.
Hop Back's Summer Lighting and Windsor & Eton Brewery's Conqueror finished second and third respectively.
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