Well, anything can happen in knockout beer comps, and so it proved. After we had tasted 32 fresh beers from the best brewers in the UK, we ended up with one beer standing tall, and it wasn’t at all what anyone expected.
As a rule, throughout the competition, when we put a bigger beer (higher abv, more body) up against a smaller beer, the bigger always triumphed, as you might expect. As you follow that through it made sense that the finals would be a night of BIG beers. So far, so predictable. We had BA Impy Stout, 13.2% Barley Wine, a TIPA and 2 DIPAs. But in amongst that some banging IPAs had snuck through partly through luck of the draw perhaps?
At this point, it’s important to bear in mind that this was very much a fun exercise, a format riddled with problems and inconsistencies, not least, an ever-changing judging panel and a head-to-head format, that, let’s not forget allowed Greece to win the Euros in 2004. But we were here for the beer tasting, the chatting about preferences and generally we were just pissing about.
And so the evening began with the quarter finals, a (potentially very guessable) blind tasting round featuring all 8 winning beers from the last 4 rounds. We kicked off with the Cloudwater DIPA, People Who Know People, against the Farm Yard Bourbon BA Wee Heavy, it was a close call but the Farm Yard edged it. In the second match, Polly's brew Co's 6.1% IPA Wake & Return was up against the 10% Overtone TIPA, Explosions in the Cry, and the evenings drama kicked off as the beers DREW and the result came down to a controversial VAR decision, with W&R winning by virtue of the lower abv and went through to the final 4 (if a 6.1% IPA is standing up to a 10% TIPA in a blind tasting, then it must be doing something right?!). Joining W&R and the Wee Heavy in the final 4 beers were @brewyork BA Nightmare of Brew York and @tartarus 13.2% Barley Wine, King Arthur. You see sweet, heavy beers won through!
In the final, judges had to rank last 4 beers in order of preference. Their favourite got 4 points and their least favourite 1 point. There was much discussion about the very nature of beer, how important is sessionability? How can a smaller abv IPA stand up against a Barley Wine. But everyone made their choices (well, nearly everyone, for some the tension of the night caught up with them). So, with all votes in and the independent counting and verification process completed we had our results.
@FarmYard Wee Heavy & @Tartarus Barley Wine both had 27 points each. With the Wee Heavy gaining an equal number of votes for the best beer and the worst beer of the last 4. It was the marmite of the night for sure!
The @brewyork BA Impy had 28 votes... and the Polly's IPA had 28 points. They’d all cancelled each other out and we had no clear winner. What to do now? The Impy Stout had received just 2 favourites votes and the IPA had received 3, so after all that, 32 beers later we had our winner.
The GRAND CHAMPION BEER OF BEERFLY 2023 was Polly's 6.1% IPA Wake & Return, what an accolade, and against such strong competition, no one in the room could believe it, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife as the results were announced. We had walk outs, the usual angry shouting and carry on, finger pointing and the inevitable swaying blindly about swinging arms around like a gorilla, all in equal measure. But it was done, the results were in, there was no time for last minute reprieve this time. It had come down to pens and the best beer on the night had won!
It just leaves time for us to give a massive THANK YOU to all that took part in the judging, to those that believe they invented the idea of a knockout beer tournament, to the excellent brewers and the incredible range of beers we are so lucky to have in the UK at the moment, to everyone involved in the organising and promotion of the nights and to you at home following the twists and turns of an exciting last 2 months. It’s been an absolute pleasure to host you at Beerfly and we can’t wait to see what 2024 has in store for us. We’ll be kicking off once again in September next year for another round. Until then……KEEEEEEP DRINKING!!