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The Great British Beer Festival 2005

Added: Monday, August 1st 2005

Crouch Vale, one of Britain's longest-running micro-breweries, won the prestigious Champion Beer of Britain competition on Tuesday 2 August at Camra's Great British Beer Festival at London Olympia.

The winning beer is the 4% Brewers Gold, which reached the final by coming top in the new Golden Ales sector. Golden Ales were given their own category for the first time, to encourage the growth of new pale, hoppy beers aimed at winning young lager drinkers to the joys of cask-conditioned beer. Crouch Vale, based in South Woodham Ferrers in Essex, names its champion beer after the German hop variety Brewers Gold. The floral hop gives an enticing citrus/grapefruit character to the aroma and palate of the beer. Only pale malt is used and adds a juicy and biscuity note to the beer, which is wonderfully tart, tangy and refreshing.

Ollie Graham from Crouch Vale was present at the festival to pick up his award and he said it was the greatest day in his long career in the brewing industry. Crouch Vale was founded in the mid-1980s and carved out a unique path for small craft brewers by selling beer at outdoor events ranging from rock concerts to re-enactments of the English Civil War. Over the years it has built up a second side to its business by acting as a distributor for other micros through the country. In return, Crouch Vale beers get distribution the length and breadth of Britain.

As well as Brewers Gold, Crouch Vale produces a mild, a bitter and a porter. The range is on sale in its one tied pub, the Queen's Head in Chelmsford. It's the nearest pub to Essex County Cricket Ground and is regularly used by such cricketing legends as Ian Botham and Graham Gooch when they are covering matches.

The silver award went to Grainstore Rutland Panther (3.4%), a dark mild brewed by a micro in England's smallest county that is surrounded by Leicestershire. The brewery is based in a former grainstore at Oakham railway station and was founded by Tony Davis, who had previously brewed at Ruddles Brewery, also in Rutland. Rutland Panther is surprisingly bitter and hoppy for the style. It is brewed with pale and pale chocolate malts and hopped with Fuggles for aroma and Northdown for bitterness. It has a rich and complex aroma and palate of chocolate and espresso coffee, with roasted grain notes and a solid underpinning of hop bitterness.

The bronze award went to another beer from eastern England, Woodforde's Wherry Best Bitter from Woodbastwick near Norwich.

Wherry (3.8%) won the Bitter category before advancing to the final. The beer is brewed from Maris Otter pale and crystal malts and is hopped with Fuggles and Goldings (30 units of bitterness). The bronze/copper beer has a complex but well-balanced aroma and palate of juicy malt, bitter hops and tart orange fruit. Woodforde's was established in 1981 and Woodbastwick is its third base. It has doubled brewing capacity in recent years and also has a visitor centre and pub/restaurant on site. All the winners in the competition: Mild Gold: Grainstore Rutland Panther Silver: Brains Dark Bronze: Elgood's Black Dog

Bitter Gold: Woodforde's Wherry Best Bitter Silver: Holden's Black Country Bitter Bronze (joint): RCH PG Steam and Belvoir Star

Best Bitter Gold: Harvey's Sussex Best Bitter Silver: Mighty Oak Burntwood Bitter Bronze (joint): Timoth Taylor Landlord and Olde Swan Entire

Strong Ale Gold: Hanby Nutcracker Silver: Bullmastiff Son of a Bitch Bronze: Fuller's ESB

Golden Ales Gold: Crouch Vale Brewers Gold Silver: Jarrow Rivet Catcher Bronze: Oakham JHB

Speciality Beers Gold: Cairngorm Trade Winds Silver: Young's Waggledance Bronze (joint): Daleside Morocco and Ridley's Rumpus

Real Ale in a Bottle Gold: Durham Evensong Silver: Young's Special London Ale Bronze: Titanic Stout

*Roger Protz launched his latest book - 300 Beers To Try Before You Die! - at the Great British Beer Festival. It is his personal choice of his favourite beers throughout the world. It costs 12.99 or 10.99 for Camra members. It is available in bookshops, Amazon.co.uk or direct from Camra: www.camra.org.uk or 01727 867201.