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Cumbrian beer scales the Olympian heights

Added: Tuesday, August 7th 2012

A strong barley wine from Cumbria, Coniston No 9 Barley Wine, was named Champion Beer of Britain today (7 August) at the Great British Beer Festival at London Olympia. It’s the second time Coniston has won the prestigious title: Coniston Bluebird was named champion beer in 1998.

The brewery is based behind the Black Bull coaching inn in Coniston – both are owned by the Bradley family and Ian Bradley is head brewer. Barley Wine is the ninth beer the brewery has produced, which explains the name. The brewery’s spokesman, David Smith, said the victory fitted well with the year of 2012, following the Royal Jubilee and the spate of gold medals won by British competitors in the Olympics.

“No 9 Barley Wine uses all-British ingredients: pale and crystal malts and Challenger and Goldings hops,” he said. “We couldn’t have a better supply of brewing liquor – pure water flows down from the Old Man of Coniston and runs behind the brewery. All we have to do is fill our water tank direct from the stream.”

The 8.5% beer is the strongest beer to win the championship. It’s fermented for seven days and is then aged for three months before it’s released. The strength of the beer means the alcohol sends the yeast “to sleep” and has to be roused by a method known as Krausening – adding some fresh beer to the aged version. In this case, the fresh beer is Bluebird. As David Smith says, drinkers are getting both champion beers in one glass.

The beer is brewed in small batches but bottled versions are available and there is currently a small amount of draught available. Ian Bradley and his team will start work on a new batch without delay to meet what is expected to be great demand from publicans and drinkers.

The silver award in the competition went to Green Jack Trawlerboys Best Bitter from Lowestoft while bronze went to Dark Star’s American Pale Ale from Sussex. The champion bottle-conditioned beer was named as Stewart’s Embra from Edinburgh.

The full results:

MILD Gold: Rudgate Ruby Mild; Silver: Hobson’s Mild; Bronze: Son of Sid Muckcart Mild.

BITTER Gold: Purple Moose Snowdonia Ale; Silver: Tintagel Castle Gold, Bronze (joint): Flowerpots Bitter, Fullers Gales Seafarers, Salopian Shropshire Gold.

BEST BITTER Gold: Green Jack Trawlerboys Best Bitter; Silver: Salopian Hop Twister; Bronze: (joint) Milton Pegasus, Oakwell Senior Bitter.

GOLDEN ALE Gold: Dark Star American Pale Ale; Silver: Cumbrian Legendary Ales Langdale; Bronze: Hobson’s Town Crier.

STRONG BITTER Gold: Dark Star Festival; Silver: O’Hanlon’s Stormstay; Bronze: Highland Orkney IPA.

SPECIALITY BEER Gold: Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild; Silver: Little Valley Hebden’s Wheat; Bronze: Nethergate Umbel Magna.

REAL ALE IN A BOTTLE Gold: Stewart Embra; Silver: Great Gable Yewbarrow; Bronze: Molson Coors Worthington’s White Shield.

Photo shows David Smith of Coniston receiving the winner's plaqye from Roger Protz at the Great British Beer Festival.