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Smoked Beer in Bourbon wows the judges

Added: Saturday, April 6th 2013


Hinds Head Wins Hands Down in Inaugural Bartender’s Choice Competition

- David Ashton-Hyde Wows with Smoked Beer Infused with Bourbon Oak & Maple Syrup -


Innis & Gunn’s inaugural Bartender’s Choice competition drew to an intense close last week as six finalists battled it out to make their beer concepts reality.  The man who walked away with the trophy was David Ashton-Hyde, Beverage Manager at Heston Blumenthal’s The Hinds Head in Bray.  

His Smoked Beer infused with Bourbon Oak and Maple Syrup recipe wowed the judging panel, which included Innis & Gunn founder and master brewer, Dougal Sharp; beer writer Ben McFarland, and editor of Sweden’s leading drinks title, Allt Om Whisky, Emma Andersson.  David will now see his beer released in September/October as a Limited Edition, exclusively available to the on-trade in the UK, Canada and Sweden. 

The 33 year-old from Bray said: “I’ve never experienced anything like this before.  I was totally bowled over by their passion for making beer and they took so much time with each of us to really develop our ideas into workable specifications.  There were no corners cut, nothing left to chance.  We all had a brilliant time meeting the team, finding out what they do and how they do it.  And I’m still stunned to have won…reality’s not quite hit home yet.” 

David’s traditional rauchbier recipe will be given the full Innis & Gunn treatment, with aromas of smoke and maple syrup combined with rich vanilla and caramel notes.  The initial taste will be full bodied, giving way to sweet maple syrup and a clean finish of earthy and minty Northern Brewer hops.

David added: “My hope with the recipe was to create a beer that would encompass both savoury and sweet elements, so, while other beers play towards being paired with food, this is a beer that is designed to be brought out at the right stage in a meal and enjoyed in its own right. 

“I’ve tried to bridge the gap between the soured mash and the sweet and smoky tones from the maple and bourbon.  The charcoal and caramel hints of bourbon barrels married with the dry and fresh minty tones of the northern brewer hop should make for a really powerful flavour experience.”  

Over 300 bartenders from across the UK, Sweden and Canada submitted beer concepts to Innis & Gunn for its inaugural Bartender’s Choice programme, which launched in September 2012.  Dougal and his team whittled down entries to the final six:

  • ·         David Ashton-Hyde (England) – A smoked version of Original, with maple infused Bourbon Oak
  • ·         Katie MacDonald (Canada) – A spiced wheat beer aged in cherry brandy infused oak
  • ·         Jason Meehan (Canada) – A porter aged in cognac infused black cherrywood
  • ·         Geoff Whittall (Scotland) – A botanical, botanist Blonde beer flavoured with herbs and spices such as fennel, clove, anise, cicely.
  • ·         Tom Hyde (Scotland) – An IPA with Lapsang Souchong tea and orange, aged in Pedro Xemenez infused oak.
  • ·         Michael Andersson (Sweden) – A robust malty beer aged in cognac infused French Oak.  

The independent brewer then whisked all six finalists off to Edinburgh for the final test, culminating in an X-Factor style presentation to the illustrious juding panel.  

Dougal Sharp said: “It was a really difficult decision for all of us because every one of the finalists delivered.  The beer concepts were all so different; there was some serious thought put into the recipes and they were all worthy of the prize.  The finalists themselves were fiercely passionate about their ideas and that came across in their presentations.  Each pitch was compelling, it was such a tough call.  But, David’s stole it by a narrow margin and we can’t wait to work with him to get his beer out to market.”  

Guest judge Ben McFarland, commented: “The enthusiasm of the candidates from both sides of the Pond was infectious, encapsulating the entrepreneurial verve that is driving the international craft brewing scene.  While every idea was grounded in commercial reality, each was inspired by something different and was hugely imaginative in the use of ingredients and brewing techniques.  If every bartender was this passionate about beer, the lives of discerning drinkers everywhere would be a whole lot better.”  

David Ashton-Hyde has worked at the Michelin-starred Hinds Head in Bray for two years, focussing on the development of the wet side of the business and ensuring guests get some essential Heston flair by bringing new dimensions to the pub drinking experience.  The son of a licensee, David confessed to getting a thrill from looking after a cellar and keeping good beer. 

He added: “I grew up in and around pubs, from the early memories of following dad down the local and sitting outside with my half pint of prawns watching through the smoky haze as the men held firm their handled glasses, to helping the landlord’s son empty the bottle bins and restocking the fridges.  The power of the brewer is as diverse as the distiller.  It’s an interesting and innovative time – so many beers to discover and one of them will be mine.”  

To enquire about stocking the winning Bartender’s Choice brew, contact or Tel: 0131 220 7230. 

The Bartenders’ Choice competition will be back in 2014 and even bigger, with the search for the next Limited Edition beer expanding to the US.  To register interest, visit Innis & Gunn’s Bartender’s Choice Facebook page: