Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
Curious Brew, by Chapel Down winery, took gold at the Off Licence News-organised event, which saw over 400 beers judged.
The 4.7% abv brew, produced at the Frazer Thompson-headed Kent winery, was one of only two lager brands to win gold, the other being Samuel Adams for its Dark Night in Munich and Double Bock.
The Challenge awarded 30 gold medals in total, including beers from countries that included Belgium, Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the US.
According to Chapel Down, Curious Brew has seen “wine-making thinking” brought to beer brewing and is made from East Anglian malt, saaz and cascade hops.
Champagne yeast, also used in Chapel Down sparkling wines, is used to re-ferment the lager and a “dosage of rare and fragrant Sauvin hops” are added at the end, before cold filtering the unpasteurised beer into bottles.
Thompson, a former employee of Heineken and Whitbread, said: "I'm sick to death of being force-fed fizzy flatulent froth, which has all the taste of corporate cardboard and the dull stench of market research, answering to the name of 'lager beer'.
“Its so awful, I've had to brew one myself. Because, at its best, lager is a peerless drink to refresh and satisfy. And this is lager at its best."
Beer writer Pete Brown said: “Brewing with champagne yeast is something you'd expect the Belgians to do and so is brewing a lager for that matter.
“The result is a lovely beer which has a sparkling zing that makes it refreshing, satisfying and a lovely halfway house between beer and a sparkling wine.
“The flavour is a fuller, more assertive beer that’s fruity and rounded, but still reined in at the end by a crisp dryness.”