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A Lake District micro brewery is celebrating after scooping the most prestigious award in UK brewing, for the second time. At the annual Campaign for Real Ale’s Great British Beer Festival at London's Olympia, Coniston Brewing Company's ‘No. 9 Barley Wine’ was crowned Champion Beer of Britain.
Ian Bradley, owner and Head Brewer of Coniston Brewing Company said “We’re absolutely blown away to win Champion Beer of Britain again. This award is something that many breweries are still working on so to have won it for a second time is brilliant for everyone who works at the brewery or who has supported us and enjoyed our beers over the years.”
Coniston Brewing Company first won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain in 1998 with their now world famous Bluebird Bitter, one of the very first beers they produced when they established the micro brewery at the family pub, The Black Bull, in the Lakeland village from where they take their name.
David Smith collected the award on behalf of the brewery at the GBBF. He said “We were delighted to win the competition in 1998 with Bluebird and even more delighted to win again, not least because there are so many other fantastic microbreweries in Britain now. We’re glad to win this recognition with an all-British beer using solely British ingredients - very fitting for this Diamond Jubilee year.”
Judging for the competition started almost a year ago as beers from all over the UK were scrutinised by local CAMRA organisations. The winners of each category were forwarded to regional finals before the final national judging at the Great British Beer Festival taking place in Olympia this week.
No.9 Barley Wine, so called because it is the ninth beer created by Coniston Brewing Company, won the Champion Winter Beer of Britain before progressing to the final blind tasting this week, where it was up against beer from other categories including Golden Ales, Strong Bitters and Speciality Beers.
Runners up in the overall judging at Great British Beer Festival were Green Jack Brewery from Suffolk and Dark Star Brewery from West Sussex. Cumbrian Legendary Ales, based at Esthwaite near Hawkshead, also managed to get amongst the accolades with a well-deserved Silver award in the Golden Ales category.
Ian explains how to drink his latest winning beer, “No.9 Barley Wine is the strongest beer ever to win the challenge, coming in at 8.5% Abv, but it’s very much a sipping beer rather than one you'd consider drinking by the pint. We brew it just once a year – it’s a classic strong beer which undergoes a long maturation period to give a smooth and warming character. The flavours have are rich in fruit with marzipan, herbal hoppy-ness and Cognac overtones finishing with a warming alcohol essence. It’s also perfect for making Christmas puddings with!”
No.9 Barley Wine has a thoroughly British pedigree being brewed using English Goldings and Challenger hops, and both pale and crystal malts, not to mention the crystal clear waters from the Lakeland fells.
A traditional style of strong beer, No.9 Barley Wine can trace its history back to ancient Greece. The ‘wine’ reference being that its fruit flavours and strength (typically between 8% Abv and 12% Abv) make it comparable in strength.
Mr Bradley continues, “Barley wine is quite intricate to brew and I'd like to thank my great team at the brewery for their incredible hard work and superb efforts to create this amazing beer.
It's a style of beer which had perhaps fallen out of favour, as drinkers have tended to prefer lighter, golden ales but there’s been resurgence in more historical brewing styles in recent years as craft breweries like us are now producing a wider variety of beers including India Pale Ales (IPA), strong bitters, milds and stout.
We're delighted that No.9 has won this amazing award and we hope it will introduce a new generation of drinkers to a great brewing tradition.”