Sourfest: the results

A stand-out beer is picked
This time last weekend I was in Belfast judging at the Freshman year of Sourfest, a competition to find the best sour/wild ale both commercially and from amateur brewers for both the UK & Ireland.

The beers were judged blind by a panel (myself included), with the top three in each category qualifying for a reassessment for best overall and in category. We were given details on style & additional ingredients, but only after the initial tastings. Entrants remained anonymous until all prizes had been awarded and beers were all judged to the same standard, with feedback forms from all judges* being made available to entrants after the competition.
I'm getting sour, is this a sour?
Someone wasn't impressed...
There were some truly impressive beers and perhaps even more encouraging was that the overall standard was extremely high, with all beers deemed drinkable (except perhaps that berlinner weisse smelling of farts and an enteric (faecal) sour brown).The results were as follows:



Best UK amateur
Chris Lewis took this with a very impressive attempt at a true spontaneously fermented lambic called Teeth Grinder; with four year-old, three year old and one year old beers blended to produce a gueuze-alike. Of course we did not know what it was at the time, but the quality shone though. Honourable mention here went to Plum Smuggler from Dean Hollingworth.

Searching for words to describe
The aroma pleases Giacomo
Best Irish amateur
Awarded to Shane Smith for his Raspberry Turbo which also took overall best in the competition (and my personal favourite).
Highly commended went to another talented homebrewer, Roger Rotheroe for his American Sour Brown Currant Situation.
Both of these winners will have the opportunity to brew their beers on  commercial scale with Boundary brewing. I certainly look forward to trying both of these and fully intend to buy a few cases of each.


Matt takes an initial sip
Best UK Commercial
Elgoods Coolship Blonde took this one but it was close run thing with Ali Kocho Williams' (Seren) Rum barrel aged sour dark ale. Elgoods overthrew the impression of being a staid family brewer when they put a disused brewery coolship back into use after many years to turn out a beer very similar to Belgian lambics, though of course with a different microflora. You can read more about it in Roger Protz's piece here.


Best Irish Commercial
A recently released beer & one I'd already been lucky enough to try: Kinnegar & Brown Paper Bag Project Geuzberry (you can read more about it here). This was also deemed to be best commercial beer overall too.
Highly commended was another beer recently launched, the sour version of White Hag's Beann Gulban.

Congratulations to all of the winners, and well done to all of the entrants; the overall standard was very high and I hope you all enter again next year.  What is particularly encouraging is the high standard of the amateur beers; often indistinguishable than the commercial attempts and generally more adventurous. This bodes well for the next generation of breweries, I'd like to see more commercial entrants next year. Everyone who didn't enter: you have a year; so get cracking! I look forward to seeing what you all come up with.

Aromas redolent of red berries

Congratulations also must go to Shane for a flawless organisation of the competition, thank you for having me as a judge and congratulations again on managing to win your own event ;)

*If you get a feedback form from me and need help deciphering what I wrote, give me a shout!

Photos courtesy of Phil Harrison

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