Baron on Tour: SIBA Wales & West 2011

Last Friday Chris & I took three different trains and over three hours to go to the SIBA Wales & West beer competition. We'd been picked as judges for the event and so got up at 6am to ensure that we were at Ludlow Castle before the event started. We had a little wander round the town - it's lovely, full of quaint old wood-framed buildings and  shops.

The beer competition was being held in the grounds of Ludlow Castle, an impressive place within the town centre of Ludlow and the beer judging (and later beer festival) was being held within a marque in the castle's grounds.

We bumped into Nick from the Otley Brewing Company (who sent us an impressive range of bottled ales) who had quite a number of ales in the competition. Nick was a lovely guy and chatted to us and introduced Chris and I to Dan Fox who runs the excellent White Horse pub in London.

Bacon butties were first up but due to a slight slowness of turn around the queue for the butties (and the bacon smoke) was filling the judging tent when the beers were meant to be coming out! A slight delay of thirty minutes pushed everything back in order and Julian was able to start the first round of judging not long after the queue had died down.

I was judging in the first round and the final (I was made up when I found this out!). My first round was bottled golden beers. There were around sixteen different tables if judges with around six on each so you can get a sense of the scale of things.

The beers were a mixed bag, 2-3 smelling of sulphur & butterscotch, one smelling of farmyards (awful) and 2-3 being lovely examples of golden ales. We judged 14 beers in around an hour - although you are only sipping a third of a pint it catches up with you pretty quickly!

I wasn't judging the second round and so was lucky enough to get to meet Melissa Cole who was chatting to Dan at the time. The three of us when in search of lunch (which was more of a liquid lunch to be honest!) and had a nice time in a local pub's beer garden.

Then it was back to the competition to judging the final, eight carefully whittled ales, all of which were lovely in their own right, it was a pleasure to be on the judging table picking the winners!

After that it all became a bit of a blur, I smoozed with Sue from the Waen Brewery trying a half of her lovely blackberry stout, we chatted more to Nick from Otley and got to meet Simon from Real Ale Reviews (he was one of the other judges).

We also got to meet Jake from Salopian Brewery who was such a nice chap, Salopian collected loads of awards that evening and Jake was kind enough to film us giving their Oracle a live video tasting review!

Skip to 4:25 to see our review of Salopian's Oracle

Unfortunately as we lived so far away, we had to cut the fun early and get the 7pm train home, it was a horror of a journey but we had a such a fun day it didn't matter!

Thanks so much to Charlie & Lisa from SIBA for inviting us both, we had a great time and really enjoyed picking this year's winners!

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