The Champion Beer of Britain (CBoB) competition is one of CAMRA’s flagship awards, and breweries who win CBoB awards consider these awards to be most prestigious. As members you play an important role from this the first step in getting beers to the final judging at GBBF, by voting for your champion beers.
How do beers get nominated and what role do members play?
Every year, in September, voting opens for members to nominate their favourite beers, up to five in each style category. https://cbob.camra.org.uk/
In response to members requests to be able to vote for a much wider choice of beers than just being restricted to the region they are in the new voting website allows just this. Members will now have a wider choice of beers to vote for, covering both local beers, as previously, plus beers from all over the country. The new voting portal makes the process more user-friendly and, for those members who are unsure of the process and need a little help there is a tutorial video is available.
It is very important for members to have their say and vote for their favourite beers. The more votes we get, the more robust the competition and the more confidence we have that the best beers are going forward to the next stage. Members without internet access can request Branch Committee members to cast a proxy vote on their behalf.
So, how does CBOB work?
There are nine CBoB areas – London & South East, South West, East Anglia, East Midlands, West Midlands, North East & Yorkshire, Scotland & Northern Ireland and North West – these don’t mirror the 16 CAMRA regions, and some CBOB areas cover more than one region. There are also 10 beer styles – milds, bitters, best bitters, golden ales, strong bitters, speciality beers, old ales/strong milds, stouts, porters and barley wines/strong old ales. It should be noted that the existing beer styles are currently the subject of a root-and-branch review which it is expected will be completed ahead of the 2020 voting window.
The first step is the member voting window throughout September and October. Once voting closes our CBOB Area Coordinators consolidate and collate the results from members’ votes. At this stage, tasting panels also have their chance to nominate beers they believe should go forward to the next stage. This does give members another way to get involved in CBOB, by joining their local tasting panel.
What happens next?
The coordinators take the member vote and the tasting panel nominations to draft a short list of the most recommended beers. Ideally, the next stage is to organise local judging competitions, usually at beer festivals, to give the area winners – a prestigious award anyway – which can then go forward to judging at GBBF and GBBF Winter (for the 4 winter beer styles – old ales/strong milds, stouts, porters and barley wines/strong old ales) and, hence, to find CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain (and Champion Winter Beer of Britain).
It is important that we find sufficient festivals to do this judging at an area level. Objective judging by a range of judges (trained CAMRA judges, CAMRA members, guest judges) is important as the beers finishing on top following the voting are not necessarily the best beer in that category. So, if you are involved in organising a festival, please consider volunteering to host an area CBoB competition event; if you have any other ideas about how a judging event can be held – for example in a pub – then please let your Regional Director know so they can pass it on to the CBoB Area Coordinator.
The Final Competition
At the Great British Beer Festival, the final CBoB category judging of the Area winners takes place, with 1 winning beer from the Speciality Beer, Mild and Strong Bitter categories, coupled with 2 each from the Bitter, Golden Ale and Best Bitter categories proceeding into the final round in order to judge the Supreme Champion, which is crowned the best beer in Britain. The reason for 2 beers each from the Bitter, Golden Ale and Best Bitter categories is to accommodate for the proportionate share of the commercial beer market these beer styles command.
Four beers that are fast tracked to the final round are the winners of each category of the Champion Winter Beer of Britain competition, held at the National Winter Ales Festival in January/February each year. As these beers were judged to be the Champion Beers of their style earlier in the year, they are entered automatically into the final round of CBoB. The CWBoB competition is similar in its structure to CBOB, as the final round of judging is made up of beers having reached this stage via the process of CAMRA local branch and tasting panel nominations, followed by Area competition success. The categories in this competition are Old Ale/Strong Mild, Porter, Stout and Barley Wine/Strong Old Ale.
Please note there is a separate competition for the Champion Bottled Beer of Britain (Real Ale in Bottle). Like CBOB and CWBoB, the structure of the competition relies upon CAMRA local branch and tasting panel nominations, followed by the Area competitions, with the final held at the BBC Good Food Show in November.
What can breweries do to get their beer submitted for consideration? –
Aside from ensuring their beers are of a consistently excellent standard throughout the year, brewers can consult their respective CAMRA Brewery Liaison Officer (BLO) to gain clarification on whether their beer fits the criteria defined by the categories in CAMRA’s Beer Styles Guidelines. If the BLO is unable to help then brewers should contact their CBoB Area Coordinator, details of whom are available from CAMRA HQ. When a list of eligible beers has been established, it is the role of the BLO to supply this list for reference to the respective CAMRA Area Competition Organiser.
Which beers are eligible?
To be eligible for CBoB, a cask conditioned Bitter, Best Bitter, Strong Bitter or Golden Ale must be available for 7 or more months of the year, and a cask conditioned Mild or Speciality Beer must be available for 3 or more months of the year, or else the cask conditioned beer must be one of the beer styles associated with the Winter season (Old Ales, Strong Milds, Barley Wine, Strong Old Ale, Porter or Stout).
Excluded beers are those with misleadingly promoted geographical origin, brands with non-cask versions misleadingly promoted using CAMRA awards, or beers which have sexist or otherwise discriminatory pump clips or other branding.
As mentioned at the start of this article the initial step is to get members to vote and it would be great to get more members involved in the CBoB competition, whether by voting for your favourite beers, joining your local tasting panel or organising an area judging competition. And if you do get more involved, tell your friends to get involved too.
Pictured above: CBoB presentation 2019 – Surrey Hills Brewery director Ross Hunter pictured right with the brewery’s Simon Jones
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