A local hero takes the top prize in our first international competition.
In our June 2015 issue (on sale now), we unveil the winners of our 1st Annual International Craft Beer Awards—for which a panel of 18 judges bestowed gold, silver, and bronze ribbons upon bottles in 15 categories. Tonight (May 29), as part of Vancouver Craft Beer Week, we’re handing out the honours live onstage at Roundhouse Community Centre, culminating with this: our much-anticipated Best of Show champion. BEST OF SHOW: Steamworks Brewing Co. Imperial Red Ale Judging for these inaugural craft awards was surprisingly well-mannered. Almost everyone arrived on time. There was little yelling. One quartet, all in plaid shirts, seemed especially gentlemanly as they agreed to disagree over a particular pale ale. Until we reached Best of Show, when for two hours a schism split our genial group into two camps. The first championed this red ale from local stalwart Steamworks. All 18 judges agree that this is a killer beer, deserving of its Gold position in the Strong category. But these enthusiasts went further, arguing (by a lead of one vote) that it is the best-constructed of all the competition’s top winners: bold, balanced, rich, with, as one judge put it, “a nose I just want to curl up in.” Those initial aromas of northwest-style hops, caramel, and a hint of fruit usher in massive flavours, deserving of that imperial designation. Solid pine and dry, spicy rye balance a building sweetness and more tropical fruit as the alcohol (at 8.5 percent, high for a red ale) and deep bitterness kick in. This year-old beer began as a winter seasonal, but after getting rave reviews it’s now on offer all year. If such a powerhouse seems heavy for summer sun, heed the other judges and turn to our runner-up, the 2.5 percent radler from Salzburg’s Stiegl. Light, refreshing, citric, that grapefruit/lager blend reminds us there’s a spot on beer’s broad continuum for every palate.