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The Society of Independent Brewers’ (SIBA) national craft beer competition has attracted a record 400 entries, a 700% increase since 2011, the organisation has revealed.

Almost a week of beer judging will whittle down the beers from a range of categories to a list of 72 national finalists, before the overall SIBA champion craft keg beer is named.

The Independent Beer Awards are hosted by SIBA and will take place at the BeerAlive! beer festival, part of SIBA’s annual BeerX Trade Show, in Sheffield in March.

Although the majority of beer brewed by independent brewers is still cask conditioned ‘real ale’, which requires careful handling and is served through traditional hand pulls, more and more brewers are starting to introduce craft-keg beer into their portfolios to meet consumer demand. Unlike cask beer, craft keg can be served via regular lager fonts and, as such, is finding a place in bars and restaurants as well as pubs.

SIBA managing director, Mike Benner, said: “We’ve seen a huge growth in the number of independent craft brewers producing quality beer in a range of formats, including the increasingly popular craft keg.

“Certain beers lend themselves to being served in this way, and whilst cask will always be important for our members, it’s great to see breweries embracing quality keg beer and producing fantastic tasting, unpasteurised beers that are served chilled, direct from regular keg fonts.”

The production of craft beer in keg is a relatively new thing in the UK, with SIBA’s competition only starting in 2011, and just 50 beers being put forward nationally that year. By 2014 that number had steadily risen to 208 across the UK, then slightly more at 238 in 2015.

By 2016, though, the huge growth in breweries producing craft keg pushed SIBA into moving the judging to its national event at BeerX in March, the biggest competition of its kind the UK has ever seen.

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