Wales and the South West will take on London in the finals of the Lager Challenge on July 2, the first day of Imbibe Live at Olympia London.

The five finalists — Geipel from North Wales and the Bristol outpost of Zerodegrees, plus Fourpure, Brick Lane and Coalition from London – will pitch for the audience’s vote in the Beer & Cider Hub.

The final sees New Wave British lagers face up against more traditional European styles, all chasing the prize of a seasonal listing in a selection of Mitchells & Butlers’ leading pubs.

The competition is run by Imbibe in association with the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA). Round one was held at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre, as a prelude to SIBA’s annual Beer X conference, and attracted a record entry.

SIBA’s Neil Walker said: “The huge number of entries we received this year from independent craft brewers shows quality lager is here to stay, and I’d like to personally offer huge congratulations to the skilled brewers named as finalists.”

More tricky to brew than popular perception would have you believe, not all the entrants nailed the style. “Some beers lacked yeast character and a sense of true lagering, that is, ageing,” said chair of judges, Mark Dorber, of The Anchor at Walberswick.

Excellence

The idea behind the competition is not only to celebrate excellence, but also to share with the Imbibe Live audience the ideas behind and the challenges associated with brewing quality beer.

Nathan Price, of M&B’s The Shipping Forecast, in Liverpool, said: “I think everyone can benefit from attending a final like this. Finding out the winner will be interesting in such a tight final. I will definitely be attending.”

Imbibe Live beer ambassador, Mitch Adams, of Borough Wines and Beers, will MC the final. He said: “The first round was tough, with some great beers narrowly missing out. We have emerged with a vibrant raft of beers showing the diversity of British brewing and clearly highlighting the demand for flavoursome lagers.”

So, who will win? Will it be the fledgling Coalition Brewing, just two years old, with its take on a classic pilsner? Or Fourpure’s Indy Lager, in the style of a traditional Germany Helles? Redchurch entered its Brick Lane Lager, one of its original creations, while Geipel won through with its toffee and caramel-infused Bock. Finally, the veteran of the finalists, the Zerodegrees group, called on Bristol for its entry, the easy-drinking, well-balanced Bohemian.

“This is an excellent shortlist of quality British lagers,” said Bundobust’s Marco Husak.

All finalists’ beers will be available for the duration of Imbibe Live at the show’s Hop and Apple Bar.

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