English bitter Darwin’s Origin, from Salopian Brewery, has beaten almost 500 beers from across the UK to take overall gold at the inaugural SIBA Digital Beer Awards.

Salopian Brewery Darwin's Origin

The beer is a copper coloured bitter given an international twist with an eclectic mix of US, New Zealand, and European hops, which give it its distinctive lemony aroma and dry finish.

Middlesbrough brewery Play Brew Co’s Los Bandito, a hazy double-dry-hopped pale ale with big flavours of mango and stone-fruit, took the overall silver, having wowed judges in the premium pale ales category.

In the bronze position was London Beer Lab’s Session IPA, a wonderfully aromatic, fruity, and bitter beer from the Brixton-based brewer, which beat rivals in the hotly contested session IPA category.

Organised by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) and open to all independent breweries in the UK, the Digital Beer Awards 2020 were a landmark competition, entered by more than 180 breweries.

The awards saw almost 500 different beers judged by 50 expert tasters across two live video judging days. Competition chair, Guy Sheppard, congratulated winners and praised the quality of entries overall.

He said: “Congratulations to our very worthy winners, who really did have to beat stiff competition from the rest of the UK to take the top spots. The quality of entries was incredibly high and testament to the passion and talent of British brewers in these trying times. I’d like to thank all of the breweries who took the time to enter the competition and send in their beers for judging.”

Salopian Brewery’s Darwin’s Origin, which achieved the highest overall score of any beer in the competition, was first brewed in 2009 to celebrate the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth, in Shrewsbury, where the brewery is based. It is described by the brewer as being a “copper coloured beer that evolves with a pronounced hop character which leads to a refined malt finish”.

SIBA beer judges
The judges gather online

Judges were hugely impressed by the beer’s “great lemony aroma” and commented that it was a “very good example of a dry bitter with good drinkability”. The timing could also not be more apt — in a year when best bitters have been coming back into fashion with beer drinkers, Darwin’s Origin fits nicely into the resurgence.

Salopian Brewery director, Jake Douglas, said: “The past few months have been a challenging time for Salopian, but we have adapted as many have had to and I am extremely pleased that one of the beers we brewed and bottled during lockdown has gone on to win such a prestigious award.

“Our bottling line has been creaking at the seams recently, earning its keep. This award is testament to the hard work and diligence of all my team.”

Expert beer judges, beer sommeliers, and experienced brewers were used to judge beers for their flavour, aroma, and quality, marking them against internationally recognised beer styles to determine which beers were most deserving of awards. The blind tasting sessions took place via live video judging sessions across two days.

Guy Sheppard said: “The quality of beer in the UK has never been higher and the variety and flavour of beers submitted for the Digital Beer Awards was astounding.

“The UK is quite simply brewing some of the best beer anywhere in the world, and in these awards showcased the full breadth of beer styles now available from independent craft breweries, from modern IPAs and pale ales, Belgian-style saisons and sour beers, to traditional British beers, such as bitters, stouts and porters.”

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