Raise the Bar 2019

Meet this year's winners of the UK's hottest award for new breweries

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More than 60 breweries entered this year’s Raise the Bar competition, each vying for the chance to pour at beer festivals across the UK and see their creations mailed out to thirsty Beer52 members. To be eligible for consideration, contenders need to have been in commercial production for less than two years, and were asked to send samples of three different beers.

Judging took place in March this year, at Hackney’s Pembury Tavern, and was conducted by a panel including Wildcard’s Jaega Wise, Earth Station’s Jen Merrick, beer writer Matt Curtis, We are Beer’s Greg Wise and Beer52’s Callum Stewart. Their challenge: To whittle down 60 to just four exceptional young breweries. 

Unlike most beer competitions, this was not a blind tasting. The judges looked not only at the beer itself, but also branding and provenance of the brewery, as well as their potential to scale up and make an impact on a crowded market.

“What we found key throughout the competition was consistency across the range,” says Callum. “While some breweries had one outstanding beer, this was not backed up by the second and third, whereas the winning breweries were able to carry this across all beers submitted.

“The branding and styles selected were also important. While there are only so many IPAs one can try, a 12% barrel aged imperial stout may not be appealing to a larger audience. We had to keep in mind that the winners would be showcased around the country at beer festivals as well as in the Beer52 box. Two were selected as clear winners, and there was a long deliberation about the final four, but in the end all the judges agreed on the winners as submitted the best three beers.”

The judging day itself was as much fun as you’d expect; beer tasting isn't like wine tasting, in that you do actually drink the beer. However, as professionals, the judges made sure to start early enough to spread the tastings throughout the day. There was a long break for lunch, at which plenty of food was laid on, and water and crackers were provided throughout. Like any competition, it's hard to get attention with so many entrants, so any beers that missed the mark were swiftly poured away.

There were many worthy entrants, but in the end the stand-out four were Mothership, Vault City, Dig Brew Co and Turning Point.

“The selected breweries represent the depth of talent across the UK, hailing from Edinburgh, Yorkshire, Birmingham and London and a big congratulations to them all. We look forward to seeing your journey this year and welcoming more entries to the competition for next year,” says Callum.


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