CBOB: What's all that about then?

Firstly, congratulations to the Coniston Brewing Company for having their No 9 Barley Wine crowned Champion Beer of Britain at this year’s Great British Beer Festival. It’s an 8.5% annual ale and is described as golden with “fantastic finesse, reminiscent of a fine cognac”.

It’s an interesting choice that has been warmly welcomed in some circles, while causing some head scratching in others. The path to CBOB glory is tortuously complex with many CAMRA members not understanding the process, let alone the general public. There are various routes by which a beer can qualify for entry before it’s judged by means of blind tasting.

One questioned that is being asked is how can a barley wine have won? Well, at least it proves that the judging is blind after all and that CAMRA aren’t hung up on any specific criteria. However, that does then rather raise the question of what is the purpose of the Champion Winter Beer of Britain award?

The whole purpose of splitting WiBOB from the main CBOB competition was to give equal prominence to exactly this type of beer. The Winter Ales Festival is their natural home and you won’t-rightly-find ordinary Bitters being considered for the title there. So perhaps CAMRA need to rethink their entry criteria as WiBOB is looking a little redundant right now.

Another complaint has been that it plays into the hands of those that like to portray CAMRA as the “weirdy-beardy” club. Beers for geeks, as someone put it. Another beer enthusiast succinctly tweeted: “Who the fuck is going to drink that?”

It’s all very well for CAMRA’s Chief Executive, Mike Benner, to say that it’s a great opportunity for pubs to try third pint glassware, but that simply isn’t going to happen. Most pubs don’t use them-including the nation’s biggest real ale seller, J D Wetherspoon. Even Coniston have admitted that they don’t expect a huge rise in sales as they acknowledge the, good as it may be, limited appeal of their beer.

Of course CBOB isn’t necessarily aimed at the popular or mainstream. Even though previous winners such as Landlord and Deuchars IPA definitely benefited from their wins. But perhaps it should be-to some extent, anyway.  Certainly the Kafkaesque voting procedure needs reform and CAMRA needs to address, and communicate to others, just what CBOB is all about. 


Martyn Cornell said…
And yet in the US they'd be queuing round the corner for a beer like this ...
Steve Lamond said…
I thought part of the reason for WiBOB being separate is because a number of the beers are seasonals and not available during GBBF period?
Anonymous said…
But if you don't let winter beers become CBOB it effectively becomes "Summer Beer of Britain".
Maxwell Power said…
An effort by CAMRA to force the third of a pint issue or a fuck you to the government that a high ABV beer can be best in Britain? Conspiracy theorists do your worst!
Sid Boggle said…
Personally, I think the fact that a mild wasn't in the Top 3 for the first time in years signals a changing of the guard at the top. Like those old communist party congresses where subtle changes in language or policy showed which way the wind was blowing.
Donny said…
The whole thing is a joke. So Camra decides that some obscure beer is the best in Britain. Who cares???!
Ed said…
I've been a CAMRA member for over 20 years and it's still a mystery to me how the CBOB is decided.

It's all good fun though.
Meer For Beer said…
I'm quite excited that a Barley Wine has won, lovely style of beer in my opinion, now I only have to hope that I can get a bottle of it to try or that maybe a crafty beer place *may* get a cask in.
Tyson said…

Those crazy Yanks, eh?


Some are, but some aren't-it isn't the primary reason for splitting the two.


Not really. It would actually be summer, autumn and spring Champion:)
Mark Fletcher said…
Personally speaking as a Camra member, it's very disappointing that they have chosen a beer that most of us won't get a chance to try. It smacks of beer elitism. They need to get back to promoting real ale for the general public and not stuff like this.
Tandleman said…
Kind of agree with Mark. The purely subjective taste buds of a number of elite judges aren't representative of much.

Maybe like SIBA, there needs to be a wider set of criteria for judging?

Does this new CBOB advance the cause of real ale and of CAMRA?

Answers on a postcard to Colin Valentine at CAMRA HQ.
Barry said…
I agree with the last set of comments. Preumably it was envisaged that Cbob would in some way promote CAMRA rather than just add sales to one brewer's books. This just doesn't do it for CAMRA and yet the brewer himself doesn't think it will generate sales! Rethink needed, I think.

And if a winter beer can win CBOB but a non winter beer can't win WIBOB, then there's something wrong there as well.

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