A baritone cheer erupts from the crowd of barrel-chested beer enthusiasts as Rudgate Ruby Mild is named the victor. Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, says: “I’ve just come from tasting nine beers. I’m astonished I can actually speak.”
Equally astonished are Craig Lee and Jamie Allen, in charge of the seven-man brewing operation in Tockwith, North Yorkshire, where Ruby Mild is made. They have been brewing the beer to the same recipe for 14 years — to little interest, with the exception of a silver medal in the mild category last year. Suddenly they will face a surge in demand that will stretch their capacity to the limit.
At present they produce 40 barrels a week — the equivalent of 11,520 pints — and have the capacity to produce 20 more. Previous winners such as the Coniston Brewing Company in Cumbria had to get a larger brewery to help to make their Bluebird Bitter, because demand outstripped supply....
The beer, which is described in the Good Beer Guide as a “nutty, rich ruby ale, stronger than usual for a mild”, won by the biggest margin in living memory. One judge remarked that it “stood out a mile” from its nearest competitor.
The US brewing industry has yet to come back around to the joys of small beer. It's impossible to imagine an American competition awarding best in show to a beer of just 4.4% alcohol, no barrel aging, and modest hop levels. (The winning little brewery has a crude website that fails to list information about available beers.)
Update. Full list of winners is here. Also, note that the restrained Brits manage to muscle through with just eight categories--just 28 winning beers overall.
Update 2. CAMRA's promoting a "People's Pint" that would exempt beer from taxes if it's 2.8% or below. 2.8%. That's a small beer.