The best British beer polled by Budweiser Budvar’s brewing master

Labels: Brewery
16. 8. 2008 | České Budějovice

A panel of nine members including Budweiser Budvar’s maltster and brewing and technical director Josef Tolar voted the best beer of Great Britain on the occasion of the “Great British Beer Festival (GBBF)“ organised by the CAMRA consumer association. The contest was won by Alton’s Pride from Hampshire out of more than two thousand joined trademarks. Apart from others, the Czech brewing master selected the winner alongside a British M.P. and BBC’s expert editor.

“The winning beer was indeed my favourite. It is a golden brown beer of very fine flavour with a smoked accent. Its alcohol content amounts to 3.8% and admittedly, it was nice to drink. From my point of view, the most interesting beer scored a winner since it convinced virtually all the panel members.” Josef Tolar says on the winning beer.

The British way of beer evaluation during beer contests is different from the Czech one, where e.g. bitterness or fullness of the beer gets also assessed. Apart from the usual anonymous assessment, when the panel members evaluate the individual beer samples in four categories - flavour, aroma, appearance and impression, the beers are also assessed within a discussion amongst the panel members and the winner arises from that.

“It was very impressive and for me as a Czech quite uncommon. It is a kind of system in compliance with the English law, where everything gets discussed. Apart from the marking evaluation, the panel members discuss individual beers and only after that and mutual convincing the winner arises. The discussion was heated at times, with the BBC editor excelling in it; however similarly to all panel members including the British M.P., he understood beer very well indeed. I see this way fair enough and in my opinion, it can be used to responsibly select the best beer even amongst completely different types of beer as done during this contest,” explains Josef Tolar.

Beers of very different types qualify into the final round of the GBBF contest by winning in the following six categories: Bitter, Best Bitter, Dark & Light Mild, Golden Ale, Speciality Ale and Strong Bitter. At this year’s GBBF, 73 trademarks competed in these categories, being evaluated by 33 panel members, who selected the winners of individual categories, shortlisting the beers for the main panel’s assessment of the winner. The six winners of each category are automatically joined by the winner of the winter special contest, which takes place in winter.

“Compared to the Czech beer market, the British one is very wide-ranging and offers indeed a wide range of miscellaneous types of beer. The extent of the contest and categories corresponds with that. The seven finalists are subsequently evaluated indiscriminately, therefore it depends in the end, how each beer grips each panel member. In my opinion, it is a kind of a consumer result. Nonetheless, I would not say that the assessment was non-professional. The British count amongst great beer experts and the members of the panels are experts of its kind. I deeply appreciate being a part of this panel,” points out Josef Tolar.

Besides the best beer contest, the GBBF offered an auction sale of miscellaneous objects, whose proceeds are traditionally dedicated to charity. The highlight of this sale was an auction called “The Brewer for a Day”, which gives a chance to the winning person to become a brewing master in a selected brewery for one day. This year’s winning prize was one day in Budweiser Budvar N.C. The Budweiser Budvar trademark has long been one of the most popular imported trademarks; therefore the interest to brew beer there for one day was very high. In the end, a seventy-year old CAMRA association founder and its chairman during the 90’s Ian Dobson became the winner. He won the auction by the highest bid in the GBBF’s history, having bid ₤ 1,250 (nearly CZK 39,000) for one day in Budweiser Budvar brewery as the brewing master.

“I was very pleased to have received the MBE from the Queen; nevertheless to have the opportunity to be the brewing master in Budweiser Budvar puts this award into the shade. To manage the brewing process in one of the icons of European breweries, even if for a few hours, is a dream come true,” Ian Dobson commented upon his victory. He has had a long-term relation to Budweiser Budvar. He first visited it before 1989, having been motivated particularly by the interest to try a good beer, as he said.

A demanding programme has been arranged for Ian Dobson, which will provide him with an overall idea about the activities of Budweiser Budvar’s brewing master. Owing to his victory, he will get access to all places visited by the brewing master during one working day. Together with Josef Tolar, he will select ingredients for brewing or inspect individual stages of the brewing process. Later in the day, they will together plan Budweiser Budvar’s production for the next period and check the development of some reconstruction works as well as deal with building suppliers. Apart from the day in the brewery, Ian Dobson will enjoy a day in Prague and a day in Český Krumlov. 

“I am delighted that it was Ian who won the auction as he has had a long-relation to Budweiser Budvar. We would like to arrange a real experience for him, therefore we will start together as early as 6 in the morning,” says Josef Tolar with a grin. “He will also have some relaxing time visiting Prague and Český Krumlov. I believe that he will enjoy his visit to the Czech Republic and Budweiser Budvar,” he adds.                 

Josef Tolar’s biography
Current position: brewing and technical director (maltster)
Budweiser Budvar National Corporation
Karoliny Světlé 4, 370 21 České Budějovice
Josef Tolar graduated from the Faculty of Food Technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague in 1965. His professional career began immediately after that when he became head of the laboratory in the Budweiser Budvar brewery, to which all his life seems to be linked from then on. In the 1970’s, Mr Tolar became a member of the team developing Pito – the first non-alcoholic beer in the then Czechoslovakia. After acquiring experience and practical training experience in various positions in the brewery production subdivision, Mr Tolar became maltster in 1985 and then, in 1992, brewing and technical director of Budweiser Budvar. In this position, he was in charge of the reconstruction and extension of the brewery’s production capacity, namely from 450,000 hectolitres to 1.35 million hectolitres a year. Since 1998, Mr Tolar has been a member of the Board of the Research Institute of Brewing and Malting in Prague. In December 2002, the British Guild of Beer Writers awarded Mr Tolar with a Silver Tankard, a prize for his unique contribution to the European brewery industry.

The Great British Beer Festival
This year’s festival took place from 5th to 9th August at London’s Earls Court Exhibition Centre, being visited by more than 60,000 people as every year. The festival is organised by the largest British consumer organisation of 90,000 members - the CAMRA association (Campaign For Real Ale). The visitors of the Great British Beer Festival can try more than 450 types of beer from 280 breweries. Besides that, a various programme is provided, such as beer tasting with an expert, traditional pub games, live music, competitions and international cuisine dishes. The festival has been held since 1977. More information on the festival can be found at http://www.camra.org.uk/.

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