An Australian red ale was crowned the world’s best beer for 2016 after an elite panel of judges re-tasted every gold medal winner from the International Beer Challenge.

We selected trophy winners from eight categories and then tasted all of them to reach a final winner: Prancing Pony India Red Ale.

The 7.9% abv brew is produced in Mount Barker in Greater Adelaide and is the result of a marriage between a New World IPA and an American Imperial Double Red Ale.

It won the trophy for best ale above 5% abv and then went on to beat all the category winners in the competition to claim the Supreme Champion gong. 

Judges raved about its beautiful balance and bold but approachable flavours that were memorable enough to stand out in a field of very powerful, punchy beers.

The judging panel included chairman Jeff Evans, John Porter, Anne Jones, Christine Cryne, Alex Barlow, Bill Simmonds, Peter Haydon, Mitch Adams, Steve Williams, Jacopo Mazzeo and yours truly – a collection of brewers, retailers, authors and journalists.

All beers were blind tasted and fierce debates ensued before we reached trophy winners for each category.

We tasted six gold medal-winning ales under 5% abv and eventually decided on the delightful Wicklow Hopknut from Ireland as the winner of a competitive category.

The winner of the best lager under 5% was another Australian brew, the Edge Brewing Project Cool Hops Lager from Hawkers, a 4.6% beer that has fantastic depth of flavour for something so delicate.

Hawkers, which was named the best brewer in Oceania, capped a great night for Australia by taking home the overall champion brewer trophy, finishing ahead of top US brewer Boston Beer Co among other best in continent winners because it had the highest proportion of medal winners from the beers it submitted.

In the over 5% abv lager, Samuel Adams reigned supreme with its Double Bock, a beer that ran the Prancing Pony India Red Ale very close in the supreme champion stakes. The Boston Beer Co also won more medals than any other brewer.

Highlighting the truly international nature of the IBC, the best wheat beer came from Belarus, a country that barely registers on the brewing map. But the Lidskoe light wheat was a superb example of a wheat beer with heady bubblegum flavours.

A brewer from the other side of the world, the Colorado Ithaca from Cervejaria Colorado in Brazil, won the trophy for best stout or porter.

Best flavoured beer was Redwell Kofra Stout from Norwich, which beat beers flavoured with tea, pumpkin, chestnut, cherry and more.

One of the hardest fought categories was speciality beers, where Okell’s Aile triumphed.

Jeff Evans, chairman of the IBC, said: “It was evident from the judging that the standard was exceptionally high this year, because on several of the rounds I observed judges working on they really struggled to find a winner because the level was so high, and that carried forward to the trophy judging at the end of the day, where it was extremely difficult to separate the beers. I am certain we found a worth Supreme Champion.”

Design and packaging is also an important part of a brewer’s arsenal and we gave out trophies to the brewer’s that best utilised this.

It was a double triumph for Rupert Thompson’s Hogs Back brewery, which won the trophies for best established and best new individual product respectively for A Over T (Aromas Over Tongham) and the Hog Star 33cl can. A special award for best innovative concept went to Toast Ale.

The Design and Packaging trophy for best range went to Lowlander, which impressed judges on its IPA, white ale and porter, and when all was said and done it was Lowlander that took the Design and Packaging Supreme Champion award. 

As a reflection of its superb own label range, Marks & Spencer won the award for Best UK Retailer. UK brewer of the year went to Tiny Rebel Brewing Co, while Brighton Bier won the inaugural Glenn Payne Rising Star Award in honour of the late IBC judge.