A 5% abv Bavarian Helles lager was named the world’s best beer at the International Beer Challenge Awards 2018 in London last night.

An expert panel of judges gathered in Holborn to taste each gold medal winning beer in order to decide trophy winners for best in class brews.

These category champions then went up against one another to determine a Supreme Champion, and ABK Hell Das Blaue scooped the coveted gong.

It is a lightly golden lager, with a bubbly, medium white head, with a soft and sweet aroma created by grain and floralhops. The taste is full-bodied, with lots of green apple and persistent hints of pine and herbs, with a light bitterness that persists through to the finish.

ABK has been brewing in woodland at the base of the Bavarian Alps since 1308, and it also produces a pilsner, a heffweizen, a dunkel, a schwarz and an edel.

ROK Drinks distributes the brews in the UK along with Bogart’s spirits and UB Irish whiskey.

ABK Hell also won the trophy for best lager up to 5% abv, while Bohemia Doppelbock from Cervejaria Bohemia in Brazil was named best lager above 5% following the blind tasting conducted by judges.

The panel included brewers, journalists and educators, most of whom were table captains at the initial IBC judging.

After much debate, they arrived at a number of winners from across the globe. Changeling from Rising Sons Brewery in Cork was given the trophy for best ale up to 5%, and Cervejaria Bohemia was successful once again as its Bohemia Wee Heavy was named best ale above 5%.

For the second year in a row, Belarusian brewery Lidskae won best wheat beer for its eponymous brew, while Crazy Brew in Russia took best stout or porter for its Russian Imperial Stout.

Italian brewer Birra Del Borgo won best flavoured beer for L’Equilibrista, which evoked a beautiful sparkling rosé wine, and Hertog Jan Grand Prestige Vatgerijpt Goose Island won best speciality beer.

IBC chairman Jeff Evans said: “It’s been another fantastic year for beer and another fantastic year for the competition, which is now 22 years old. We’ve received more entries than ever before and judged beers from no fewer than 39 countries. The full colour of world brewing was represented, with styles ranging from dark milds to doppelbocks, pilsners to porters and saisons to Scotch ales on show.

“The benchmark is set extremely high and there are, sadly, many beers that fail to win any medal at all, and that means that those that claim bronze, or even better, silver, really do have plenty to shout about.

“But the pinnacle is the gold, a medal that is very sparingly awarded, and it is by scrutinising the list of gold medallists – and tasting them tonight, because here we have them in the room – that we can see just how exciting the world of beer has become.

“But we also go a step further, in the pursuit of excellence. We then take all the gold medal winners and judge them again to find the best of the best, our trophy winners. Congratulations to all our trophy winners. It really is no mean achievement.”

As DRN runs the awards, we hand out a gong each year for UK retailer of the year, rewarding the most successful own-label range, and Marks & Spencer reigned supreme this year with two gold medals, nine silvers and 12 bronzes.

Sussex-based Harvey & Son was named UK brewery of the year for gaining three golds, three silvers and seven bronzes.

Hertog Jan from the Netherlands landed four golds, three silvers and three bronze medals to be named European brewery of the year.

Melbourne-based Hawkers was named Oceania brewer of the year after picking up a gold, two silvers and a bronze.
We were unable to award an African brewer of the year as no beers from the continent gained the appropriate medal haul. No Asian breweries won a gold either, but Carlsberg Vietnam earned a highly commended award for earning a silver and a bronze.

Cervejaria Bohemia capped a fantastic night by taking the South American brewer of the year award thanks to its haul of three gold medals – two of which went on to win trophies – along with seven silvers and six bronzes.

Samuel Adams producer Boston Beer Company had two gold medals, four silvers and 10 bronze medals, so it was named North American Brewer of the Year.

The best performing of the bunch was Hertog Jan, which took the supreme champion brewer award.

London’s Fourpure took home the Glenn Payne Rising Star trophy as the best up and coming brewery in the world.

Judges also handed out trophies for design and packaging. Harvey & Son’s Tin Lizzie won the trophy for best new product, Bierbank Imperial Russian Stout was named the best re-packaged product, and the design and packaging supreme champion award was shared by FrogBeer’s fruit series and Harvey & Son’s craft can range.

Design and packaging chairman Paul Foulkes-Arellano said: “The quality of entrants in the design and packaging awards section is of such a high standard right now.

“The last decade has seen a complete transformation of the beer sector worldwide when it comes to design. The influence of craft beer design can be seen right across the sector, from small brands right through to the major multinationals.

“It’s a real pleasure to see beer design come of age. Now we see designs across the board on a level with those from the world of wine and spirits.”