So how did this happen I here you ask!
Well. In February of 2011 Strong Island held it’s very first annual Home Brew Competition at Little Johnny Russells on Albert Road. The number of entrants was low, the quality on the other hand was extremely high. If we’re honest when we set up this little competition we didn’t quite know what to expect from it. Would it be a shambles and nobody turn up or even enter? Would it be out of control and way to busy for it’s own good? No, in fact it was an extremely pleasant middle point of the two. With 2 competition winners so far and both having their recipes brewed by Irving & Co. Brewers, Strong Island ales have hit the pumps in a number of local pubs and along the way sold hundreds of barrels. This is an event that we at Strong Island hope is to grow and grow over the next few years and see some more excellent ales and beers being produced. Remember it’s open to anyone and everyone so next time get involved!
In our first competition there were 5 entries in total, 2 from the same team and one entered completely last minute by Jim who had a brew at home and kind of stumbled over the comp by a planned accident, but let us tell you the quality was high. Lining up alongside Malcolm Irving (all round brewing guru and boss of Irving & Co. Brewery) and Stuart Ainsworth (Landlord of the Leoplold Tavern and all round beer expert) was Ben Mills (Little Johnny Russells, The Belle Isle & Strong Island) who felt a little bit of a novice on the panel, however he does have 8 years experience in the industry so he’s not too much of an amateur.
First up was a Porter brewed up by a first timer. Lovely taste, great dark colouring and a most excellently presented bottle and label. Clarity was hard to judge with it being a Porter however a nice chocolate aroma as well as coffee hit you as soon as the lid was removed. This entry finished 3rd however he can feel desperately unlucky as it was a great effort and in my opinion the best presented entry. Next up were the 2 entries from the Bad Manners Brewers from Southsea. First off was BPA, a lovely light golden colour with a potent fruity aroma. This was followed by Island Hopper, a slighty darker colouring than the BPA but again with a very fruity aroma this was a wonderfully smooth ale and for me was the best all round. The only entrant into the Specified Brew category was Cannon Barrel and was also the effort of a first time brewer. Clarity wasn’t all together up to scratch but taste was good and he brought it all in with a fantastic label design. It was a real eye catcher. The last was the Jolly Jaunt Ginger Beer. WOW! What an explosive taste this drop had! A little heavy on the ginger for me personally but let’s not take anything away from it. A nice kick thanks to the green chillis involved in this brew, an impressive and refreshing taste. It was so good I caught Paul on more than one occasion dashing for a refill! In my opinion and also that of the other judges, it was better than other commercially available ginger beers (not naming names). Again desperately unlucky not to have claimed a prize. Well done to the Bad Manners boys who produced 2 top notch ales but equally so to all the other entrants who made the 1st Annual event one to remember.
In the second year we saw three times the amount of entries with the top prize being claimed by Lee Immins with his ‘Dry Dock No.1′ pale ale. He saw off stiff competition from last years winners and runners up to claim the main prize and see his recipe brewed by Irving & Co. The name and concept was designed by Lee and his brother who wanted something famous about Portsmouth that maybe people weren’t aware of and the world’s first modern dry dock seemed to fit. He was exploring American-style IPA’s at the time so he decided to use American hops. He also made it as light as possible in colour for the summer. Lee said “It was great to see it scaled up by Irving and even though some of the hops were different Malcolm got the fruit hop nose of the original matched brilliantly”.
The Milton collective claimed the first prize in the cider category with their Milton selected apples and another notable entry was Chris Bulman who claimed 2nd place in the ‘Other’ category with his ‘Tucker B’s Rosemary Lager’. A first time brewer and a fantastic entry enjoyed by most.
The third years Strong Island homebrew competition was won by Tyler Griffin from Ohio currently working over here in Hampshire.
Brewer Malcolm Irving said “The beer is a highly complex blend of subtle malt flavours from a combination of Malted Oats, Wheat and rare Special B and Aromatic Belgian Malt. These subtle malt flavours underpin the heady intense fruity hop flavours from American Citra and Amarillo hop varieties. This should prove to be a very exciting beer and well worth seeking out in pubs round the city and beyond”
It sold extremely well and featured as one of the best sellers in most of the top real ale selling pubs around the city.
We normally start the ball rolling around October each year so keep posted for news on our next Strong Island Annual Home Brew Competition!
Photos: Matt Saxey
Photos: Tristan Savage
Poster Design: Tristan Savage