SIBA South West Beer Competition – The Forge Brewery has won the Champion Beer of the show for the 2nd year in succession – with a different beer this year, beating 260 other beers. Full results available here. You may remember I wrote an article on it’s remarkable achievement of winning last year, plus winning Silver in it’s category at the SIBA National Finals.

Why is this remarkable?

Quite simply because The Forge Brewery is a one man band! And has only been in existence for 4 years. It is Dave Lang, some 2nd hand equipment and a lot of hard work. And it is beating all comers, from established micro breweries to some of the major players like St Austell with multi million pound investment behind them.

Last year Dave won the Trophy for Best Beer at the show for his delicious Lighthouse ale (4.3% abv). His Lighthouse took Gold in it’s category again this year, plus Gold in it’s category in the bottled ale section but failed to take the Trophy this year – because it was beaten by one of Dave’s other beers, his Handsome 5.1%! (It did still wine the Bronze Medal for best overall beer though!)

As you can imagine this has stirred up a hornet’s nest amongst the big players wondering how he has achieved such remarkable results. There is one Devon theory that it must be down to fairy dust from a nest of fairies at the bottom of the garden, but I think it’s more likely due to Dave’s diligence, sheer hard work and a real pride and passion in what he is producing. Funny how these big brewers didn’t come up with that conclusion themselves though!

I find myself writing about this on a predominantly wine website because of the similarites with wine. Here is somebody working hard to produce a quality product with real pride, just as many small winemakers do. They face the same problems in a market dominated by inferior mass produced brands with millions in their marketing budget – (which should have been spent on quality ingredients in the first place!) . It’s great to see the resurgence in micro breweries, which also sends out a message to the big players that the consumer is not prepared to put up with inferior beer any more. The same is happening with wine all over the country, but sadly I doubt we will ever be given the option to buy good quality, well made wines in the supermarkets and multiples, and sadly in the majority of the off trade too. But at least for those of us who are interested, now we can all find a quality online wine merchant and enjoy the wines we want to at home.

 I’ve tasted both the Handsome and Lighthouse, and they are both absolutely delicious (and pure!). However Dave has also tipped me off that he has produced a new pale ale that he says is by far his best beer yet! Unfortunately though, as a small operation with so much success already, he simply cannot produce enough beer to satisfy the local market, let alone enough to export it “up country”. I had planned a wine tour of South Africa for my summer holidays this year, but it looks like I will have to have a fortnight in Devon instead!

Seriously though if you are headed out that way this summer, look out for The Forge beers. A great place to try them from my own personal experience is the Westleigh Inn, at Westleigh on the outskirts of Bideford. Duncan does excellent food too! (Duncan – Free steak pie next time I’m down there for writing this!)