Perhaps sad but true - the best beer by far at the Great British Beer Festival this year was made in the USA.
Sierra Nevada's Torpedo Extra IPA smells like a freshly halved grapefruit, explodes with American hoppiness and has a taste so vivid you can still feel it the next day. It's also 7.2% so needs approaching with some caution - but it's what those third-of-a-pint markers on the glass were made for.
I've been making the annual August pilgrimage to the festival for more than a decade. I've stood ankle deep in water when Olympia failed to cope with a thunderstorm; I've made quick dashes to Earls Court after work when I couldn't get the day off; I've been reunited with old friends and chinked glasses with friends who now flee to Thailand for the summer; I've been with my dad and my brother - last year my brother and I raised a glass in the direction of Manchester Royal Infirmary where my dad was having a heart op. (Probably a lesson, there.)
It's always the drinking highlight of the year.
And the Americans have been getting better every year. Now their IPAs set the global standard. A beer named after the British pale ale exports from Burton to the Indian bit of the old empire has been transformed and modernised by a brewer in California.
Camra legend Roger Protz startled a few British drinkers some years ago when he named Goose Island IPA from Chicago as the best beer in the world. He spotted something early on. Now there's no denying that the US of A is making the globe's best IPA.
The Summit IPA from Minnesota was also a belter and more approachable at 6.2 per cent.
|Are you sure you want another, sir?|
But even though I love a British bitter as much as the next man, I'm increasingly drawn to the Bieres Sans Frontieres bar at the festival.
Other notable beers sampled this year (from memory due to lost notes and programme):
Tomos Watkin's Cwrw Haf - citrusy from Swansea; Chiltern's Chiltern Gold - bit bitter; Bollington's Best Bitter - bronze medal winner from Cheshire; Houston's Peter's Well - gold medal-winning best bitter from Renfrewshire; Rudgate's Ruby Mild - silver medal-winning mild; Reigate's Pilgrim's Porter - sweet and dark; Holden's Golden Glow - bronze medal winner from Dudley; Triple F's Alton's Pride - familiar bronze-winning bitter from Hampshire; Skinner's Heligan Honey - Cornish sweetie; Great Oakley's Abbey Stout - the taste of darkest Northants; Widmer Brothers Okto Festival Ale - Bavarian-style American brew from Portland, Oregon; Windsor & Eton's Knight of the Garter - a dashing golden ale.
|Mexico was well represented this year|