Food & Drink: The name on everyone's lips: Timothy Taylor's bitter is the toast of the Great British Beer Festival, says Michael Jackson

Before the glass coded 'R' reached my lips, my senses were aroused by the aroma of hops. If you think that sounds fanciful, you have never had a truly hoppy beer. This was such a brew.

The hop is a resiny flower, and here it was at its aromatic best, as sharp as the zest from an orange-skin. At first sip, I doubted we could taste a better ale among the seven finalists.

The Mild was soothingly toffeeish, the Bitter tart and cleansing, the Strong Ale almost whiskyish, the Old Ale chocolatey, the Barley Wine gingery . . . but I kept returning to glass 'R'.

The other judges, two respected brewers, an executive member of the Campaign for Real Ale and a food writer from another newspaper, all agreed it was the best.

As I pondered its bouquet, I began to wonder whether those were the distinctive hops of Styria, as used by Timothy Taylor's brewery in its Landlord Best Bitter.

When our score cards had been handed in, I ventured this thought to my fellow judges. None agreed. Two thought that, hoppiness aside, the ale was too cloying in its malt character to be Landlord. Another said it was 'beautifully balanced' - with which I agreed.

As the scores were totted up, a crowd gathered to hear the result. 'Third place goes to the barley wine Headcracker, from the Woodforde Brewery, of Woodbastwick, Norfolk; second to the strong ale Blunderbuss, from the Coach House Brewery, of Warrington, Cheshire; and the Champion Beer of Britain is . . . Timothy Taylor's Landlord, from Keighley, Yorkshire.'

Timothy Taylor's veteran brewer Allan Hey gave me the sly look that passes in Yorkshire for a smile. Twice before, in 1982 and 1983, Landlord has been judged the champion at the Great British Beer Festival. This week, at Olympia, London, it reached the heights once more.

As soon as the public were admitted, with the news on everyone's lips, the crowd began to scan the 500 pumps and taps for the Timothy Taylor beers.

'Give this man a pint of Landlord,' commanded Taylor's salesman Tony Howlett. The flustered barman pulled the wrong pump, issuing another Yorkshire brew, Samuel Smith's.

Sharp as a ferret up a trouser leg, Mr Howlett put him right. The barman, Edwin Schaeffer, one of 750 unpaid volunteers, winced. Surely he had been diligent in his studies of Yorkshire beers? He had this very morning, at eight o'clock, enjoyed a pint of Theakston's Bitter at Heathrow airport, on his way to the festival. For a moment, he must have wished he had stayed in his computer shop in Kentucky.

Then again, the love of beer is worth the effort, and Mr Schaeffer is tired of selling computers. Maybe he should start importing Timothy Taylor's to Kentucky. Americans like Yorkshire beers . . . especially Sam Smith's.

Stanley Williams, an attorney from Cleveland, Ohio, was celebrating his 60th birthday. 'When I got here, I didn't know where to begin. Then they announced the winner, so I started there.'

'What do you think?' I asked. 'Wonderful]' Was his wife sharing his birthday celebrations? 'Yes, she's over there, drinking Coke.'

A party of 35 from New York, ranging in age from nine months to 70-odd, had arrived at seven in the morning, and had to wait until early afternoon to occupy their hotel rooms. Now they wanted a beer. One family was represented by three generations. 'Can we back- pack our baby?' they asked. I told them about the family room. The law does not permit babies to be back-packed around the festival.

Jos Brouwer, an electrical engineer and beer activist from the Netherlands, was making his fourth annual visit to the festival, and his 10th British beer hunt. 'I like bitter,' he explained, 'especially the hoppier ones. Where's the Timothy Taylor's?'

Mikko Montonen, a journalist from Finland, was still dreamy over the hops in last year's champion, Adnams' Extra. 'People from outside Britain come here and search for those hoppy bitters,' he explained. 'When you taste these beers filtered and pasteurised for import to Finland, it can be quite disillusioning.'

'I come to Britain once a year purely to drink bitter,' volunteered another Finn, Hari Ahola, also a computer salesman. 'I like the hoppy ones - Shepherd Neame's, Larkin's, Brakspear's.

'This is where the English are at their best. Anyone can make strong beers, but most English bitter is low in alcohol yet full of flavour. You don't get drunk too quickly. You can keep on searching for the perfect pint . . .'

Discerning palates from all over the world are taking up the cry for British ale, but you do not have to be a foreigner to join in. I spotted Rob, a golden retriever, standing on his hind legs, front paws on the bar. 'He is looking for a pint of Fuller's Extra Special Bitter, his favourite,' explained his owner, Pam Curtis, a senior personal secretary in the Home Office.

Ms Curtis, who looked much too demure for such admissions, told me she once drank 10 pints, each of a different ale, in one evening, then had an 11th, Owd Roger, to celebrate. 'I was sponsored to do it. We were raising money for guide dogs.' Rob is her guide dog. Only dogs who do such valuable work are admitted to the Great British Beer Festival.

Rob politely chose to ignore the breach of the rules when a promotional bulldog scuttled by, accompanied by a man in a top hat and a Union flag waistcoat, barking something about McMullen's ales.

It will be a zoo today, but I shall be there. You, too?

The Great British Beer Festival, at Olympia, west London, ends today. Opens 11.30am, last admission 9.30pm; entry pounds 3.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride