Illingworth is on a hot streak in both cricket and beer tasting. On Sunday, he watched England defeat the West Indies. Last night he was scrutinising his score for the Cottage Brewery's Norman Conquest ale - original gravity 1066, alcohol by volume 7 per cent.
He had picked it as his favourite beer and so had his fellow judges, including two professional brewers, a brewing scientist and an activist from the Campaign For Real Ale (Camra). With that winning score Norman Conquest was chosen as the Champion Beer of Great Britain. The fruity, creamy beer is made in West Lydford, Somerset, by Chris Norman, a former pilot, and his wife, Helen.
"Mind you," added the ever-cautious Illingworth. "I'm not sure how many of those I could drink." He had been confirmed on this count earlier. "I could manage only one of those," he said of a Hampshire brew called Cheriton Pots Ale, winner in the bitter section.
"I could drink two - or even three," countered Liz Mitchell, brewer at the Tipsy Toad brewery in Jersey. "Light beers made with Styrian hops - that's the female choice," she pronounced.
Styrian hops still being grown in the former Yugoslavia were one flavour of the day. Another flavour was liquorice. "I spotted that right away," said Illingworth, brandishing a glass of Harvey's Porter from Lewes in East Sussex. Harvey's was runner-up in the championship. Hadrian Centurion, a strong bitter from Newcastle, came third.
He was not sure about that one. "Aftertaste ... how should I mark that? For how long it lasts, or whether I like it?"
Brewing scientist Keith Thomas, another Yorkshireman, had the terse answer: "Whether you like it. Do you?" Illingworth looked as though it were a sticky wicket. "Not particularly." It fared better than Ridley's Mild from Essex. He thought that tasted like dandelion and burdock.
An eclectic drinker, the chairman of England's cricket selectors. His judgement was not at all impaired by a jacket loudly announcing Tetley's sponsorship of the sport. He admitted to enjoying the odd can of Guinness, and even a lager after a hard day at the nets in Australia. Camra officials were anxious for a decision. The result had to be announced in time for the official opening last night of the Great British Beer Festival in Olympia, west London. By Saturday night at least 45,000 drinkers, members of the Great British public, will have cast their judgement on more than 300 real ales and 175 or so foreign beers.
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