Manchester brewery hits out at GBBF snub

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Snubbed: None of Marble's range of beers will appear at this year's GBBF
Snubbed: None of Marble's range of beers will appear at this year's GBBF

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One of Manchester’s leading cask breweries has been told its beers “are not good enough” to appear at this year’s Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), according to its head brewer. 

Marble brewery has not been asked to send any beers down to London for GBBF for “the first year in a very long time”, head brewer James Kemp told The Morning Advertiser​.

“We normally send three or four beers down; usually they write to us at the end of June to let us know, so I figured that was what was going on,” he said. “I contacted our brewery liaison officer and he said that because we have got no beers up for awards we go into the pool, and in the pool they pick whoever they want to pick.

“I think its funny because we are making the best cask beer in the country at the moment, give or take a few others, and yet we are not good enough to go to the Champion Beer of Britain Awards.

“Essentially what they are saying is that our standard is not good enough to be there. That's the message I take from it. Either that or there's other reasons, which there are, but we can't prove that.”

Sexist CAMRA members

When asked what he thought the reasons behind the snub may have been, Kemp suggested that the brewery’s relationship with its local Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) branch may have been behind the decision.

“We have a bit of an on-off relationship with our local CAMRA branch,” he admitted. “It's been a little bit off this year. Some of the CAMRA members were quite sexist to some of our people that went to the Manchester beer and cider festival, so we called them out for that a little bit.

“It's been a bit strained I would say. We've got a new brewery liaison officer as well, but who knows. There's so much politics involved in CAMRA; There's a few different ways you can get in - they're not very transparent with it - but generally you get in if you win a local competition.”

Kemp insisted the brewery would have “happily” sent some beer to the festival if it had been asked to do so.

“I'm not so much upset about it, I just think people should be aware of it,” he said. “Cask is massively important to us; it is 60% of our production. It's nothing to do with us, and we don't want people to think we are giving up cask because we are very much focused on it still. 

“We're not going to be there, but if you want to drink some of our beer then come and drink at our tap takeover at the Dukes Head in Highgate, north London. There's plenty of places around London you can get it, but I know that people do go to GBBF to try our beer and people should know that we're not going to be there.”

Marble's director Jan Rogers added she was disappointed that none of the brewery's small-pack beers were selected to be showcased at The Manchester Bottle Shop at this year's festival. 

"We are a brewery that they were willing to put up last year for best bottled conditioned beer in Britain, and they didn't even ask if we had any bottled conditioned beers," she said. "I can't comment on their process of selection but what I do know is that our bottle conditioned beers are out there and have a lot of love in Manchester.

"There are three series of our beers that are bottle conditioned and part of our barrel ageing programme. We have old ale that is being released right now, which if they had phoned and asked we would have happily sent that down there... we have another a number of beers that could have been selected and taken on. It's just that nobody asked."

Breweries are rotated

Responding to Kemp’s accusations, CAMRA head of communications Tom Stainer emphasised that all the beers for the festival are chosen by a group of national volunteers and not by local branches.

"With 1,700 breweries across the country it's impossible for the Great British Beer Festival to feature them all, so a selection has to be made to showcase the range of British beer - and sadly some will not be on offer at the festival,” he said.

“As the recent Greater Manchester beer survey showed, the city is the new capital of cask, boasting around 45 breweries.

“This year 10 Manchester breweries will feature at the Great British Beer Festival. We try to rotate the breweries we feature so that as many as possible get a turn at the festival over the years. Marble Brewery produces some excellent beers which festival goers have been able to enjoy for the last three years - but this year other Manchester breweries have been given the chance.

“The beer list is put together by a central team of volunteers and local CAMRA branches do not play a part in the selection that will appear at the Great British Beer Festival."

The Great British Beer Festival takes place at London’s Olympia this week (8-12 August), and will feature more than 900 real ales, ciders, perries, wines and gins.

Earlier this year, Marble was reported to the trading standards authority​ over the sale of its ‘Pint’ beer in 500ml cans. The brewery told The Morning Advertiser​ it hoped the organisation would not pursue the ‘silly’ complaint.

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