In June 2012, a homebrewer in New Zealand made brewing history by beating 45 of the world’s best breweries to take out the Gold Medal for Pilsner at the Asia beer Awards in Singapore. He did this with his 3rd brew in a WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery™.
You can view an interview with Santiago Aon in the video on the left and a TV3 “Campbell Live” report on his success in the video on the right. You can also view the video report here
In early 2012, we at WilliamsWarn® decided to launch our product in Singapore, through a local distributer, who suggested we could present our brewery and beers to the public over 3 days at the Asian Beer Festival. As part of this festival, a professional brewing competition known as the Asia Beer Awards is held each year the day before the carnival starts. So we made the decision to get some owners of WilliamsWarn®’s to make some brews for a few of the beer style categories, bottle four bottles of each and then ship collectively to the judges in Singapore.
Ian Williams formulated the recipes for the categories, which involved using our basic beer kits and also adding (as required for the beer styles), extra specialty malt, hops, sugars and using different dry yeast and fermentation temperatures. He then sent the total ingredient sets to each brewer and they brewed the beers in their homes.
Homebrew doesn’t often go up against commercial beers in blind tasting competitions so we were keen to see the results. Since these were one-off recipes, never brewed before, and only on a 23L scale, we also knew we were up against it. But all the beers made tasted fabulous and right for the categories, so we dared believe we had a shot at a medal of some kind.
Then at the award ceremony our distributer Ngata Tapsell heard the call that WilliamsWarn® had won Gold for the largest category of all, Pilsner. He excitedly picked up the certificate and texted us in New Zealand. See the photo below. It was a great day.
The Brewer and the Recipe
The Gold medal Pilsner was brewed by sales executive Santiago Aon Ratto. Santiago was a homebrewer in Argentina in the early 2000’s but left the hobby for several years. When he moved to New Zealand and found out about the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery™, he visited the showroom and tasted the beer and bought one. For the competition, Ian and Santiago formulated a recipe to mimic the great Pilsners of Germany. They used the WW Premium lager kit to meet the bitterness and colour specification for the category and Santiago then steeped two German malts and a German hop in hot water to extract extra flavours. He fermented the ingredients with the German lager yeast that comes with the kit at 15°C/59°F. The process took 9 days in total from adding ingredients to finished beer.
It was his third brew in a WilliamsWarn®.
Santiago then bottled the beer into four bottles which Ian then sent to Singapore. Note: The beer is carbonated in the WilliamsWarn® so once bottled it is ready to consume – there is no secondary fermentation in bottles.
There were 46 other beers in the Pilsner category and we shared Gold with another Pils and beat the remaining 45. In the words of Santiago, “I was very happy with the final product. I’m not a trained brew master and I haven’t had the WilliamsWarn for long, so to make the best pilsner in the Asia Pacific region in just my third batch is absolutely incredible”.
To say this is an historical moment in brewing history is no exaggeration. Since 4000 BC, people have made beer at home but the mainstream beers have been either made by the temple, monastery, brewers’ guild, local council, king or in modern time, the commercial brewery.
So it as was great for homebrew to be benchmarked against the major players by professional beer judges and deemed to come out on top.
It is significant for several reasons:
- It validates the entire concept of the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery™. Anyone with a personal brewery can create world-class, commercial quality beer from their home or workplace. It is potentially the greatest innovation in the global beer industry in the last fifty years. This is due to a range of factors but particularly the fact that this is the only brewing system on earth, large or small, that adheres to proper brewing principles but also allows the beer brewed to never be moved once it’s fermented. It therefore creates the freshest beer in the world due to almost no oxidation of the product and the beer can be consumed directly from the fermenting vessel.
- It proves that the ingredients for homebrewing in general are now of the highest quality. In particular, liquid and dry malt extracts, dried brewing yeast, specialty malts and dried hop products can in the main be considered as all you need to make great beer on a small scale.
- Specifically, it proves that high quality liquid and dry malt extracts can match all-grain wort made in a brewery or by a home-brewer. It proves that the concentrating process and the storage of this product over time does not diminish the quality of the wort, once rehydrated at home or in the office. This makes sense when you consider the brewing process has several evaporation process throughout it, including barley and hop drying, malted barley kilning and wort boiling. This is great news for extract producers and for the extract brewer.
- It proves that the 7 day (ales) and 9 day (lagers/pilsners) processes employed by WilliamsWarn are perfect for making great beers. Many full-scale breweries make beer in this time-frame (e.g. Guinness is made in 5 days) but many homebrewers erroneously believe beer needs to be aged for a long time. This is due to the tradition of homebrewers having to use a secondary fermentation in bottles to carbonate the beer, a process that takes months. This gold medal win re-enforces what WilliamsWarn® is all about – beer is best fresh. It’s like bread, not wine. So the trademarks of a WilliamsWarn®, natural carbonation on day one, perfect temperature control and clarification in-place, all work together to produce beer in an optimal time-frame and with maximum freshness.
- It proves that a WilliamsWarn BrewMaster™ is a bargain by winning against 45 full-scale breweries which will be on average worth about US$50 million each. Some of the large breweries beaten will be worth hundreds of millions and some of the brew-pubs and micro-breweries will be worth several million. Therefore a total of about US$2 billion worth of equipment was no match for our system and ingredients. From this point of view it should be easily understood that our system is great value for money.
- It proves that a one-off recipe made in a single 23L batch can beat old and time-tested recipes. Bitburger the 3rd largest Pilsner brewery in Germany won this award in 2010. Bitburger started 1817, so has had two centuries to perfect its recipe and fine tune it. Santiago and Ian had never made this recipe before they produced it for this competition.