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Monday, 6 January 2014

Think you, or someone you know, is the best drinks producer in Britain?

Food and drink. It's lovely.

Are you frustrated by how the mainstream media always seems to ignore beer and cider? Are you a wine lover who wishes more people were aware of how good English wine is? Following my post yesterday, do you wish there was more focus on interesting soft drinks? Or are you excited about the imminent boom in microdistilleries?

This year I'm delighted to be once again judging the drinks category in the BBC Radio 4 Food and Farming Awards, along with wine writer Victoria Moore. As the official blurb says, "From pioneering brewers to traditional distillers, wine makers to juice producers. We want to hear about the people using carefully sourced ingredients and skill to produce an outstanding drink. From producers bringing new ideas to the world of drink, to businesses keeping traditions alive, tell us who deserves recognition in 2014."

In 2012 our three finalists were the Kernel Brewery, Once Upon a Tree cider, and the Kilhoman distillery. We had to sideline some pretty amazing drinks producers to get to that list, and if we could have then split the award three ways we would have - it eventually came down to a very close vote, which Once Upon a Tree won.

Me and Val Warner with last year's winners. I actually think I may have lost weight since this was taken.

Beer has done really well recently - as well as Kernel coming so close, the award has been won by Bristol Beer Factory and the Wye Valley Brewery in recent years. Last year the showing from wine was very poor, and Victoria wants to change that - as do I. But I also want to make sure that beer and cider do as well as they did last year too. We had for more brewers and cider makers enter than any other drinks category.

The judging is extremely rigorous. The judges from all categories come together to agree with each pair of judge's shortlist and the eventual winner. This year, that means a producer could be discussed by the likes of Sheila Dillon, Richard Corrigan, Valentine Warner, Charles Campion and Raymond Blanc. It's great exposure, even if you don't win. And if you make the final three, you'll be featured in a Radio 4 programme with me and Victoria.

These awards are for everyone. Anyone can nominate their favourite producer by filling in the entry form on the BBC website. And just to clear up any confusion arising from that wording, producers are welcome to nominate themselves.

NOM-inations (sorry) opened yesterday, with a programme which you can listen to here. Entries close on 27th January, so you have to be quick (but the form is easy and straightforward). The winners will be announced at a ceremony in May, which looks likely to form the centre of a series of food and drink events.

This award transforms the businesses of those who win it. And the more producers that enter, the more we show the rest of the world how vibrant beer and cider (and everything else) are. There are of course other categories if you also know a great market, food producer, farmer etc.

So go on, make my life agony as I try to choose a winner from the very best of British drinks!

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