Saturday, April 12, 2014

A beer style riot broke out at the 2014 World Beer Cup!

There was a riot at the 2014 World Beer Cup. That's "riot" as in profligate behavior, not public tumult. A riot of beer styles.

The recently concluded 2014 World Beer Cup awarded medals in 94 officially recognized beer styles. If all the sub-styles were added in, the total style count would come to 174. One-hundred-and-seventy-four. Indeed?

The drinker doesn't need 133 beer styles. Or 70. Or even 30.

Most people who cook have only seven recipes in their repertoire. Even if they have shelves full of Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, when it comes to planning what the family meal is going to be that night, research shows they revert to a list of no more than seven or eight choices. If they learn a new favourite dish, they forget one of the regulars they used to rely on. <...>

Keep it simple. Keep it relevant. Think about it from the point of view of the time-pressed, information overloaded consumer. This is one of those occasions when I realise the marketing guys have something to contribute. Sometimes, the reason they simplify stuff and reduce it down is because they understand that most people give a fraction of a second to each purchasing decision they make, and things have to be simple in order to register.

Beer styles help inspire some people to better brews. I'm very happy about that. But that's ultimately meaningless if it doesn't help - or in some cases even prevents - turning more people onto great craft beer.

Thus wrote Pete Brown in 2010. I agreed then; today, I concur 174%. It's style formalization run amok.

Be that it as it may, we can still take the time to celebrate the acumen and triumph of brewers across those 94 categories at the World Beer Cup. So, here ya go ...

World Beer Cup 2014


Boulder, CO • April 11, 2014—The Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America's small and independent craft brewers—announced the results of one of the largest commercial beer competitions to date, the 2014 World Beer Cup Awards. The awards were presented at the conclusion of Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Denver, Colorado.

Drawing the highest number of entries to date, this edition of the World Beer Cup saw 4,754 beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries—a 21 percent increase in the number of entries from the 2012 World Beer Cup, which had 3,921 entries.

Brewers from five continents earned awards from an elite international panel of judges at this tenth biennial competition, with brewers from 22 countries—ranging from Australia and Brazil to Taiwan and the United Kingdom—honored. Judges awarded 281 out of 282 total possible awards, reflecting the chance for one gold, one silver and one bronze award in each of 94 beer style categories.

This year’s event was particularly competitive; the proportion of winning breweries winning one or more awards was 18 percent, compared to 27 percent in 2012. There was a 75.6 percent increase in breweries competing this year versus 2012, which had 799 breweries that entered beers in the competition. A total of 253 breweries took home awards in 2014, a 16.6 percent increase over 2012.

A detailed analysis of the entries and awards can be found in the 2014 World Beer Cup Fact Sheet [a pdf file].

“Brewers from around the globe participate in the World Beer Cup to win recognition for their creativity and brewing skills,” said Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association. “For a brewer, a World Beer Cup gold award allows them to say that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world.”

A panel of 219 judges from 31 countries participated in this year’s competition, working in teams to conduct blind tasting evaluations of the beers and determine the awards. Drawn from the ranks of professional brewers and brewing industry experts, 76 percent of the judges came from outside the United States.

Category Trends
  • The average number of beers entered per category was 50, up from 41 in 2012.
  • The category with the most entries was American-Style India Pale Ale, with 223 entries.
  • The second most-entered category was American-Style Pale Ale, with 121 entries.
  • The third most-entered category was Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer, with 111 entries.

Award Highlights
  • The 281 awards were won by 253 breweries, with very few breweries earning more than one award.
  • 226 breweries won one award.
  • 26 breweries won two awards.
  • One brewery won three awards.

Competition Manager Chris Swersey commented, “This is the most diverse set of winning breweries in any World Beer Cup.”

The non-U.S. entry rate and winning rate tracked very closely in the 2014 competition, with 28 percent of beers entered coming from outside the U.S., and 27 percent of awards going to beers entered from outside the U.S. <...>


To be clear, the BA hosts a beer festival and competition solely of American breweries —the Great American Beer Festival— every year in Denver, Colorado. Likewise, it organizes an annual convention concerned with the business of U.S. 'craft' beer —the Craft Beer Conference— hosted by a different American city every year. The BA's World Beer Cup, however, is a biennial international competition (first begun in 1996), held in the U.S., whose judging and awards ceremony are held concurrently with that year's Craft Beer Conference.

For this year's World Beer Cup in Denver, there were 4,754 beers entered; of those, 3,402 (or 71%) came from American breweries. So, by pure shock-and-awe preponderance of numbers, the U.S. took 205 medals of the 281 awarded (or 72%). In second, but well behind, was Germany, with 249 entries and 27 medals.

To make the contest fairer and more truly 'worldly,' maybe the BA could consider a percentage-based quota on entries from any one nation. This would, of course, disproportionately affect the U.S., necessitating a weighted lottery system of some sort to determine participation.

As to defeating style inflation, it's probably a battle lost several years ago. So, joining the riot, one could ask: why is there no cask ale category out of all of those ninety-four styles? If there's kellerbier, why not cask? Make it 95.


Since YFGF is 'published' in the mid-Atlantic, we'll give shouts-out to those victorious breweries here in Maryland (which garnered 2 medals) and Virginia (5 medals, including 2 gold). Washington, D.C. would be included, but none of its breweries won a medal. There's always next year two years from now! 1
    • Category 24: Aged Beer (14 entries)
      Silver: Vintage Horn Dog
      Flying Dog Brewery: Frederick, MD. (brewer: Matt Brophy)

    • Category 48: German-Style Brown Ale/Düsseldorf-Style Altbier (36)
      Bronze: Balt Altbier
      Union Craft Brewing, Baltimore, MD. (brewer: Kevin Blodger)

    • Category 17: American-Belgo-Style Ale (56)
      Gold: Whiter Shade of Pale Ale
      Starr Hill Brewery: Crozet, VA. (brewer: Mark Thompson)

    • Category 26: Smoke Beer (54)
      Bronze: Brewers Select Rauch Märzen
      Gordon-Biersch Brewery Restaurant:
      Rockville, MD Tysons Corner, VA. (brewer: Grant Carson) 2

    • Category 35: Vienna-Style Lager (39)
      Silver: Vienna Lager
      Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Outpost): Lexington.
      (brewer: Nate Olewine)

    • Category 45: American-Style Dark Lager (18)
      Gold: Old Virginia Dark
      Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Basecamp): Roseland, VA.
      (brewer: Jason Oliver)

    • Category 77: Scotch Ale (47)
      Silver: Heavy Red Horseman Scottish Style Ale
      Apocalypse Ale Works: Forest, VA. (brewer: Lee John)

Congratulations to them, and congratulations to all the winners worldwide. To paraphrase Mr. Shakespeare: A blessing on your hearts, you brew good beers.

  • 1 There are five production breweries and four brewpubs in Washington, D.C. That's nine breweries for 646,449 citizens (U.S. Census Bureau). Citing its "unapologetic commitment to fearless fermentation," the Washington City Paper recently selected 3 Stars Brewing as the best brewery in the city/state.
  • 2 Although Christian Layke has won awards before for his brewing at the Rockville, Maryland, location of Gordon-Biersch, it was Grant Carson —brewer at the Tysons Corner location of Gordon-Biersch— who brewed the bronze-medal winning Rauch Märzen for the World Beer Cup. An error on the BA's part. Thanks belong to several Washington, D.C.-area brewers and good beer fans who alerted me to this.
  • Read the Brewers Association's wrap-up press release on the World Beer Cup: here.
  • A webpage search form of all World Beer Cup winners: here. A downloadable list of 2014 winners: here. An easy to use webpage list of all the winners, posted by BeerPulse: here.
  • The Denver Post published a story, worth reading, on one theme of this year's Craft Beer Conference: Does American craft brewing have a quality problem?
  • In 2017, the Craft Brewers Conference will return to Washington, D.C., where it was just held last year for the first time ever.
  • Do you really, really, still want to know what those 94 beer styles were? Click here for the webpage. Click here for a downloadable pdf file.

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