Saturday, May 07, 2016

The 2016 World Beer Cup.

Since 1982, the [U.S.] Brewers Association has hosted an annual championship of American beer: the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Since, 1996, it has also organised an international beer championship, the World Beer Cup (WBC).

The GABF is held every year in September or October, in Denver, Colorado. The World Beer Cup, in contrast, travels around the United States, and is held concurrently with the Craft Brewers Conference, but in alternating years. The 2016 edition has just concluded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There is a whiff of American exceptionalism to the World Beer Cup: the bias of an international event held in the U.S., categories based upon American interpretations of world beer 'styles,' the cost of international shipping and transportation to the U.S., the deleterious effects upon beer from that travel. Be that as it may, at this year's competition, there were 6,596 beers —from 1,907 breweries in 55 countries— judged in 96 'style' categories.
  • The average number of beers entered per category was 69, up from 50 in 2014.
  • The category with the most entries was American-Style India Pale Ale with 275 entries.
  • The second most-entered category was Imperial India Pale Ale with 181 entries.
  • The third most-entered category was American-Style Pale Ale with 167 entries.
Judges (75% of whom were from outside of the United States) awarded bronze, silver, and gold medals in each category (other than the "Fresh or Wet Hop Ale" category, in which no gold recipient was selected). Out of 287 medals awarded, American breweries received 231, or 80% of the total; breweries from other nations, 56, or 20%. (Germany had the second highest total after the U.S., at 17 medals, or 6%.)
  • Gold
    A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma and appearance.
  • Silver
    An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma, and appearance.
  • Bronze
    A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor defects in taste, aroma, or appearance.
Additionally, 6 overall brewery champions were selected (all from the U.S.), based upon their size and a complex algorithm.
Breweries are awarded points based on medals won, and these points are tabulated to arrive at the results. Here are the criteria used for awarding points, and the tie-breaking system used to rank breweries.
  • Most Total Points – breweries are awarded points based on the number of gold (3 points), silver (2 points) and bronze (1 point) medals won in the competition.
  • Most Gold Medals
  • Most Medals
  • Most Total Entries in all Medalled Categories
  • Number of Entries in Gold Medalled Categories
The second and third criteria have the effect of making a gold and two bronzes worth more than a gold and silver, while two golds would be worth more than a gold, silver and a bronze. The fourth and fifth criteria recognize overall competitiveness by achieving medals in categories with more entries than others.

Depending upon the audacity of their marketing departments, each of these six breweries ...
  • Very Small Brewing Company Category: Arch Rock Brewing Company
    brewer: James Smith
    Fewer than 1,001 barrels per year (1,190 hectoliters)
  • Small Brewing Company Category: Noble Ale Works (Anaheim, California)
    brewers: Evan and The Giants
    1,001-15,000 bbl (1,191–17,600 hl)
  • Mid-Size Brewing Company Category: Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, New York)
    brewers: Brewery Ommegang
    15,001–6,000,000 bbl (17,601–7,040,000 hl)
  • Large Brewing Company Category: Miller Brewing Company (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    brewers: Miller Brewing Co. Brewing Team
    Greater than 6,000,000 bbl (7,040,000 hl)
  • Brewpub (A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer onsite):
    • Small Brewpub Category: 12 Degree Brewing (Louisville, Colorado)
      brewers: Jon Howland and Tor O'Brien
      Fewer than 1,201 bbl (1,408 hl)
    • Large Brewpub Category: Beachwood BBQ & Brewing (Long Beach, California)
      brewer: Julian Shrago, Ian McCall, and Gene Wagoner Greater than 1,201 bbl (greater than 1,409 hl)
... could claim the mantle of Best Brewery In The World, and, more so, Noble Ale Works, which not only brewed the gold-medal winning IPA —'craft' beer's most popular 'style— but the bronze for its Imperial IPA. I'd lay a wager that Miller Brewing —before it's subsumed into the Anheuser-Busch InBev hegemon— will claim the "World's Best" title.

That is, until May 2018.


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