The 2011 World Beer Awards were announced the other week, via a communication from a
secret location inside a Swiss mountain publisher’s office in Norwich. With all the SIBA goings-on we’ve gone a bit awards-crazy recently, but we usually cover the WBA’s. Last year we briefly touched on Stewart Hollyrood winning the best blonde/golden Pale Ale – and Loanhead’s finest managed to repeat in 2011, winning the same gong – so congrats once again to Steve, Jo and the team.
There’s a running joke on the BeerCast, that when we do our podcasts it seems like every beer featured has won an award at some point. Are there too many in the beer industry? And what do they mean for producers? On the one hand, you have Hop Back Summer Lightning – bottles of the Wiltshire powerhouse are plastered with achievement, it having apparently collected over fifty individual awards. On the other hand – where they usually are – is BrewDog, who eschew official recognition at every opportunity, as is their right. Both seem to be doing well, of course.
The danger of having so many different awards, is that they tend to dilute the overall effect of winning something. Whether it’s the GABF and their walloping eighty-three categories (Classic English Style Pale Ale, English-Style India Pale Ale, etc) – or the competing international prizes…Brewing Industry International Awards, European Beer Star, World Beer Cup* – there are certainly enough opportunities out there for brewers to add to their labelwork and websites.
For every producer who is too small to get their beer to a ceremony – not to mention those who do not bother taking part – there are plenty who do, however. The American-style IPA category at this year’s GABF attracted 176 entries – that’s a palate-stripping afternoon for any panel of judges. The eventual winner (La Cumbre Elevated IPA from New Mexico) must have had something special to stand out from the clamouring, hop-forward crowd. Or maybe it didn’t, and just had a good run (see our previous post about how some beers stand out during judging). It may be wonderful, of course – our US friends will have to let us know.
La Cumbre’s IPA may be great stuff, but the chaps from Albuquerque can’t make the most boastful claim in global brewing – that they make the Best Beer In The World. That honour, bestowed at the WBA’s, went to the punchy German weizenbock Weihenstephaner Vitus (7.7%). Chief European judge Adrian Tierney-Jones discussed the challenges of picking a winner over at Called to the Bar – to sift through all of the entrants must have been next to impossible, even for a panel that included the likes of Melissa Cole, Roger Protz and Jeff Evans.
My invitation to help out must have been directed to the mysterious person who shares my email address (true story – if you ever need free parking at Newcastle airport, let me know). But I managed to get hold of a bottle of Vitus for an independent BeerCast assessment. You know what? It’s lovely – sweet banana, bready yeast and citrus fruit. Sweet honey on the end, with some lemon and plenty of alcohol. I can see how it did well in a blind tasting. Is it The Best Beer In The World? Well, as Adrian himself puts it – why not? To me, those two words say a lot about the state of beer industry awards.
…this neatly brings us on to our traditional ‘Best New Beers of 2011’ weekly feature – look out for that during mid-December. Then check back in early 2012 for the one they all want to win – the BeerCast Beer of the Year podcast. Who will take home the Golden Mouthchart this time?
* which even BrewDog entered, winning Gold for Hardcore IPA