The World Beer Cup, organised by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association that represents small and independent American craft brewers, is often called the ‘Olympics of Beer’ and is the largest competitive beer competition in the world.
It has celebrated international brewing excellence since its inception in 1996 and the last competition attracted 10,542 entries from 2,493 breweries representing 57 countries.
The competition is moving from bi-annual to annual, with registration for 2023 opening in November 2022. It has also appointed a new Competition Director, Chris Williams. Excerpts from an interview:
Why is the World Beer Cup moving to an annual competition?
It’s all about answering demand. We were getting a myriad of enquires from breweries all around the world asking when does registration open for the World Beer Cup, and we would have to tell them it’s only every other year.
By moving to annual we’re looking to meet this demand and we’re excited to see how it can grow and move forward. Organising a bi-annual competition was easier from an operational perspective, but going annual helps keep the competition at the forefront of people’s minds. It’s exciting to see where it will go from here.
What’s so special about World Beer Cup and why should brewers enter?
Apart from being the largest competition in the world, it’s also the most competitive; which means taking home a medal or an award shows that, globally, your brewery is doing something right and you’re making world class beer.
It’s interesting to see breweries from all around the world competing with international or regionally focused styles which may lead to a brewery from a far flung corner of the world winning an unexpected category. For example, in 2022 a Colombian brewery won gold in the speciality saison category, and a Mexican brewery medalled in English Ale.
Comprehensive feedback is another highly valuable aspect of the World Beer Cup. Every beer goes through multiple rounds of judging, meaning that every competing brewer will know how his/her beer performed. This is highly valuable feedback for those brewers.
Breweries from far-flung corners of the world win in unexpected categories. In 2022, a Colombian brewery won Gold in the speciality Saison category, and a Mexican brewery medalled in English Ale.
How do you choose the judges?
We aim for 15% new judges every year to keep the panel fresh; to bring in new perspectives, new palates; and to ensure that we reach the most highly acclaimed judges in the world.
In 2022, judges came from 28 countries. We also had an impressive list of competing brewers from 65 countries.
I’m responsible for selecting the judges from a list of internationally recognised brewers, sensory experts, suppliers, writers and consultants and they’re selected on the basis of formal sensory training, experience in evaluating beers on flavour panels or competitions, judging demeanour, knowledge of beer styles and brewing process, and industry and peer recognition.
What is the scale of this competition?
There are up to 11,000 entries and over 60,000 individual bottles or cans. The sorting process takes over 6,000 volunteer hours. After four weeks of sorting and consolidating entries at the Brewers Association’s refrigerated warehouse in Denver (Colorado), beers will be transported by refrigerated truck to Nashville (Tennessee) for judging.
All beers are numbered, but no number is used twice. Volunteers are not allowed to come from local breweries in case integrity is compromised.
How does one enter the World Beer Cup?
Indian breweries are invited to submit entries to the World Beer Cup 2023. Registration remains open from 1-14 November, 2023, with awards presented on 10 May, 2023, during the next Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville.
International consolidation hubs have been set up in Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan and Mexico, where beers will be palletised and air-freighted to the US at the Brewers Association’s expense.
The Brewers Association will handle all customs clearance and paperwork and maintain cold storage throughout the journey. Each brewery may enter a maximum of five beers into the competition. The cost to participate is $180 per beer.