Beer Awards are Dumb and You Should Stop Caring About Them

There was a time when I would excitedly wait for the results of beer awards, reading the pages and assigning power rankings in my head to beer and breweries alike. It was a fun way to bring beer into the world of sport… but it was stupid.

See, I learned early on that beers and Breweries were not awarded for the subjective best beer in each category but rather for closest to style guidelines… Some of you are probably saying “what the hell does that mean?” Well in most beer competitions beers are rated on their ability to meet style guidelines like this:

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.33.47 AM.png
Really oozes cool doesn’t it

Who came up with this guidelines? Beer dorks many years go (not to say I’m not a beer dork myself, but when they came up with this stuff I was a Power Rangers Dork). So, to continue on my sports analogy that would be like awarding the Stanley Cup not to the team who won in subjective circumstances (the playoffs) but to the team that best resembled a hockey team according to Toe Blake. That’s stupid…

Moreover ,it also means that innovation is rendered insignificant until some beer dork decides it is worth create a new box around the new style (Style Guide).

Of course some will say the brewers are not beholden to these style guide lines and can brew what they want. Sure, but winning an award such as brewery of the year or best in show or for some stupid reason European Style Amber to Dark Lager (actual stupid category at the Canadian Beer awards) often means sales to the breweries. This means there is an incentive for breweries to brew boring similar beers. This is the same logic that got us to MACRO LAGERS. Furthermore, the depth of awards for different lame versions of German lagers and English ales and the contrasting dearth of awards for sours and new styles of IPAs (y’know the shit people actually drink) again incentivizes brewing boring beer.

Now, I’ll pause for a moment because I’m sure you might recognize many flaws in my argument, foremost that no one is forced to brew anything. But i’ll stop you there because my argument is simple – “Brewing boring beer is lame, and beer awards that incentivize boring beer are lame.”

I reject all your objections to this opinion because my opinion is not objective, its subjective just like tasting beer is. It is imperfect and impossible to replicate, and to do so would be foolhardy (dumb). So if you are going to award a beer do it because you like it not because it totally hits those SRM guidelines (SRM is the colour of the beer… THE COLOUR).

My Case Study- Mount Begbie Brewing out of Invermere. A small brewery who’s stuff I’ve had I’ve generally liked, good beer. Mount Begbie won awards for:

German Style Kölsch

Gold: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, High Country Kolsch

Scotch Ale

Bronze: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, Brave Liver Scotch Ale

Cream Ale

Gold: Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, Begbie Cream Ale

&

Brewery of the Year

Hold Up! you won brewery of the year hot on the heals for Gold medals for your Kolsch and Cream Ale!? Can you imagine bringing those beers to a bottle share down in Bellingham? or New Westminster even? You’d get laughed out of town. Kolsch, Scotch Ale, and Cream Ale are figuratively the old white guys of craft beer they literally are consumer examples of fucking colonialism – but hey Canada, this is the best god damn beer we make! Don’t be bothered by a Hill Farmstead beer or a hazy Monkish IPA, oh no, you come take a seat on the beach in your pantaloons and sip on a fucking scotch ale, like fuck, when did you turn 124?…

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 10.02.17 AM.png
“Go Fetch me a cream ale and that article about how trickle down economics help the poor”

https://www.bjcp.org

https://www.canadianbrewingawards.com/

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10 thoughts on “Beer Awards are Dumb and You Should Stop Caring About Them

  1. Mike May 30, 2017 / 6:50 am

    Hey good post and I agree for the most part but come on man Mt Begbie is in Revelstoke BC not in Invermere. Invermere has a great brewery in Arrowhead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cturton May 30, 2017 / 5:12 pm

      Thanks Mike, getting my ski towns mixed up!

      Like

      • Mike May 30, 2017 / 5:25 pm

        Haha. Looking back my sarcasm did not come through. Oops

        Like

  2. Scott May 30, 2017 / 2:51 pm

    1) The BJCP Style Guidelines are just that…guidelines. It’s in the name on the cover of the document.

    2)The Style Guidelines were updated in 2015. Also, it’s on the cover of the document.

    3) The introduction has a great read for people who have never looked into style guidelines (obviously you have not looked over the document before passing judgement. The introduction is, generally, a good place to start any document for future reference). Page 5 of the introduction has a great section called “Using the Style Guideline”.

    4) Consider judging with trained judges (BJCP or Cicerones for example) before making bold, unsubtantiated, holier-than-thou opinions that deride people who have spent a lot of time building their palates, beer history, styles and brewing knowledge so you can push traffic to your blog. You will, most certainly, learn something.

    Like

    • Mike May 30, 2017 / 5:27 pm

      Except during judging sessions these guidelines are held up as a bible of what must be done. I have done some judging with both BJCP and Cicerone and they are very rigid when judging.

      Like

      • Scott May 30, 2017 / 7:25 pm

        That means you worked with bad judges who don’t understand the need for latitude in styles. No one should ever hold the style guideline as scripture, only as a reference tool so everyone is on the same level.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mike May 30, 2017 / 7:56 pm

        Well I agree with what you said there Scott I hear from breweries all the time who have their Beer disqualified because it does not conform to the guidelines.

        Like

    • cturton May 30, 2017 / 5:35 pm

      1) fair point

      2) Yes another great point, style guidelines are updated and new styles are created. My point is they are slow to move. I like to use hyperbole when i write, its part of the fun!

      3) I read the style guide regularly. It has its place for sure, however I don’t believe its best place is to award beers. I believe this method of awarding anything incentivizes homogeny to the detriment of innovation as i point out in the piece.

      4) While i haven’t judged beers in a BJCP setting i have spoken to BJCP judges and cicerones specifically regarding this topic often. The response by and large is they recognize the limitations of the method (even if they like it). I really don’t think my opinion is holier-than-thou in intent or actuality, i make a point to say that it is the subjective opinion of myself.

      I respect your opinion… but,

      I’m not gonna stop looking at the scene critically because somebody built “their palates, beer history, styles and brewing knowledge” (how can one build history anyway? People build lore not history) before i did. I’ve written the blog for years, worked for breweries in a number of positions, home brewed and studied history but that honestly doesn’t matter, if you’ve got opinion express it just be open to the others too. I can’t wait to learn more.

      Like

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