So not too long ago I took a hard stance on beer awards in the article “Beer Awards are Dumb and You Should Stop Caring About Them” . Surprisingly people cared what i said for once and agreed and disagreed to varying levels. One person said i was writing the article for views… which was true, I’ve never heard of writer not wanting people to read their work. The crux of the article was that Beer Awards don’t act as many people might imagine. Beer awards are not a critics favourite beer but rather the beer that is closest to a pre-described style as laid out in the Beer Judge Certification Program style guide lines.
So, here comes the 2017 BC Beer Awards (sold out by the way) and I attempt to get media Accreditation. Can you guess what happened? If you guessed they told me to take a hike, you are surprisingly wrong. No the people behind the BC Beer Awards are actually very open minded kind people and they invited me to check out the judging process at the Direct Tap Headquarters.
I was able to view the incredible process that is the judging for the BC Craft Beer awards. Kudos to the Volunteers and Organizers who really put in some labour and do it for the love of beer. The best part of the experience was to pick the Brain of one of the long time judges, and all around Vancouver Craft beer great Chester Carey.
I paraphrasing here but I did take notes during our conversation, and Chester was able to answer or speak to many of my concerns regarding Beer awards generally in relation to the BC Craft Beer Awards specifically.
Any Beer brewed in BC can compete. This is really a non-issue but its interesting to know that brands like Cariboo are in the thick of things with crafty beers like Stanley Park and Granville Island, and ultra craft orientated like Strange Fellows.
The brewery picks which category their beer will be judged in. To me this is a positive and a negative. A positive in that breweries can decide where their brews should be, but I was also told the story of a beer that was under consideration for winning a category but lost out because it used a wild yeast which was considered an off flavour for the style.
BJCP is a starting point and baseline… not an overarching framework. BJCP guidelines are a way of objectifying when the need arises. An example given was when two beers are fighting it out for top spot. The most enjoyable beer in a Category is still going to win according to Chester – that I can get behind.
Yes there are more categories for Lager and basic Ale than there are for IPA despite the later driving the craft market…
….But the system is imperfect… I can buy that, its impossible to totally objectify a thing such as beer so we do our best and realize the limitations… that’s fair, if not unfortunate.
They aren’t concerned about driving the market. Winning beer awards is big business for small breweries andean lead to great success (see Powell Brewery winning Canadian Beer of the Year a few years back). Even so, Judges and organizers try not to be aware. I see this as a Catch 22 impartiality is a lofty goal, but I would like to see awards push for creativity and innovation.
So as I revisit beer awards knowing what I know now of specifically the BC Craft Beer Awards I am more forgiving. Is it a perfect system? No, personally i would love to see the awards become fully subjective, a simple “which beer do I enjoy most”. That said, I am confident that despite loose adherence to the BJCP guidelines that 99 times out of 100 the beer that wins is subjectively the most enjoyable, furthermore I laud the organization of BC Craft Beer Awards for having some pretty even keeled thinking in the world of beer awards. More to that point the BC Beer awards is introducing awards based simply on what people think are the best, including BEST BREWERY. I really enjoy these sorts of things and this will be a personal highlight for me on the evening.
Now lets see who wins on Oct 21.
-Special Thanks to Monica Frost who set everything up!