International beer awards gain importance

Tasting-Team from European Beer Star 2016
Tasting-Team from European Beer Star 2016 - Credit: Doemens Akademie

The rapid expansion of the craft beer market has seen a surge in the number of international competitions, not least here in Germany where awards are seeing record numbers of applications year after year. This year’s drinktec will play host to the presentation ceremony for the winners of the European Beer Star.

This summer, brewers from around the world will once again have Bavaria in their sights. In August a panel of top experts–comprising more than 100 specially invited beer sommeliers, brewers, and specialist journalists from 30 countries–will travel to the Doemens Academy in Gräfelfing near Munich to award the European Beer Star to the best beers in the world. The expert panel will taste around 2000 entries and select the best three beers in more than 60 categories. The results will then be announced at an exclusive event at drinktec in September.

The rapid rise of the craft beer industry has seen international beer awards gain in importance. The large number of national competitions has been supplemented with growing numbers of new cross-border competitions, most prominently the American “World Beer Cup”, the British “International Brewing Award”, and the German “Meiningers International Craft Beer Award”. In addition to these, national brewing associations are organizing their own awards, most of which focus on traditional beer types.

The most highly regarded of these awards among experts here in Germany is the European Beer Star. The competition was launched in 2004 by the Verband der Privaten Brauereien in Deutschland [German Association of Private Breweries] and receives around 2000 entries each year. All breweries that use traditional European brewing techniques are invited to enter, and all entries must be a proven European beer style. These include pilsner and lager, as well as India Pale Ale, Belgian beer, and wheat bock. The international panel judges the beers in blind tastings over the course of two days–the only information they are given is the style and percentage alcohol content. Only the three best beers in each category are then given a gold, silver or bronze award.

The steady increase in applications for the award is testament to its prestige among brewers across the globe. In the first year, the organizers received just 271 applications, but by 2008 this number had already more than doubled to 688. Last year, more than 2000 beers were entered, and this year the organizers expect to receive another record number of beers to taste. In order to keep pace with the increasingly diverse range of craft beers available on the international market, they added three new specialist categories in 2016, namely; “Brown Ale”, “Traditional Pale Ale”, and “New Style Pale Ale”. Plus new for 2017, they have added categories for “Traditional Belgian Style Saison”, “New Style Saison”, and alcohol-free beers.

They have also created an extra award called the “Consumers’ Favorite”, the winner of which will be decided by visitors to the place2beer area of drinktec, who will have the chance to taste and rate all beers awarded a gold award at the public tasting session on September 12. Their feedback will then be used to select the winner of one of the most prestigious international beer awards. The prize ceremony–entrance by invite only–will also take place during the trade fair.

In addition, drinktec will play host to other competitions, including the World Beverage Innovation Awards, which were founded as part of the trade fair with the aim of rewarding innovation in 26 categories and across all areas of the international drinks industry. The SIMEI event at drinktec is also promoting technological creativity thanks to the Innovation Challenge, set up by the Unione Italiana Vini (UIV) (Association of Italian Viticulture). The competition, which is scheduled to take place in halls C2 and C3, will see exhibitors at the SIMEI event pitting their systems, products, and machines against one another. The winner will be awarded the Lucio Mastroberardino Innovation Award.

Mareike Hasenbeck

Mareike Hasenbeck is a freelance journalist with her own craft beer blog (Feiner Hopfen), she is also a beer sommelier and an international expert for beer sensory certified by the DLG (German Agricultural Society).