Once again, my social media feed is filling up with photos from beer competitions, such as Copa Tayrona in Colombia and Birra dell’Anno in Italy. Many more will follow: SIBA Awards in March, Barcelona Beer Challenge in April and, of course, the World Beer Cup in May. Not only is WBC considered ‘the Olympics of beer competitions’, it has a waiting list for judges of around five years (yes, I’m still waiting).

But why are beer people such as myself so interested in competitions? And why do brewers enter their beers? Simply put, beer competitions are an excellent way for brewers to get feedback and recognition from well-trained tasters. Competitions are also a good opportunity for judges to network, extend their experience and, hopefully, to taste some excellent beers.

“It looks so serious,” my partner told me when I showed him a photo from a recent competition. Yes indeed! Each beer is carefully judged for appearance, aroma, flavour and mouthfeel, but also drinkability and often commercial potential. Judges are provided with style guidelines, to see if the beer meets the style criteria. Basically, does it present the way the brewer intended? Judges then provide feedback, both good and bad, which is shared with the brewer. Some brewers tell me that this feedback is in fact more important than winning, so that they can perfect the beer.

Often, competitions take place and winners are announced in relation to a festival, which is clever timing; brewers are presented with their trophy on stage in front of an enthusiastic audience, and afterwards curious consumers can be first in line to try the award-winning beers. The competition’s photographer makes sure that all winners get their picture taken – great for sharing on social media. It creates a buzz and might help breweries reach more consumers and enter new markets.

Malin Norman

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