Beer Competitions

Everyone loves a good contest and the more dramatic the competition the better. Many of those in the industry believe that competition breeds better beer and thus can only elevate the craft beer scene.

As we look back at the great summer beer competitions and their corresponding beer festivals we also look forward to the Great American Beer Festival and the Beer Competition that complements it. We begin to recognize how beer judging becomes an important focus and how judges can become a hot commodity in the industry.

Beer Judging Certification Program
Tasting and judging beer is more than just donating your liver and taste buds for a couple of days of sipping. What does it take to become an official beer taster and competition judge? Put down that pint and pick up a tasting glass. The American Homebrewers Association recognized the BJCP (Beer Judging Certification Program) as the program they recommend for AHA members that want to become “official” beer judges.

The BJCP offers a three-examination process that starts with an online candidate screening and finishes with a written proficiency exam that includes essay questions to “test skills and knowledge necessary for higher ranks.” The first exam cost $10 for the 200 question multi-choice and true/false screening exam. The second exam called the Judging Exam ($40) takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and exam takers are expected to complete six beer score sheets served at fifteen minute intervals. The third exam, called the Written Exam, cost $25 and is designed for those wishing to advance to National Judge or a higher rank.

CA State Fair Commercial Beer Competition
At the California State Fair Commercial Beer Competition, sponsored by the Northern California Brewer Build, over 850 beers from California are judged in a blind tasting by official beer judges and industry professionals. Beer gets judged in June prior to the opening of the State Fair. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to the winning beers from each category and a Best of Show is awarded to the top beer of the competition. The awards are presented toward the end of the State Fair at the Commercial Craft Beer Awards Ceremony in late July at Cal Expo.

SD International Beer Competition
The San Diego International Beer Competition coincides with the festival of the same name and happens in late June. Winning beers are awarded in gold, silver and bronze categories with a Best of Show and a Grand Champion (most total points received by a brewery in the competition).

GABF Competition
With ninety different styles of beer and an inordinate amount of sub-categories it takes five three-hour judging sessions, held over three days, to judge all of the beers entered into the GABF competition. The ultimate goal? To best represent each beer-style category as described and adopted by the GABF. Beers are awarded gold, silver or bronze medals that make up some of the most coveted awards in the industry. The GABF is usually held in late September or early October and this year the beer competition will be held on Saturday, October 4th this year.

World Beer Cup
Once every two years the World Beer Cup, presented by the Brewers Association, is held in the spring immediately following the Craft Brewers Conference. This competition started in 1996 and was developed to “celebrate the art and science of brewing by recognizing outstanding achievement.” 91 categories are judged with gold, silver and bronze awards presented within each category. Judges for this completion will be chosen from a variety of “internationally recognized brewers, consultants, industry suppliers and writers.” Judges will only award each of these medals if they feel that “excellent examples of the style” are represented. Judges may choose not to designate any awards in a category if they feel that none of the beers entered in that category actually represent that style. Also, judges may grant an award in any one or more of the three award places (gold, silver, and bronze) without granting awards in all three places.  

Each participant will pay $160 to register their first beer and $160 for each additional brand that is registered. The registration process typically starts six months prior to the competition. The BA capped registration at 500 beers for the 2014 competition.