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Monday, November 03, 2014

Brussels Beer Challenge

Over the weekend, Leuven, Belgium was the site of the 3rd annual Brussels Beer Challenge (which is like having the New York City Beer Challenge in Hoboken, but let's not go down that rabbit hole).  It's Belgium's answer to the World Beer Cup--similar in structure, but slightly more Belgiany.  There's an international panel of judges, but the majority come from Belgium (21%), The Netherlands (15%), UK (11%), and Italy (10%).  Only 5% came from the US.  I don't know what affect that had, but the results (pdf) look a lot less like they do at the American-hosted version.

The United States has been by far the most significant driver of the current bloom of new breweries in the 21st century--and also on the types of beer they brew.  Because of that, the US has taken a lead role in defining not only the taxonomy of flavors (with the always-metastasizing style guidelines), but what counts as "good."  It's time that other countries weigh in on these questions.  The Brussels Beer Challenge has too many styles (51), but they are nevertheless far more constrained than the World Beer Cup (94). They are slightly different, and slightly more focused on continental beer.  Excellent!

I also love the third of three points in the competition's mission statement.  In an industry that sometimes tends to garland itself in the exalted language of a nonprofit, this is refreshingly honest:
To offer beer producers a promotion and marketing toolThe international scope of the Brussels Beer Challenge opens up significant opportunities in new markets. Award-winning producers will be given broad-ranging exposure and be able to use this first-rate accolade to support their business and marketing development.
What I want to know is: does the competition fly in judges and, if so, how do I get to be one?


  1. Of course they flew in accolade giving judges! Didn't you follow Twitter this weekend? The hard task of giving out accolades by the international jet set of accolade giving judges was there for all to see.

  2. Alan, I didn't see the twitterstorm this weekend, no. I'd love a recap. As such, it's a bit hard to respond to that particular comment, but your reply on Twitter is easier:

    But if 68% of the judges, entries and all the rules are the same isn't it a bit pointless?

    I'd say anything that's three years old isn't well enough established to throw in the ash bin yet. And more than that, the kinds of beers that were recognized were distinctly different. I'm not surprised. People in other parts of the world like different beer than we do in the US (and to a lesser extent Canada).

    It's a competition, so I suppose awarding accolades is the business they're in. That's the point of any competition. If this evolves into something different than the World Beer Cup (the GABF with a few nods to Europe), then it is most definitely useful--especially to breweries in Europe.

  3. Never enough of the same sort of thing these days in good beer. Keeps surprises to a minimum and maximizes accolades. And, I suppose, it's like 1973 with the tension of punk just around the corner. Just no one knows what the better next thing will be.

  4. You have become like a strange oracle uttering gnomic comments from your high perch in Ontario.

    Or equally as likely, I get duller by the day. I know--I'll have a beer and see if that helps.

  5. I just love the particular PR spin of "accolades" but yes I am getting more C-grade oracle-like every day. Thanks for noticing. I have no idea where it is going so bear with me. Apologizes in advance.

  6. I actually love that accolades business. It's obviously the purpose of these events, but none actually admit it. It may be crass, but honest. And actually, I don't care if competitions are designed so that breweries can use awards to hawk beer. It's better than breweries trying to hawk beer by making bow-tie cans.

  7. I'm not sure the distinction between the accolades and the bow tie cans is that far apart. As far as the honesty bit, that part went out the window a while ago.

  8. As someone quite familiar with beers in this part of the world, I find it a bizarre list. But part of the problem is clearly the categories. Is there such a thing as a boutique beer? If so, that list is filled with them.