44 JUNE 2016 It’s the ultimate honour in the world of beer judging to be invited to the biennial World Beer Cup competition hosted in the United States of America. I’m pretty lucky that this is my fourth time judging the competition, and the quality of the world’s brewers never fails to impress. This year’s event was the largest in history, with approximately 6600 beers and 253 judges… around three-quarters of them being international. The 96 style categories were all well represented and it was good to see a strong showing from South American and Japanese judges in particular, hinting that the future of great beer is taking hold in countries not historically known for the product. Putting your palate to the test against some of the world’s greatest brewing minds, sensory scientists and industry stalwarts can be a daunting prospect, but I’m glad to report that all of the Kiwis I judged with held their own, with good feedback also coming from other international judges. One of the advantages of coming from a non-traditionalist country, where we attacked many a beer style with gusto, is in giving our collective brewing palates a lot of training. But how do we boost our medal tally? With only three medals over a 16-year period, the World Beer Cup has often been off the radar for New Zealand brewers, regardless of the kudos, respect and pride that winning a medal gives. The key, I think, lies in packaging. We brew wonderful, world class beers here. We often do extremely well at the second largest international competition in the world, the Australian International Brewing Awards, so the logical thing is that packaging is a possible determining factor. The minute beer is put into a bottle or a can, it can begin to degrade. Oxygen pickup, decrease of volatile aromatic character…the list goes on. Couple that with the distance our beers need to travel, and the chance that they will leave the joys of a refrigerated environment, and it all adds up. That makes it more challenging for some of our smaller brewers, the ones that don’t have the financial capability to invest in the finest of packaging equipment, to present their wares at their best. That’s not to say we can’t! As a brewing nation, we are collectively improving. We may all compete, but brewers are the ultimate sharers. Our industry is about conviviality and a thirst for knowledge (and beer!). I’m already looking forward to 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m one of the lucky ones, I’ve won one of these medals (whilst at Thornbridge Brewery in Derbyshire, England) and want our brewing family to experience the joy that it brings. Here’s hoping we add to the tally! Kelly Ryan is head brewer for Fork & Brewer in Wellington, and a judge at the recent 2016 Beer Olympics in the US. O LY M P I C S TAT S MY SAY KELLY RYAN • A total of 6596 beers from 1907 breweries in 55 countries were represented at the Beer Olympics • 2016 saw a 38.5 per cent increase in the number of entries in 2014, which had 4754 entries • An elite panel of 253 judges from 31 countries took part in the decisions • A gold award was not presented in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale categories this year • The average number of beers entered per category was 69, up from 50 in 2014 • The category with the most entries was American-style India Pale Ale, with 275 entries • Imperial India Pale Ale was the second most-entered category, with 181 entries • The 287 awards were won by 253 breweries • The competition also bestows Champion Brewery and Champion Brewmaster awards in each of six brewery categories • Arch Rock Brewing was named best very small brewery; Noble Ale was best small brewery; Brewery Ommegang was best mid-size; large brewery champion was Miller Brewing Co; small brewpub was 12Degree Brewing; and Beachwood BBQ & Brewing was named large brewpub category. • New Zealand had 32 entries in the event, but won no prizes • Eight judges were sent from New Zealand, and 75 per cent of judges came from outside the US • South Dakota was the only one of the 50 states not to enter the competition.
1-48 FT June16
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