Being a beer judge is somewhat of a dream job for many…well for most of us here at WT HQ.
The Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) is the largest annual beer competition in the world, so it’s a pretty big deal to win an award. So just how are the winners picked? Who are the people who pick them? And where do we apply?
This year, due to a record number of entries, the AIBA needed to assemble the largest ever panel of the judges for the competition, with close to 80 local and international beer experts on hand to taste, sip and assess the brews.
This year’s impressive list of judges was led by Head Judge, Brendan Varis, founder of WA Brewery, Feral Brewing, and was made up of brewers, distributors, retailers, food sensory experts and beer writers. Alongside national experts, judges from Japan, USA, New Zealand, Vietnam, UK, Korea, China, Canada, Spain and Hong Kong also travelled to Melbourne to be part of the awards.
Judges are selected for their expert knowledge, experience and field of expertise. Being a judge at the AIBA is a highly coveted role – it’s not hard to imagine why!
During the process, Judges are split into panels of no less than four judges, including a table captain to assess the different types of beer.
Judging of the AIBA takes three whole days - due to the large number of entries. With close to 80 judges on board, that means each judge will assess around 60 beers a day. It may seem a lot, but these are professionals and they often will only need to taste a small amount of each beer. To help cleanse the palate, judges may use crackers or green apple and water is an essential!!
The Criteria and Scoring
Beers entered into the awards are viewed, smelled and tasted, before being awarded a score out of 20 against specific criteria including appearance, aroma, flavour and body, technical quality and style (so if it’s called a lager, it needs to taste like a lager!).
Any beer can win a gold, silver or bronze medal, based on their score and on their own merit.
So any beer that scores 17 points or higher will be awarded a gold, 15.5-16.9 points a silver and those that score between 14 and 15.4 points a bronze.
The AIBA offers major and Champion trophies as well as gold, silver and bronze medals.
To determine trophy winners, all the highest-scoring gold medal winners in the category, for example Pilsner, are then tasted against each other one more time, for the judging panel to determine which is considered best.
For the Champion brewery trophies, they are awarded the brewery who fits the criteria (ie. Australian…and small), who has won a gold medal and who has the highest score when combining their top four scoring beers.
Buying award-winning beer
So now you know how it’s done, it’s time to get your hands on some of the award-winning beers – trust us, it’s worth it! So here are our tips on how to find the top brews -
1. Head to The Tastes page on Winning Tastes – we’ve got the full list of all the winners, by category – so you love a pale ale? Us too, so go for the Champion Australian Pale Ale.
2. When you pop by the Bottle-O, look for the AIBA medal on your beers – it’s a true sign you have got a good one!
3. Because the AIBA also award draught beers – check out the taps at your local bar, or head to one of the many craft beer specialist bars in most larger cities for a pint of.
4. Breweries are a wondrous place of creativity, science, experimenting – plus the beer is the freshest you will get it! Many breweries now have an open-door policy, welcoming guests, having tastings, master classes, tours and offering food, so look up your fav brewery and pop in for a visit – here’s one we tried earlier