REVIEW: This month has seen a flood of results roll in from global beer competitions. Last week I reviewed the 2012 World Beer Cup, and this week I'll be looking at the results from the second-largest competition, the Australian International Beer Awards.
The AIBA has much in common with the WBC. Both competitions continue to attract an increasing number of entries: this year's AIBA, the 20th in its history, drew 1344 entries from 41 countries, an increase of 10 per cent on last year's competition. And as at the WBC, the successful beers can win bronze, silver and golden medals, and trophies are awarded to the most successful breweries.
However, there are some significant differences between the two events. At the World Beer Cup, beers are judged only according to style, whereas at the AIBA packaged (canned and bottled) beers are judged separately from their draught (tap) counterparts. Also, in a process that's been likened to the Olympic Games, The World Beer Cup awards just three winners – one bronze, one silver and one gold – in any category, whereas the AIBA judges are allowed to award as many medals in each category as they see appropriate.
As a result, there's a tendency for a much higher percentage of entries to receive medals at the Australian competition. This year, for example, of the 1344 beers entered in Australia, 837 received medals, compared with just 284 awards made by the judges to 3921 beers at the World Beer Cup. While neither of the two New Zealand brewers who sent beers to the World Beer Cup received a medal, this year's AIBA saw a dozen Kiwi breweries emerge with two best-in-class trophies and 60 medals.
But the competition's top awards are the four champion brewery trophies, which are awarded to the highest-scoring large and small breweries from Australia and overseas. This year's Champion Large Australian Brewery award went to Feral Brewing Company of Western Australia, while the Champion Small Australian Brewery went to the Wig & Pen Brewery & Tavern from Canberra. Congratulations to brewers Brendan Varis (Feral) and Richard Watkins (Wig & Pen) who, along with being really great guys, both regularly judge at the New Zealand Beer Awards.
Two American breweries won the international trophies at this year's AIBA: Oregon's Deschutes Brewery received the award for Champion Large International Brewery, while Pelican Pub & Brewery, also from Oregon, backed up its recent win at the World Beer Cup with the Champion Small International Brewery trophy. The Best New Exhibitor award went to Cervejaria Bodebrown of Brazil.
At the AIBA 13 trophies are awarded to individual beer style category winners and this year eight of these went to Australian breweries and two to New Zealand brewers. Rotorua's Croucher Brewing Company won a gold medal and the trophy for Best Pilsner with its fragrantly hopped Croucher Pilsner, while Summer Sommer, a beer made with rye and honey by Wellington's Garage Project brewery, also took a gold and the trophy for Best Speciality Beer. Congratulations to both breweries.
If you're not familiar with the Garage Project beers it's hardly surprising, until now only tiny batches have been produced and they've been sold almost exclusively in specialist bars in the big cities. By a happy coincidence, just as news of the award filtered back to Wellington, Garage Project's brewer Pete Gillespie was overseeing final testing of a shiny new 1200-litre brewhouse, so there's a good chance the rest of the country will have access to his excellent beers before too long.
I'm delighted to report that Marlborough brewers accounted for more than a third of New Zealand's medal tally. Both 8 Wired and Renaissance received medals for each beer they entered – three silvers and a bronze for 8 Wired and two silvers and five bronzes for Renaissance – while Moa took five silvers and five bronzes for the dozen beers they entered. That's a wonderful achievement – go Marlborough!
Lion also achieved a 100 per cent success rate, receiving six silvers and six bronzes for 12 beers, while Nelson's Sprig & Fern entered six beers and received two silvers and two bronzes. Auckland's Steam Brewing Co entered four beers and won three silvers and Invercargill Brewery entered three beers and won a silver and a bronze. Other medal winners included McCashin's of Nelson, whose Stoke beers received four bronze medals (from 12 beers entered), and DB with two silvers, and three bronzes (from 12 entries).
Full results of the Australian International Beer Awards are available online at beerawards.com/index.asp.
- © Fairfax NZ News