At the Calgary International Beerfest, Edmonton Craft Beer Festival, the Oktoberfests, and even in Banff, you’ve seen the banners hanging from the booths, and trophies beside the beer, leading you to wonder; “Just how do they win those awards”. What you are looking at are the winners of the Canadian International Beer Awards, and they are the result of a long judging process that involves a lot of beer consumption, one tiny 4 oz. glass at a time. So where and when does this happen, and how can you get involved? Read on.
When you walk by the connector between Halls B and C, you may notice a cordoned off area. Behind the curtain is where all the judging happens on both days of the Calgary International Beerfest. Inside this makeshift room are 12 tables, filled with 6-8 judges each, and an area for the beer fridges, storage, the stewards, and the beer.
The beers are arranged in flights of no more than 20 beers of the same style. They are brought out in a mason jar, with just an assigned number as a descriptor, to keep the beers anonymous. The beers are brought out one at a time, whereupon the head judge will explain to their group any significant aspects of the beer. Obviously, the name and the brewery of the beer are known only to the steward- who needs that information to go out into the show floor to collect the beer.
Each beer is then sniffed, visually inspected, tasted, and discussed. The aspects the judges look and score for are appearance (scored out of 3 points), aroma (12 points), flavour (20 points), mouthfeel (5 points), and overall impression (10 points), for a total score of 50 points. Each beer takes 5-7 minutes to judge, with all judges giving their opinion and score. This goes on until all the beers in the flight are tasted, so the process may take as long as two hours. If there are more than 20 beers in a group, then they are broken up into heats, and the top ones (usually 3-5) are moved on to the next round, where they are judged again in the finals. When a flight is done, the top 3 beers are tabulated, and the gold, silver and bronze are doled out. Trophies and banners are given out for each winning beer, which breweries can use to promote them at the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival June 2-3, and for perpetuity, if they want.
There are 20 different categories of beer judged (to see them, click the link below), so over the weekend as many as 400 beers will be judged in around 30 groups by over 200 judges with the help of over 60 stewards. Needless to say, this takes the participation of countless number of people, the exhibitors, and the Calgary Stampede staff. Even the general public can get involved by voting for their favourite beer and food at numerous locations throughout the show.
If you think you’d like to judge, and you are a qualified BJCP judge or Cicerone, you can contact me at ABFheadjudge@gmail.com. If you aren’t qualified, you can sign up for any of the monthly Brew Eds taught by yours truly, in order to learn about beer, their ingredients, how they are divided into categories, and how to judge a beer, making you eligible to judge/steward at Beerfest. Next class begins April 10, followed by the next session in early May after Beerfest, and each month after, except December. Check out info here www.albertabeerfestivals.com/events-services/brew-ed.
You can see the Canadian International Beer Award winners on the Alberta Beer Festivals website www.albertabeerfestivals.com/events-services/canadian-international-beer-awards.