Like most beer writers and beer bloggers I do my stint as a judge — the first time being at the White Horse in 2000 for the Beauty of Hops competition (or was it the fish and chips and beer one?). Bit overawed at the time to be in the company of the likes of Mark Dorber, Roger Protz and Oz Clarke and then sitting next to Michael Jackson and discussing beers with him (I recall him saying something along the lines of that he’d never correctly identified a beer when blind judging — suspect that was to put me at my ease, especially as I’d held up a beer and mused on whether it was Landlord). Since then, many competitions later (but never the GBBF, not sure I would like it, too early a start and the same goes for GABF though I was tempted to apply after 1001 Beers), I get a paid gig as the chief European judge for the World Beer Awards (Roger Protz is overall chief judge, while Stan Hieronymus is the US boss and Bryan Harrell does the same over in Japan). The judging panel includes the likes of Jeff Evans (himself consiglieri for the IBC awards and the only judge who drank his whole measure of Utopias, which made for an entertaining journey back to London from Norwich), Ron Pattinson, Melissa Cole and a variety of brewers. We had three rounds, two of which covered just European beers, while the final one also featured the American and Asian/Australasian beers picked elsewhere around the globe.
So what happens? The beers are submitted in bottle and yes breweries pay to enter and they are sifted into a variety of style categories, which I gladly admit do need clarifying (which we will be sorting out in December). A lot of good breweries enter and there are some surprising results (the Mongolian Pilsner Borgio was truly good), so if you want to look at the awards in their full entirety then go here. Best beers in the world? Why not? There’s a pretty experienced judging panel blending brewing professionals, experienced writers who’ve been around the block several times and new kids on the blog (like I was all those years ago). There was debate, questions, clarifications and some brilliant beers — the winners are a snapshot of what we tried at the time and I can honestly say that Weihenstephaner’s Vitus is a glorious drop of beer.