As baseball playoffs fever continues to rage in September and football kicks into high gear, competitiveness is in the air.
Normally, beer is a sidecar to competition. Fueling many a fan as they celebrate from the couch, tailgate or stadium, beer is always present during sports contests, but is rarely ever a participating member (unless you count professional beer pong, which we don’t).
However, throughout the year, beer does actually get to compete in its own way. In September, beer gets its Super Bowl. The annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver has become the most sought-after in American beer awards and winning a medal there means serious bragging rights.
Check out DFW.com online this weekend for videos of us checking in on your favorite local brewers at the fest.
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Why is this thing such a big deal?
Like some of the granddaddy craft breweries in the U.S. like Sam Adams, Brooklyn Brewery or New Belgium, the festival has been around since before craft beer was really a thing. In turn, because it’s been around since 1982, it’s had quite a bit of time to gather a following.
Because of its persistence and a bit of shrewd marketing, it has firmly cemented itself in the American beer landscape as not only the biggest and best straight-up beer festival to attend, but also a highly competitive beer-judging competition among most every professional American brewing entity.
Pretty much every established brewery you can think of will have representatives there.
So about all that judging.
Do they sniff it? Yes, they do sniff it.
They swirl it, look at it. Shake it up a little. See what it looks like in the light. It’s not unlike what most people might be familiar with seeing at a wine tasting.
Generally, beers are judged on aroma, appearance, body and flavor. Ah, but these characteristics are not judged in a winner-takes-all thunderdome of beer preference. Rather, every beer must be entered into style categories. Sound confusing? It can be.
Suffice to say, awards in most beer-judging competitions (the Great American fest included) will give awards based on how close the brewer came to hitting a specific style in very specifically defined categories. The lines can be a little blurry on some styles, and many breweries struggle with entering beers into the right category to win.
Judges for these competitions are highly experienced and have gone through many torturous hours of judging practice of drinking beer. Truth be told, it’s actually not as glamorous as it sounds, but it’s a job and somebody’s gotta do it.
Mosaic vs. Public Ale
So, what does all this mean for something you might relate to locally? Talk to many local beer fans and they’ll wonder why their favorite local IPA — Mosaic from Community Beer Company in Dallas — isn’t showered with awards at every beer festival.
They might also wonder how a seemingly innocuous beer without any outstanding, unique characteristics like Public Ale has absolutely crushed at the Great American Beer fest by winning back-to-back gold medals.
The answer is simple. Public Ale is made directly to English extra special bitter style. To ridiculous precision.
And although Mosaic would probably win most people’s choice competitions in a head-to-head against Public Ale, Mosaic doesn’t fit nearly as well in beer judging.
It’s a bit strong for American IPA and a bit mild for American Imperial IPA. It’s kind of a tweener for beer styles. It’s not a tweener in our hearts, but that really doesn’t matter to beer judges. They’re cold like that. Which brings us to ...
Blood & Honey has probably won 100 medals, right?
Revolver’s Blood & Honey is undoubtedly one of DFW’s favorite beers. You’d be hard pressed to find a bar or restaurant that doesn’t carry it or a friend that doesn’t think it’s an elixir delivered from the gods. It’s a hit among noncraft-beer fans and has developed a cult following.
However, its chances of winning big name beer competitions are slim.
Blood & Honey simply doesn’t fit into a neat little bucket like many beers do. This is one of the big reasons why we love it so, but it’s also what makes it so hard to enter into competitions.
For instance, the argument could be made that it should be in the “Honey Beer,” “Fruit Wheat Beer” or “Herb and Spice Beer” categories. Each has been a style that Revolver has entered it in for competitions in the past, and it’s won precious few medals (and none at the Great American).
Similar to Mosaic — but on an even more oddball tilt—Blood & Honey will mostly just win the unofficial gold medal for consumers’ love and adoration.
More lawsuits against TABC: Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Grapevine Craft Brewery are currently raising money to sue the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission with the hopes of gaining the same commercial permissions that Texas wineries and distilleries have when they sell product directly to consumers.
Currently, production breweries are not allowed to sell product directly at breweries and must sell their products to a distributor or (if they self-distribute) to a bar, restaurant or store. Visit suetabc.com for more details on the crowdfunding campaign.
Oktober is here: Oktoberfest season is about to be full blast. If you want to don lederhosen and drink beer from a giant dimpled stein, you will fit right in at celebrations every weekend all over the Metroplex.
Panther Island is hosting Fort Worth’s Oktoberfest on Thursday-Saturday and Rahr is hosting its annual Oktoberfest 5K on Saturday. 903 Brewers in Sherman, T&P Tavern in Fort Worth and the Dallas neighborhood of Lake Highlands host celebrations the following Saturday.