The 2006 UK International Beer Competition
All beers are entered in the usual way. Please click here to download your entry form:
Step 1: Complete the entry form and send it to:
International Beer Challenge ‘World’s 50 Best Beers’
William Reed Events
*To arrive no later than 3rd March 2006
|Step 2: Send out products (5 of each product entered) including a photocopy of your original entry to:
International Beer Challenge ‘World’s 50 Best Beers’
JAM Media Solutions
*Please be sure that all products are delivered by 17th March
The entry cost per product is just £125 + VAT per entry
Discounts are available for multiple entries:
- 2-5 entries - £110 + VAT per entry
- 6+ entries £100 + VAT per entry
The judging process
|The International Beer Challenge judges taste the beers and assess the packaging. The taste section makes up 60% of the final score and 40% goes on the packaging section.
The scores are then added together to find the winners in each class.
There will be two days of judging. The top scoring 70 beers will go through to the super jury stage. These will include the top scoring products from the first round, including the top two scorers from each category on the judging table.
This will decide the winners, thus creating the first list of the ‘World’s 50 Best Beers’ and of course our supreme champion. In addition, special prizes will be awarded where the judges see fit.
Who are the judges?
|We are delighted to welcome Jeff Evans again this year as Chairman of Judges. Jeff is renowned within the industry and is seen as the leading authority on bottle conditioned ales.
Jeff will oversee the judging day, set out the tasting and packaging guidelines as well as offering an expert insight into many of the beers that have entered. Finally, Jeff will of course be a member of our ‘Super-Jury’ panel
Accompanying Jeff will be:
· Experts from FlavourActiv, the world-renowned ‘brand-flavour fingerprinting’ agency
· Former Brewers
· Beer buyers from Retail Groups
· Beer enthusiasts such as writers and broadcasters
|There are 10 for 2006
Class 1 - Standard Ale (up to 4.2% abv)
Class 2 - Strong Ale (between 4.3% abv and 6.9% abv)
Class 3 - Standard Lager (up to 4.2% abv)
Class 4 - Strong Lager (4.3% abv and over)
Class 5 - Strong Beer (above 7.0% abv)
Class 6 - Fruit Beers
Class 7 - Wheat Beers
Class 8 - Stouts and Porters
Class 9 - Ciders
Class 10 - Non-alchoholic and Low Alcohol beers
The International section
|Once again the IBC will be making a special award for the top-scoring entry from outside the UK. All entries from outside the UK will automatically be entered into this section, as well as the appropriate sections of the wider competition. There is no extra charge for entry into this category.|
Beers curry flavour with judging panel
Be tough! That was OLN editor Graham Holter's instruction to the judges at this year's International Beer Competition. "These beers have been put forward as potential award winners. Let's make them work for the honour," he said.
Gathered for this highly enjoyable task was an impressive line up of experienced beer tasters
Brewers with decades of experience shared tables with award-winning journalists and editors; dedicated beer website compilers rubbed shoulders with influential beer buyers from major supermarket chains. There were representatives too from the independent off-licence sector, along with the managing director of a major regional brewery and even an MP carrying the flag for the Parliamentary Beer Club. Bonhomie and banter flowed as freely as the beer, but, given Holter's stern diktat, we all knew what was required of us.
There is no other contest like the IBC, which specifically focuses on issues affecting the off-trade. Our task was to judge beers on both taste and packaging. In my own pep talk to the judges, I flippantly likened the competition to Miss World, as we judge the glamour first then the inner soul of each contestant. In other words, for a beer to be successful in the off-licence, it not only needs to taste good but to look good, too. And vice versa. If the contents provide pleasure a product can build a sales future. But if the bottle or can doesn't inspire anyone to pick it up, then customers never get to sample the contents.
It's a dichotomy that few brewers seem to be able to deal with successfully. Once again, we had some magnificently presented beers that really disappointed on tasting, and we discovered some real treats that were tragically let down by inferior packaging.
The judges clearly took the "be tough" brief to heart, because there were three categories in which their scores revealed we simply could not award a third prize.
Without taking anything away from the Gold and Silver medalists, the overall standard of beers among the Non-Alcoholic Beers, Standard Lagers and Wheat Beers was just not good enough. One judge thought the latter category, in particular, could have been so much better.
"The wheat beers were, on the whole, chewy and dull," he commented, bemoaning the lack of fruit and spice notes. Fruit beers - a new category this year - also disappointed. "Flavours were too synthetic in many cases," remarked another judge. A third thought the Strong Ale category had too many make weights. "It was not that a lot were oxidised, or infected, though there were a few of each," he said. "There were quite a few very unbalanced beers with much too much hop bitterness. I like hoppy beers, but the hop had ceased to be pleasant."
What concerned these judges was that someone in each of the companies had no trouble sending these beers off to an international competition. Either they were not tasted prior to entering or, even more worryingly, were tasted and considered satisfactory.
This said, there were some remarkable beers on display and many other very enjoyable ones - more than enough to ensure keen competition in most categories.
Packaging caused as much debate, with judges trying to balance the concepts of good presentation and information provision. Time and again an attractive bottle tempted us to award a high score only for closer inspection to reveal that, once again, the opportunity to really sell the product had been missed.
If there's one phrase I'd like to ban from the English language it is: "Brewed from the finest ingredients." It insults the intelligence of the customer and it tells you nothing about how the beer is made, - which malt and hops have been chosen or what flavours they bring.
Can you imagine any respectable winemaker shooting themself in the foot in this way? A customer has far more time to study a bottle or can of beer than when buying beer on draught in a pub. So why don't brewers use it? They need to kick out the inanities and platitudes and explain about the beer style - tell shoppers the history of the brewery; give the information they need on storing and serving; suggest foods that the beer can accompany. At least provide a website address so it's easy for customers to find out more. In short, brewers need to inspire shoppers to want to try the beer and learn more about it.
Recently my wife was looking for a new bed for our dog. When she showed me the various results, the one that stuck out was designer dog beds. I thought how pretentious, but for some reason that description "designer" caught my wife's eye. She associated "designer" with quality. That may and may not be true. In this case the site did deliver with really well made, high quality fabric dog beds. But as you can see from my comments above, presentation may draw the consumer in, but the real test is how, in the case of beers is the taste. In the case of the designer doggie bed, was how it was made and how well it lasted. Our dog loves his new bed and it appears to be well made so I believe it was worth the "designer" price.
These are all ways in which a beer can score higher marks. The surest way to lose marks is to commit errors with information, spelling and printing. We had to laugh at the bottle-conditioned beer with instructions for storage and service printed sideways so you had to tip the bottle to read the label. And there was a touch of farce about the label that boasted, in the fashion of 'Allo 'Allo's Officer Crabtree, that the beer upheld the best traditions of "Brotosh" brewing.
Add to this the number of bottles that require you to read small text on shining backgrounds and you can see why the judges considered close inspection of labels to be thought-provoking.
But enough of the negatives, for the IBC is as much a celebration of the glories of world beer as it is about raising standards.
There were some stunning brews in nearly all categories and this year's medal-winners come from no fewer than eight countries, underlining just how international our beer market is today. The results also reveal a fair amount of cross-fertilisation, showing how brewers of all nationalities are willing to take on board global influences.
Oakham JHB, the winner of the Standard Ale category, for instance, has a pronounced US accent in its powerful, citrus hop character, while Victory's Golden Monkey, the American runner-up in the Strong Beer section, pays homage to Belgian monastic traditions. There is a West Coast beer (Rogue Morimoto) that uses a popular Japanese cereal in its mash tun, and a Cornish beer (St Austell Clouded Yellow) that masquerades as a Bavarian weissbier. Some beers showed their class by scooping Gold for the second time. St Peter's brewery remains king of the stouts and porters, and Portugal's Cheers is unrivalled among the No-Alcohol Beers.
Samuel Adams, which swept all before it last year, claimed yet more first places with its Winter Lager and flavoursome Light, and Aspall's elegant Suffolk Cider has yet to be topped in its class.
But there's no mistaking this year's rightful supreme champion. Innis & Gunn's fascinating Oak Aged Beer has set plenty of tongues tasting, but the achievement of winning two separate categories, against different sets of beers, cannot be underplayed.
The IBC certainly reveals how adventurous and cosmopolitan the UK off-trade has become. The list of medal winners includes beers brewed with smoked malts, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, aromatic herbs and exotic spices. There are even some - astonishingly - brewed with justmalt and hops.
As an opportunity to taste beers right across the spectrum, we judges await next year's contest with great anticipation.
Who enters the IBC?
Entries are received from all over the world. The IBC is restricted to packaged products rather than beers that are exclusively available on draught. 2005 saw a record entry of almost 360 products and in 2006 we hope to break the record.
How are the beers assessed and judged?
A team of expert judges, including beer critics, current and former brewers, buyers and retailers are assembled for a day of judging in London. Each category is judged individually, with teams of judges awarding marks out of 30 in a blind tasting. The same team then judges the packaging from a different category, this time awarding marks out of 20. Each entrant thereby ends up with a combined mark out of 50. There are two days of judging. The top 70 beers will go through to the super jury stage. These will be the top scoring products from the first round, including the top two scorers from each category around the judging table. This will decide the winners, thus creating the first list of the 'World's 50 Best Beers' and of course our supreme champion. In addition, special prizes will be awarded where the judges see fit.
Why are so many points available for packaging?
Because the competition organisers feel packaging plays such a crucial role in the off-trade. If a can or bottle label is unappealing, the consumer will probably never even try the liquid inside. Also, we believe that packaging can play an important role in helping consumers understand more about the beers they are drinking. In previous years, the IBC has awarded as many points for packaging as for liquid but the organisers now believe a 60-40 split is fairer.
How come ciders are also included in the IBC?
Ciders have always played a small but important role in the competition. In fact up until 2003 it was known as the International Beer & Cider Competition. The name was changed to reflect the dominance of beer, although we still aim to recognise and reward the art of the cider maker.
Do judges use spittoons or swallow what they're tasting?
Interestingly, spittoons have been used by several of the judges over the years, although some prefer to stick to the traditional method. Tasting 78 beers in quick succession can be tiring, so appropriate breaks are allowed to allow palates to be refreshed.
OLN is the weekly news magazine for the UK take-home drinks trade. Its audience includes specialist drinks retailers and off-licences, supermarkets, wholesalers, producers and distributors, all of whom rely on OLN to keep them informed about this fast-moving industry.
Every week OLN has all the latest news affecting beers, wines and spirits and the businesses which handle them throughout the supply chain.
Part of the William Reed Publishing stable which also includes famous names like The Grocer and Morning Advertiser, OLN started life in the 1870s as the Wine Trade review, changing its name in 1970 to Off Licence News.
As well as organising the International Beer Competition, OLN also runs the annual Drinks Retailing Awards and has a circulation of around 18,000.