Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Some World Cup winners can be purchased locally

By Ed Westemeier
Enquirer contributor

        Most beer drinkers are familiar with the Great American Beer Festival, held every fall in Denver. But there's another beer competition that's even more prestigious on the international level.

        The World Beer Cup occurs every two years, drawing participants from all over the world. Cleveland hosted the most recent event in April. I'll highlight a few of this year's World Beer Cup winners, but first a word about the competition.

        About 1,200 beers were entered by several hundred breweries in more than 20 countries. More than 100 judges gave an intense two-day effort to evaluate the entries.

        All judges are professional brewers or individuals associated with the industry, and all have extensive experience judging beers in competitions. As with most competitions, judging is blind, with stewards presenting judges with cups of beer, labeled by number and style category.

        It might sound like pure fun to spend two days judging beers, but it's also hard work. (You believe that, don't you?) To avoid palate fatigue, judges typically drink about one ounce of an entry, and limit themselves to less than 15 tastes in each three-hour judging session. Besides ranking the top entries in each category, they fill out extensive comment sheets on every entry, providing valuable feedback to brewers.

        Very few of this year's winners can be purchased here because they're from small, distant breweries that don't export. Of those you can buy locally, here are some I recommend:

        • Among Belgian-style strong ales, gold medals went to both La Fin du Mondeand Trois Pistoles from one of my favorite breweries, Unibroue in Quebec. (I wrote about La Fin du Monde in April.) Unibroue also took two silver medals for Blanche de Chambly and Maudite, and a bronze for Quelque Chose. This was an incredible performance by an incredible brewery.

        • Gouden Carolus from Belgium took a gold in the Belgian-style tripel category, another wonderful beer. Tripels are strong, complex, fruity, spicy golden ales, and Gouden Carolus is a great one.

        • Gold in the Robust Porter category went to Old Leghumper from Ohio's Thirsty Dog Brewery (headquartered near Akron; nearest location in Centerville). It's great to see a local success.

        • Among seasonal beers, the German-style Oktoberfest category had a gold medalist in Beck's Oktoberfest. Boston Beer's Octoberfest took the silver.

        • In the Imperial Stout category, three marvelous American breweries swept the field. Oregon's Rogue brewery won a gold medal with Rogue Imperial Stout, and Brooklyn Brewery took silver for Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, while California's North Coast brewery got the bronze for Old Rasputin.

        • Among the silver and bronze medalists, look for these: Kwak, the wonderful Belgian-style ale from Belgium won a silver in the other Belgian-style ale group, and Leffe Blonde took a bronze.

        • Finally, in the non-alcoholic beer category, the winner was the same one that also took first place in our taste test last year: O'Doul's Amber.

        What a shame some of the other winners won't be on our store shelves. In fact, out of more than 200 medal winners, these are the ones I could find in Tristate stores, except for categories like American-style Light Lager and the like. There are many thousands of beer labels out there, and many breweries don't enter competitions like this, due mainly to the cost. Still, it's nice to see some of our favorites get recognized for their outstanding products.

        You can find the complete list of winners at

        If you're interested in the Great American Beer Festival, it will be held Oct 3-5 this year, in Denver's Convention Center. Details are at

        Contact Ed Westemeier by e-mail:



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