Celebrating its 20th year, the RASV/University of Ballarat Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) is now the second biggest beer awards in the southern hemisphere and is world-renowned with more than 1,350 beers entered across 36 classes of beer.
Judged blind by tables of 5-6 brewers per beer over 4 weeks, judging requires the volunteer support of 47 judges, of who 5 came from overseas (2 from Japan, 1 from Denmark and 2 from across the ditch in NZ).
Averaging 4-5 minutes per tasting the judges work their way through up to 50 samples a day swirling, smelling, sipping and comparing with their fellow judges on the table, sharing tasting notes and scores before filing their scorecard against the key judging criteria. Of vital importance to score maximum points is the presentation of the beer and its fit with class style which can be a constantly evolving challenge as craft beer pushes and creates new classes of beer with its natural evolution.
More akin to a wine competition than the self-described Olympics of Beer, the World Beer Cup there is no prescribed limit on the number of gold, silver or bronze medals that can be awarded in a single category. In the World Beer Cup only a single gold, silver, and bronze are awarded to the top 3 beers in each class, but this is not the case in the AIBA and it provides a great opportunity for brewers to gather independent quality feedback on their beers and measure its merit or improvement from year to year.
The odd numbered classes are packaged beer and a wide variety of package is sent from around Australia and internationally including bottles and cans of all shapes and sizes. The even class numbers are for draught beer and, again, a wide variety of draught kegs are received with the associated back of house ingenuity and effort required tapping the beers in their peak condition for judging.
In addition to the judging volunteers from breweries around Australia and the world, an army of volunteers steward the beer to the judges for their prompt tasting and make sure the chief steward’s instructions on prompt and proper presentation are observed. The steward’s role gives an insight into how the beers are judges and where the beers are coming from all over the world and in what classes.
The judging was run over 3 weeks with the awards dinner on Thursday 17th May, where medals are awarded to the brewers and the following day in Federation Square the exhibitors get a chance to see and taste the entrants ‘with their clothes on’ (fully labelled and classed) which gives a further opportunity to explore the world of beer and give brewers insights and ideas for further product development.
This year the general public was invited to partake in tasting the package products as well in the Atrium at Federation Square and for the small price of $40 they were able to sample over 800+ beers from all over the world. Many beers entered into the awards are not even sold in Australia and when they are sent to the awards they are sent fresh and in tip top condition so it’s a fantastic opportunity to sample the ‘world of beer’.
If you are interested in getting involved in the 21st AIBA in 2013 keep a watch out on the website in early 2013 as there are many avenues to volunteer and learn more about the world of beer.
My top 5 highlights and learning from volunbeering this year were:
- The sheer volume of amazing beer received and judged in rapid succession by the judges.
- The opportunity to get up close and chat with brewers from great breweries all over Australia and from around the world.
- A chance to explore new styles, classes and taste some truly unique beers.
- The opportunity to meet likeminded and different minded individuals all interested in learning a little more about beer.
- The small possibility you might just bump into someone great who started something great many moons ago – for me that was bumping into Steve Grossman from Sierra Nevada on Friday night at the public beer tasting in Fed Square.
Gold: 17 pts. and over
Outstanding beer that displays the correct balance of taste, aroma and appearance appropriate for the style and excellent technical merit
Silver: 15.5 to 16.9 pts.
Excellent product that displays the correct balance of taste, aroma and appearance of the style and a high level of technical merit
Bronze: 14 to 15.4 pts.
Quality product with the correct balance of taste, aroma and appearance appropriate for the style and the absence of major faults
A. Appearance max: 3 pts.
- Head & Retention
B. Aroma max: 5 pts.
C. Flavour & Body max 6 pts.
- Fermentation Products (Including fermentation faults)
- General characteristics – Appropriate for class)
- Flavour faults – Appropriate for class)
D. Technical Quality max: 3 pts.
- Absence of major faults
E. Style max 3 pts.
- Appropriate for class