The quality of beers entered into the Craft Beer Awards continued to improve in its fourth year, according to several of the competition’s longstanding judges.
Bentspoke Brewing Co’s Richard Watkins expressed concern that the competition’s overall quality took a hit from the absence of the big brewers, but he acknowledged there were more medals awarded this year, suggesting a lift in quality among entrants that were previously middle of the road.
“Instead of getting beers that were 13 out of 20, those beers have now gone on to get 15 or 16 out of 20 and some of the bronzes from last year have moved up into silvers and even gold potentially,” he told Radio Brews News.
Gage Roads’ Aaron Heary said the the quality of beer in the competition has improved year on year.
“This year’s [been] the hardest year to judge of all years that I’ve been experienced in,” he told the program.
“The easiest thing to do is to knock out the bad beers, and that in previous years was maybe 30 per cent of the beers.
“Now, the quality across the board is really high, it actually makes for a much harder judging experience,” he said.
Two Birds’ Jayne Lewis said there were a lot less of the “gross faults” that she had seen in previous years.
“The lows were not as low as they have been in the past and I believe we had a lot of high, high scores as well… a lot of just amazing beers with great freshness, great hop character [and] great adherence to style,” she said.
Balance and oxidation
Heary agreed that the big technical faults like diacetyl and DMS have become quite infrequent, but said balance is still sorely lacking in some beers.
“Beer has to be balanced, whether or not it’s a big IPA or it’s a sessionable lager beer,” he said.
“If bitterness is standing right out… if it’s not backed up by enough malt or maybe alcohol sweetness, it’ll leave a beer unbalanced.
“Attenuation as well, so really letting the beer dry right out… some of the beers were finishing a bit cloying.
“I think balance is probably the biggest area for improvement as opposed to some of the more technical faults that we used to see,” said Heary.
Lewis said oxidation faults were still prevalent in some entries that reached the judges in less than optimal condition.
“I think still we’re having some oxidation problems… Potentially, I think the oxidation is coming from packaging and then also, just maybe beers hanging around longer than they should,” she said.