The World Beer Cup is the Olympics of beer. There is no better way to describe one of the biggest and most prestigious commercial beer competitions open to breweries from around the world. Held in Denver on Fri., April 11, at the end of the Craft Brewers Conference, the World Beer Cup awards ceremony was well-attended by a gathering of feverishly-excited brewers and industry professionals. Los Angeles County craft breweries had their best year, with one medal each going to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing (Long Beach), Ohana Brewing Co., (Downtown) and Haven Brewing (Pasadena).
2014 had the most competition entries to date, with 4,754 beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries - a 21% increase in number of entries since the last Cup in 2012. 94 categories of beer were evaluated by 219 judges from 31 countries.
But the best statistic of 2014? Only 26 breweries won two awards, and only one brewery took home three. "This is the most diverse set of winning breweries in any World Beer Cup," said Competition Manager Chris Swersey. The broad spectrum of representation and winnings was partly due to a new lottery system that determined each brewery was limited to entering four beers.
Mocha Machine from Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach, won a bronze medal in the coffee beer category (very competitive, with 109 entries). The Imperial Porter is brewed with coffee from Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa and aged with cacao nibs from Ecuador, coming in at 9.2 % Alcohol By Volume. There is no shortage of roasted coffee bean aroma for this voluminous beer and the rich chocolate flavor is complex but not cloying in sweetness. Brewmaster Julian Shrago, Assistant Brewer Ian McCall accepted the award.
Ohana Brewing Co. took a silver medal for Saison Noir (5.5% ABV) in the Belgian- and French-style ale category (with 31 entries). The brewery had a successful week, first opening doors on their Alhambra taproom on Mon., April 7, and then winning their first medal at the World Beer Cup on Friday. Saison Noir, a farmhouse ale with roasted malt and fruity ester character, is currently pouring at the taproom.
Haven Brewing's Hops Inc. won a silver medal in the American-style strong pale ale category (out of 97 entries). Currently on tap at the Pasadena gastropub and Orange Provisions Market, Hops Inc. (6.9% ABV) highlights hop flavors like tropical fruit and orange rind over hop bitterness. Head brewer Brian Thorson and managing partner Wil Dee were in Denver to accept the award.
California breweries won 35 medals - the most awarded to any state - with 22 going to Southern California.
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The U.S. enters the most substantial amount of beer (3,402 entries) followed by Germany (249) and Canada (190). 76% of the competition's 219 judges are from outside the United States. In 2012 and 2010 Rock Bottom from Long Beach won a silver and gold medal, respectively, for their Rocktoberfest German-style Marzen. And Beachwood, which in 2012 won gold for Foam Top in the Golden/Blonde Ale category.