Past Winners Look To Defend Their Titles In The Most Competitive World Beer Cup In History

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We heard from six 2016 WBC gold medal winners about this year’s competition and the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville.

They call it the Olympics of Beer, and in 2016 it once again lived up to the title, being one of the largest commercial beer competitions to ever take place. The World Beer Cup (WBC) is hosted by the Brewers Association every other year in conjunction with the annual Craft Brewers Conference & Brew Expo. In 2016, the series of events visited Philadelphia, PA, where the WBC had 6,596 beers entered from 1,907 breweries—a 38.5 percent increase in the number of entries over the previous contest — impressive.

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With the current brewery count in the U.S. surpassing 6,300, the expectations for another record breaker to take place this year in Nashville are soaring, and thanks to data just released to Brew Studs (which is still subject to change), we can assure you there is no reason for those expectations to be tempered. According to Brewers Association Marketing Director Ann Obenchain, the 12th biennial World Beer Cup will be the largest to date, seeing 8,612 beers from 2,628 breweries representing 69 countries entered to be judged by a large panel of beer experts, who will send 101 beer brands home as champions in their respective categories.

“Many years ago I couldn’t imagine how we would conduct a competition with 4,000 entries, and now we’re double that size,” said WBC Competition Manager Chris Swersey. “I really have no idea what the upper limit is, but I’m sure we’ll know it’s there as we approach it.”

With so much growth, the competition for the 2018 WBC is sure to be stiffer than ever. That led us to want to hear from some past winners on what the competition has meant to their breweries and what it’s like to take home gold. In addition, we were curious what they were most looking forward to at the CBC & Brew Expo this year.

Each of the six winners who corresponded with Brew Studs for this post are entering the 2018 WBC competition (full list of competing breweries can be seen here). Several of the breweries who shared their thoughts even shared which beers they had entered into this year’s World Beer Cup, but we decided not to publish them as to not affect their chances at taking home more medals from the competition. Chris Swersey offered that if a competing brewery were to publicly reveal their entries they could risk both creating bias in the judge pool and revealing themselves as a loser in the event a particular brand does not win an award.

Brew Studs wishes every craft brewery who is entering the 2018 World Beer Cup the best of luck. Here are six gold medal winners from the last competition on the upcoming events taking place in Nashville this April 30 through May 3.

Iron Hill Brewery – 2016 Gold – Bedotter – Belgian-Style Tripel

Iron Hill ended up being one of the most awarded breweries at the 2016 WBC, taking home five total style category medals, with four silver in addition to their gold for Bedotter.

Mark Edelson  Owner

We have attended the CBC each year since opening in 1996, and I have personally attended each year since 1993. The biggest reason for all of our brewers attending is the networking opportunity. Craft brewers are a collaborative bunch, and getting out there, meeting other brewers, reconnecting with brewers you know and sharing experiences in brewing is what really drives CBC. Next would be the educational aspects. As the CBC has grown, so has the quality and variety of educational seminars. Finally, there is the trade show. This is a great opportunity to see what is out there as tools to make better beer or promote our products. We always walk out of there with a dozen new and better ways to do something.

We have been very successful in winning awards at WBC – winning every time we attend and having won World Champion in 2010, 2012, 2014 and just missing it in 2016. Winning awards of this caliber regularly is important for reinforcing the consistency and quality of the products our brewers make. And it is a great source of pride for not only our brewery staff, but our entire restaurant staff and customers.

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Little Fish Brewing – 2016 Gold – French-Belgian Ale – Barrel Aged Woodthrush

Jimmy Stockwell  Co-Founder

This will be our third Craft Brewer’s Conference, and there are always a couple of things I look forward to. First is learning as much as I can from industry veterans. Serious titans of craft beer are always there, giving seminars and hanging out. Then, it’s just great to hang out with a bunch of brewers. Sometimes it’s the only time of the year to see some old friends. Finally, this year, we’re participating in an all Ohio tap takeover at Nobles Kitchen and Beer Hall. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and we collectively get to show what Ohio has to offer beer-wise.

We won our World Beer Cup Gold Award for best French-Belgian Ale for our Barrel Aged Woodthrush. At the time we entered, Little Fish was about six months old. That particular batch was literally batch 2. Being acknowledged at that level for the quality of our beer was a little unreal.

We are indeed entering the World Beer Cup [again]. We went through our entire roster of packaged beers and selected the ones we thought were tasting the best, and that’s how we decided what to enter.

Odell Brewing – 2016 Gold – German-Style Altbier – 90 Shilling

Brendan McGivney  COO

We’re really looking forward to catching up and hanging out with all our industry peers and learning from all the fantastic panels and seminars. While we have won medals for other beers, the two most exciting for us were the Gold Medals we received for our two flagships: 90 Shilling and Odell IPA. There are a lot of great beers that never win medals, but it is great validation to have your core beers voted as best in the world by WBC judges.

Fifty West Brewing – 2016 Gold – Barley Wine-Style Ale – 10&2 Barleywine

Max Fram  VP of Strategy & Ops

I am most looking forward to the immediate access to people and information. Being able to skip over potentially unnecessary phone calls and emails and quickly get in-person answers from experts has always been my favorite part of CBC. Every representative that attends from our brewery is given a specific focus and set of goals to accomplish while on-site. Whether it’s bouncing around the expo or asking questions at seminars, there is no better environment to put your team in to accelerate a project.

The two Brewer’s Association competitions are the biggest stages in the industry and to be called down now on multiple occasions to receive an award in front of your peers is a humbling experience for your team. Sometimes the hard work and constant evaluation of your product can feel counterproductive and exhausting, but it all pays off when you’re recognized as the best in your craft.

I think it also means a lot to the local craft beer community here in Cincinnati and the state of Ohio. The winning breweries represent a point of pride proving the support they have shown over the years. At the last WBC, in 2016, the awards ceremony actually fell on the same day we officially opened the doors to our production facility — so that was an interesting whirlwind of emotion and celebration.

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing – 2016 Gold – Mocha Machine – Coffee Beer

In addition to winning a Gold, a Bronze and a Silver award for best in beer styles, Beachwood also won the much coveted award for Champion Brewery and Brewmaster in the Large Brewpub category.

Julian Shrago  Owner & Brewmaster

Meeting up with so many passionate brewers in one place to celebrate our craft is what I’m looking forward to the most. I’m always happy to see my peers get recognized for expertly brewed beers on an international level.

It’s been humbling and a huge honor to have been awarded medals in past competitions. Being recognized by your industry peers in the WBC is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

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Fat Head’s Brewery – 2016 Gold – Hop JuJu – Imperial IPA

In addition to winning the Imperial IPA style category in 2016, Fat Head’s also took home a bronze medal for their Midnight Moonlight in the American-Style Black Ale category.

Matt Cole  Brewmaster

Due to the commissioning of our new brewery, I will not be attending. When I do go I love to walk through the trade show floor. Winning an award at the WBC is very exciting — it’s great to get some recognition from your peers.

Pan-American Brewers

Especially noteworthy are the number of breweries from outside of the U.S. participating in WBC this year, 864, which is a 62% increase over 2016. Since Brew Studs shares news and views about what’s happening in craft beer industries and and communities all over the globe, we decided to reach out to one of our Canadian craft brewery friends, who also happen to be attending this year’s CBC and are entered in the WBC, to find out what they’re looking forward to most in Nashville.

Beau’s Brewery – Steve Beauchesne – Founder

What I look forward to most is the camaraderie and friendships. The learning is great, and all the beer is wonderful — but CBC is my annual time to recharge my spirit, renew my optimism and connect with my craft beer brethren.

On The Beau’s WBC Entries

At Beau’s we do a lot of new recipe creation and innovating with ingredients, so many times we end up with really tasty beers that don’t fit neatly into a style category. We had great feedback last year [on a secret beer entry for 2018] from fans as well as other brewers we respect, so we decided to get it into the running [in addition to others].

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