17 Jul Indiana Brewers Cup 2018: By The Numbers
The judging and awards last weekend for the Indiana Brewers Cup (IBC) pulled together huge numbers of professional and amateur brewers, but also judges and stewards. It’s hard to come up with adequate numbers of judges for such a large event, yet somehow they seem to get through it each year.
The competition for 2018 was limited to 650 entries in the professional division and 850 in the home brew group. This year, the home brewers hit their limit, while the pro division came in just below the 650 number. After all, there is a limited amount of time for judging and only so many beers can be given the attention they deserved in that time period. Even with a combined limit of 1500, this makes IBC one of the larger competitions in the country.
The entries weren’t divided equally amongst the 32 beer categories in each division. Some styles of beer are always more likely to draw more competition, like Light Hybrids and IPAs. Interestingly, the top category in the home brewing competition was actually smoked and wood-aged beers (55 entries), but I don’t find that too surprising since home brewers can splurge a bit on ingredients (they make smaller volumes of beer) and they have more time to let something age.
Fruit beers (51) were nearly as popular in the home brew contest as smoked/wood-aged beers, equaled by Light Hybrids (51) and coming in just ahead of the IPAs (49). In the pro division, IPAs were most numerous (42), followed by the spice/herb/vegetable beers (35) and the Belgian beers (Belgian/French ales – 32, and Belgian Strong Ales – 32).
Just as there were more popular categories, there were also categories with fewer entries. Meads weren’t as popular in either the home brew or pro competitions, while wild ales and English Browns were somewhat fewer in number for the pros and Dark Lagers and Amber Hybrid Beers were less popular amongst the home brewers. Why does this matter? Because if you want a slightly easier path to a medal, start making beers from categories with fewer entries. Of course, the numbers in each category do fluctuate from year to year.
The winners came from all over the country. Bell’s Brewery took a couple of medals, and three different home brewers from California took home medals. In all, ten states and two countries placed in the top three for home brewers, while 38 different Indiana breweries and five from outside Indiana won medals in the pro division. The number of winning breweries in the pro division might be slightly influenced by the fact that if a brewery entered ten beers or more would receive eight tickets to the reception banquet, while those breweries entering nine or fewer beers would receive two tickets. So the incentive is there for larger breweries to enter large numbers of beers.
Those were numbers this year, but – and get used to this – I want to reiterate what I said yesterday. Just because your favorite brewery didn’t win a bunch of medals doesn’t mean that they aren’t good. Some don’t have time to enter, some don’t have the beer to enter, some have a model that doesn’t depend on medaling in competitions. Drink the beer you like, and then if you see a medaled beer or brewery that intrigues you, search them out.