The Indiana Brewers Cup: The Awards Explained and a Take on Best Of Show

The Indiana Brewers Cup: The Awards Explained and a Take on Best Of Show

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Saturday, July 14 was a big day for Indiana craft beer. The awards banquet for the 2018 Indiana State Fair Brewers Cup was held at the fair grounds after a couple of days of intense judging. Over 1500 beers were entered from across the country, in both professional and home brewer categories. This week I will spend some time writing short pieces to give some takeaways from IBC, both for the pros and the amateurs. It’s important to do this for several reasons, but most of all, because these are labors of love by craftspeople and they deserve recognition.

Today, let’s focus on the way the competition worked/s and explain the big awards on the professional side. There were 32 different categories in which professional brewers could enter beers, each category including several similar styles under one heading. For example Category 01 was light light lager, and the medals were awarded to an International pale lager (Pachanga from Sun King), a Helles Exportbier (Helles for Heroes from Evil Czech), and a Munich Helles (Highway to Helles from Chilly Water).

The judging is done in a blind format by BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) certified judges and others with extensive professional brewing and judging experience, according to the BJCP 2015 guidelines. Three points were awarded for a first place in category, two points for a 2nd, and one point for bronze (3rd place). Importantly, beers had to receive minimum of 30 points in the judging process to be considered for a medal; therefore, medals need not be awarded in any category for any prize, awards were made only if the beer warranted recognition. It says something that three medals were awarded in every single category during the 2018 IBC, both professional and home brew. That can’t be said for every national or international brewing competition. See here for the complete results.

Beers that won gold medals in their category advanced to judging for the Best of Show. Again, medals were awarded for first, second, and third places. Therefore, Best of Show is a beer award – but there were brewery awards as well. By adding the points awarded to individual breweries for the beers they entered (3, 2, 1 in category and 3, 2, 1 in Best of Show), an Indiana Brewery of the Year (brewery from Indiana with most points) and a Grand Champion Brewery of the Year (brewery from anywhere with the most points) were also awarded. This year, Daredevil Brewing won both Indiana and Grand Champion Brewery of the Year with a total of 11 points (3 golds and a silver). That’s a repeat win for Daredevil in both categories, with medals both this year and last in both lager and ale categories. Something good is brewing in Speedway.

As far as Best of Show beers, Central State Brewing in Indianapolis shone out in extraordinary fashion. Their Unigov won gold in the Specialty Beer category, while their King Billy took top prize in the Fruit Beer category. This put two of their beers in the running for Best of Show, up against stiff competition from Daredevil (three beers in running) and Quaff On!, Flix Brewhouse, Hop River Brewing in Fort Wayne, Sun King downtown, and Taxman Brewing (each had two beers in Best in Show category).

Despite the high quality of the event, Central State took both first (King Billy) and third place (Unigov) in Best of Show! That is a thoroughly impressive accomplishment, and set them up as a second place finisher for Indiana and Grand Champion Brewery of the Year with 10 total points (tied with Flix and Sun King downtown). Central State Brewing took the news of their grand showing with humility. Co-owner and head brewer Josh Hambright said, “We are truly honored and humbled that our beers did as well as they did. We were pleasantly surprised with the Best of Show awards with both being of a non-traditional and experimental nature. It was really nice for the judges to recognize the hard work and effort Sam Carter, our other brewer, and myself put into crafting them.”

Congratulations to all the winners. We will talk more about different aspects of the competition and results from 2018 in the coming days this week, but let me leave you with this thought: while the competition environment is able to discern which brewers and beers deserve special recognition for their work, it says nothing about the quality of the beer made by those breweries not appearing in the medal lists. Lack of a medal does not indicate inferior beer – so when you don’t see a particular brewery in your area on the list of winners, remember that different breweries approach competitions with different agendas.

Some breweries don’t even enter because they are just too busy keeping beer in front of their patrons’ noses, because they are in transition or growth phases, or because they don’t place much emphasis on competitions to help them sell beer in their particular situation. In addition, many non-medaling beers achieved a score of 30 from the judges, it was just that there were other great beers ahead of them. Medaled beer is great, but so are alot of non-medaled beers, both from breweries that entered and didn’t win and from breweries who didn’t enter.


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