The export of American beer is a growing phenomenon according to Bob Pease, the Chief Operating Officer for the Brewers Association, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, USA. Funded by the US Department of Agriculture, the Brewers Association Export Development Program enjoyed a 49% growth overall on exports in the past year, indicating that the word is out: “The best beer in the world is being made by American craft breweries,” he said.
A review of the top five markets - Canada, Sweden, UK, Australia, and Japan – indicates what Pease calls the “full circle effect.” Speaking of the American craft beer movement and its explosive growth in the international market, Pease continued, “We emulated their beers; now they are emulating ours.”
Circling back onto itself, the international market wants to be involved in the American craft beer scene. The 2014 World Beer Cup, held in Denver, Colorado, USA, was the “largest commercial beer competition to date,” according to the Brewers Association. The 2014 competition featured 4,754 entries from 58 countries. Of the professional judging roster, 76% of the 219 judges came from countries outside the United States. Judges from 31 countries participated, awarding 281 gold, silver and bronze awards (of a possible 282) in 94 beer style categories.
The number of breweries competing was up by a whopping 75.6% compared to 2012, for a total of 1,403 breweries in the running. Looking at the stats, 28% of beers entered were from breweries outside the United States. In line with that figure, 27% of the awards were presented to breweries outside the United States.
Although the U.S. breweries won 205 awards, their award-winning rate was only 6% - the number of overall entries from the U.S. was 3,402. Award winning rate for Germany was 11%, for the Czech Republic was 17%, and El Salvador, with 4 entries, won 2 awards, giving it a 50% overall winning rate. Taiwan, with 2 entries, won 1 award, giving it a 50% win rate, as well.
While the World Beer Cup has more entries than ever, an analysis of the winners’ roster indicates consistency among World Class brewers. Judges do blind tastings of these beers throughout 2-1/2 days. The average number of beers per category is 50, but that can skew wildly, depending on the style. The American influence toward hoppy beers has made American India Pale Ale the most entered category, with 223 entries, followed by American Style Pale Ale with 121 entries. Brewers have also discovered the interesting bouquet of flavors imparted by wood, making Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer the third most entered category with 111 entries.
But some brewers are like cream that rises to the top. Pelican Pub’s Darron Welch and Steve Panos, who won the award for Small Brewing Company and Brewing Company Brewer at the 2014 competition, have consistently won awards including this year’s Silver for Silverspot IPA, an English Style IPA, and Gold for Kiwanda Cream Ale. Kiwanda Cream Ale was the first summer seasonal beer made at Pelican Pub Brewery and Restaurant in 1996. This satiating summer-drinker has won acclaim as an eight-time medalist at the GABF, along with two Gold Awards and two Silvers at the biennial World Beer Cup championship.
The World Beer Cup Winners’ List also includes such world-renowned beers as Rodenbach Vintage 2011 (Brewmaster Rudi Ghequire) , Oude Kriek Boon and Oude Geuze Boon (Brewmaster Frank Boon), and Radegast Premium and Velkopopovicky Kozel 11° from Plzensky Prazdroj (Brewmaster Vaclav Berka). Also on the list were the consistent Birrificio del Ducato and Birrificio Baladin of Italy, Franziskaner and Private Landbrauerei Schönram of Germany and Ceske Budejovice of the Czech Republic. Quality cannot be cloaked from judges who are masters of the craft.
Among American breweries, such familiar names as Iron Hill, Firestone Walker, Coronado, Blue Point, Sierra Nevada, Devil’s Backbone, Fat Heads Brewery, Odell, Pizza Port Solana Beach, The Bruery, Uinta, New Holland, Ballast Point, August Schell, and Chuckanut made the grade … again. Long-time brewing champ Scott Morrison who came on as Head Brewer at the recently opened Barren Hill Tavern and Brewery in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, captured a Bronze for Biere de Extra in the Belgian and French-Style category.
Only 26 breweries won two World Beer Cup awards, and 226 winners took home one. Big time winner Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant of Media, Pennsylvania reigned supreme with three awards: Bronze for Honey Tripper in the Specialty Honey Beer Category; Gold for The Golden Child in the American Style Brett Beer category; and Gold for Russian 2009 in the Aged Beer category – winning the Small Brewpub and Brewmaster World Beer Cup Champion award.
Coronado Brewing Company of Coronado, California, took home the Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewery and Brewer Champion award with a Silver for Old Scallywag in the Barley Wine Style Ale category and Gold for Islander IPA in the American Style Strong Pale Ale category.
Large Brewpub winner Blind Tiger Brewing and Restaurant of Topeka, Kansas, brought the honors to Brewmaster John Dean, with a Gold for Munich Dunkels in the European-Style Dark/Münchner Dunkel category and Silver for Maibock in the German Style Heller Bock/Maibock category.
Large Brewery and Brewmaster was awarded to Coors Brewing Company of Golden Colorado, which was the distinguished winner of three World Beer Cup awards, led by Brewmaster Dr. David Ryder. Awards included Gold for Coors Light in the American Style Lager or Light Lager or Pilsener category, Bronze for Coors Banquet in the same category, and Gold for George Killian’s Irish Red in the Irish Red Ale category.
The United States now has 2,768 operating breweries, which include 1,237 brewpubs, 1,412 microbreweries, and 119 regional craft breweries, with 1,744 more breweries in the planning stages, with more on the way. Brewers Association analysis of this growth indicates a vibrant community, with a growing job market and room to grow. The current population of the United States could support ten-thousand breweries, and that’s nothing to take lightly.