A record 66 countries entered the biennial "Olympics of beer."
Though the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) might be the most recognizable beer competition held in the United States, the Brewers Association (BA) also holds a bi-annual and logically internationally-focused event called the World Beer Cup. One of the reasons this “Olympics of Beer Competitions,” as the BA likes to call it, doesn’t receive as much fanfare as the GABF is because, unlike that event which is open to the public for rowdy tasting sessions, the World Beer Cup is instead an industry affair held during the Craft Brewers Conference. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what the World Beer Cup has to offer: The results have just been made public.
Needless to say, a lot can change in one year in the craft beer world, let alone two, and though a slowdown in beer sales was a regular topic at the conference, the entry numbers for the World Beer Cup were more in line with the other big story of the year: the record number of breweries in the United States and beyond. This year, 8,234 beers (representing a 25 percent increase from 2016) from a record 2,515 brewers were entered across a record 101 categories. Even more impressive for an international completion, entries came from another record 66 countries as well as all 50 states.
However, one stat did maintain the status quo: the most entered beer category. As has become a trend at most American beer competitions, American-Style IPA was the clear leader in entries with 377, nearly double the next two most popular categories which were Imperial IPA and Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer.
As far as who the big winners were, well, that depends on how you look at it. With 242 medals (in beer competitions, each category only gives out one gold, silver and bronze medal), the United States by far walked with the most awards, but Americans also accounted for the most entries: 5,814 in total, leading to a 4 percent win rate. Meanwhile, Panama only entered nine beers, but with one winner (Casa Bruja Brewing took silver with their Gose Frambuesa), the Central American country had the best win rate, 11 percent. Along those lines, Belgium probably had the most impressive entry-to-win ratio: 7 winners out of 70 entries, meaning they won 10 percent of the time, second only to Panama. Also impressive, however, was that though most of the 15 countries that won medals were your usual suspects—places like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany—Taiwan managed to score the third highest win rate thank to two winning brews from two different breweries: Taiwan Head Brewers and Long Sun. It really hammers home just how far international craft beer has come.
Okay, that’s great and all, you might be saying, but what should I drink?! Well, with 302 medals awarded in all, the unfulfilling answer is “it depends.” First, it depends on what styles you like, and second, it depends on what is available where you live. Breweries of all sizes and distribution levels are allowed to enter (assuming they meet the basic criteria and cough up the $180 fee), which means even some of the American entries can be nearly impossible to find outside of a specific locale. But the good news is that you can dig through a sortable and searchable list of winners on the World Beer Cup website.
But to highlight just two categories, the much contested American IPA prize went to Revision IPA from Revision Brewing in Sparks, Nevada. Think they got lucky in such a crowded field? Think again. They also took silver in the second most contested category, Imperial IPA, with their Revision DIPA. Who’s up for a road trip to Sparks, Nevada? It’s right next to Reno so you know we’ll have a blast.