A week in beer

Over the last week I have been fortunate to be in Nashville, Tennessee, for the biggest week of beer in the American beer calendar. I was invited to judge at the World Beer Cup. It was my third time judging the WBC and the first time it has been held in Nashville. Known as the Olympics of beer the WBC is the biggest beer competition in the world. It takes place every 2 years and this year was the biggest ever. With 295 judges and over 8000 beers judged in just 3 days, it really is a lesson in planning and logistics.

The WBC is different to other beer competitions. We judged against 105 different styles of beer and in each style, there can only be 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze. Other beer competitions are judged on technical merit alone and there may be no golds or multiple golds in a single category if the beer scores highly enough. So, to achieve a medal in the WBC is no mean feat.

The competition is run by the Brewers Association and judges are not allowed to discuss what we judged or take photos in the judging rooms to maintain the high integrity of the event. You can view the winners here:

We got looked after by the BA and were lucky enough to have a day of brewery visits organised by them in the local Nashville area. I visited Yazoo, Fat Bottom Brewery and Jackalope Brewery.

Outside Fat Bottom Brewery in Suburban Nashville

Similarities in the first 2 breweries as with most US breweries they offered strong, hop driven IPAs and sours.

Jackalope Brewery was interesting as we visited a brewery not yet built. The brewhouse built by Sprinkman of USA was in place, but there were no Fermenters yet and they were not Brewing. It was good to see Craft Brewing growing in a State better known for its Bourbons.

Judges at Jackalope Brewery

The Craft Brewers Conference and Brew expo America (CBC) runs every year and on every second year it follows on immediately after the WBC. This is the largest beer and brewing expo outside of Germany. With over 14,000 delegates attending, most of whom are involved in the Brewing industry around the world, it’s an impressive event.

The absolutely ginormous Music City Centre Where the CBC was held

There are hundreds of stands for companies selling everything from full Breweries to tap handles. We can catch up with the latest innovations happening in the world of beer and meet old industry friends not seen for years. There are seminars, which this year I found the State of the Nation to be interesting. Presented by the BA commercial team it was a run down on the state of craft beer in the US. Growth is slowing and when growth figures of 18% were touted 8 years ago in Chicago, Craft Beer growth has now slowed to 3% in the USA. However Brewing Capacity is growing at 5%!

Nashville Broadway - Honky Tonk Central

As always, the Town where the WBC and CBC occur come alive at night as thousands of Brewers and beer People descend on the town. Nashville was no different and I was happy to have my fill of Southern BBQ and Honky Tonk music venues.

I am writing this on the plane on the way home, tired, a little beer’d out it just remains to say thanks to the Brewers Association for another fantastically run event and thanks to Nashville. You’ve been fun.

Cheers Colin

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