The Best of Craft Beer

2014 World Beer Cup Award

By Alex Villasuso

In my third year of undergrad, I attended Bangor University in Wales to study developmental psychology for a semester.  By study, I mean ‘drink.’ And, by developmental psychology, I mean ‘beer.’ Having traveled extensively throughout the UK and most of Europe, and touring nearly every brewery I found along the way, I developed a fascination with the vast selection of wildly unique beer styles.  When my semester ended, and I returned to Chicago, all I wanted to do was brew.

I began to homebrew all my favorite styles I had experienced in Europe.  I brewed German kölsch, Belgian tripels, Bavarian dunkelweizen, English strong ale, and many other European styles.  When it came to American styles, I was rather intimidated by the hop heads and beer buffs of the craft brewing world I returned to find.  It wasn’t until I went to work as a brewer for Milwaukee Brewing Company that I began to dive deeper into the American craft beer world.
It’s no secret that the American craft beer industry has seen an enormous growth in the last few years. American craft brewers make some of the best beer in the world. The Brewers Association — the non-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and 
protecting American small- and independent craft brewers — reported record exports of American craft beer in 2012, which totaled more than 189,000 barrels of beer valued at an estimated $94.5 million. American tastes change rapidly, constantly driving craft brewers to create “the next big thing.”

shutterstock_31203151-(1)The Next Best Thing? 
It’s No Longer About the Shock Factor
The Brewers Association has defined more than 100 beer styles, and the public’s choices in the beer fridge prove nearly endless. It might, however, come as a surprise that the time for creating the next most bizarre recipe — such as oak-aged chili beer, coconut curry hefeweizen, or mustard ale — may very well be coming to a close. More and more brewers now focus on perfecting traditional, 
balanced styles found all over the globe, as evidenced at this year’s World Beer Cup Awards in Denver, Colorado, in February.

2014 World Beer Cup Awards
The 2014 World Beer Cup Awards is presented by The Brewers Association and showcases global passion for brewing. Proudly boasting the highest number of entries ever, this year’s World Beer Cup received 4,754 entries from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries. Brewers from five continents competed to earn gold, silver, or bronze in each of the 94 beer style categories.  Some of the styles judged included Wheat, Rye, Fruit, Experimental, Indigenous, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout, Coffee Beer, Smoke Beer, Bohemian-Style Pilsner, Baltic-Style Porter, and 
Ordinary or Special Bitter.
Selected from the leaders of the craft beer industry and brewers from around the world, 219 judges from 31 countries conducted blind tasting evaluations of the entries and determined the award winners.  Seventy-six percent of the judges came from outside the United States.

“Many countries that you wouldn’t think have emerging beer cultures, or very established ones, use this as an opportunity to flex their brewing muscles,” said Julia Herz, Brewers Association Craft Beer Program Director and Publisher of  At least one Japanese brewery aimed to prove it could produce a Belgium beer, for example.

Along with the three medals in each of the 94 categories, the competition also bestows Champion Brewery and Champion 
Brewmaster awards in each of five brewery categories based on number of awards won by each brewery. “The Champion Brewery and Brewer award is a coveted takeaway from the World Beer Cup Awards,” said Herz.

The five Champion Brewery 2014 award winners this year were:
Pelican Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon
Coronado Brewing Company in Coronado, California
Coors Brewing Company in Golden, Colorado
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Media, Pennsylvania
Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant in Topeka, Kansas
Coronado Brewing Company and Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant are first-time champion breweries in their categories.  Overall, this was a very diverse group of competitors with a shared commitment to crafting traditional, balanced beers.
Alex-VillasusoSo, my fellow brew enthusiasts, the next time you belly up to the bar to “study” a bit of  “psychology,” why not ask the tender to pour up some World Beer Cup contenders — and judge for yourself.

Alex Villasuso is a law professional in Chicago by day and a beer aficionado by night. South Florida 
Opulence welcomes Alex as our newest contributing columnist. Be sure to check out the next issue for the latest in craft beer trends.

The Best of Craft Beer