Will Entering Beer Contests Help Your Brewery in Any Way?

​Last week we dug into the way that judging at the Oregon Beer Awards is recorded for ​entrants to use to hear a full summary of the hows and whys their beers advanced or didn’t make the mark in a competition.

The need for recognition in the form of beer judging contest awards is debatable, but Tom Cook of Von Ebert Brewing in Portland explained as an owner why he liked the feedback that the brewery got from entering contests.

​”We get some fabulous feedback from the beer competitions​,” he said in a recent interview, discussing the switch from being a Fat Head’s Brewery franchise to its own brewpub with a new brew staff.​​ “From a judging feedback perspective​, they’ve been really invaluable. All the beer​s​ that we’ve made, have been very new. And so as you make the first batch of something, there’s always things you want to tweak​. The judging has helped us confirm, or have​ a different opinion about some of the tweaks that we have made.

​”​I think that that feedback and criticism is really important for brewers to sit down and analyze and​ ​really get into what the judges are trying to say.”​

​Hi-Wire co-founder Chris Frosaker said that the Asheville brewery takes​ all feedback seriously and uses it along with all other market feedback to help guide decision making.

​”​For us, the best feedback is how true to style the beer is, and overall flavor​,” he said.​ “At the end of the day, the beer needs to taste excellent.​”​

​On the flip side, Cincinnati’s Urban Artifact and its Director of Brewing Operations, ​Bret Kollmann Baker, said that judging feedback for them is ‘largely worthless.’

“It’s generally all terrible,” he said. “The amount of ‘judges’ that judge on personal preference and overall adherence to the style guidelines is disgusting.

“For the price these competitions cost, the amount of low-quality feedback and judging is staggering. I will not — in its current state — ever, ever, ever, rely on some judge who has no idea what we are doing to allow them to have an impact on our brewing decisions. … The data points alone are not significant enough.”

Strangely enough, Kollmann Baker said Untappd is not a bad way to garner feedback. “Individuals on Untappd are the worst,” he said. “But if you notice a trend across a large swath of people on Untappd then you know something is going on, for good or for bad.

“Really, Untappd is largely garbage, but at least they don’t pretend to be judging based on a rubric that they may or may not follow.”

Photo Courtesy Oregon Beer Awards

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