The USA’s Most Important Beer Competition

19/09/2018 In just its first year, the USA Beer Ratings in San Francisco has emerged as the USA’s most important beer competition.

Unlike other beer competitions, the USA Beer Ratings event takes a consumer-centric view of how to assess and evaluate beers. And that unique judging process leads to awarding and recognizing high-quality beers that perform well across three very different criteria – Quality, Value, and Packaging.

The three judging criteria of the USA Beer Ratings event

Quality, of course, is central to how anyone evaluates a beer. However, Quality refers to more than just the flavor and aroma profile of the beer – it also refers to the brewing technique and level of skill and sophistication needed to create a truly world-class beer.

When evaluating Quality, the judges of the USA Beer Ratings event take into account the way a consumer or beer drinker would evaluate what’s inside the bottle. And, in order to do this, they must ask themselves two very basic questions: “Would you pour yourself a second glass of the beer?” and “How will this beer taste to the average consumer?”

The second major factor, Value, is also very important in today’s beer marketplace. After all, consumers first and foremost want to believe that they are getting value when they purchase a beer in a liquor store or when they order a beer from a restaurant. Value does not always imply the most affordable price, either. Think about craft brews that you see on retail shelves – there will always be a group of beers clustered around the same price on a per bottle or per pack basis, and then outliers that are obviously more expensive or more affordable. Do consumers feel they are getting extra value for the extra price they are paying?

Judging Beers at USA Beer Ratings

In order to make a determination of value, the judges at the USA Beer Ratings event first complete a blind tasting of all beers in competition. Then, they are shown the suggested retail price of this beer. Based on their understanding of the different types of beer in the marketplace, as well as their intuitive sense of what consumers will be willing to pay, these judges are then able to make a determination of Value.

Finally, the third major factor used to evaluate beers in competition, Packaging, refers to the overall look and appearance of the beer. This is about more than just the appearance of the liquid inside the bottle – it is also about the label, the shape of the bottle, and the packaging of the beer. How does it look on a retail shelf or in the back bar? Is there a unique brand behind this beer, and how well does this brand match up with what’s inside the bottle?

By answering these two questions, judges at the USA Beer Ratings event are able to assess overall Packaging. Since the event is based on a completely consumer-centric view of beers, the emphasis is on rewarding and recognizing beers that appeal to a specific customer demographic.

A world-class judging panel on the front lines of buying and selling beer

Another reason why the USA Beer Ratings event has become the USA’s most important beer competition is the high-profile nature of the judging panel. Judges are selected who are on the front lines of buying and selling beer. They have a customer-facing responsibility and are particularly well suited to evaluating the commercial viability of a specific beer.

For example, some of the judges on the judging panel work as Beverage Directors at high-profile on-premise establishments, such as bars, restaurants, cocktail lounges and hospitality venues. By nature of this very role, they are particularly able to assess and evaluate how well a particular beer might perform in a similar type of venue. They understand customer tastes and preferences, as well as the overall direction of the marketplace.

In other words, the judges of the USA Beer Ratings event are particularly good at sorting the “Winners” from the “Losers.” They have practical, on-the-ground experience that helps them spot the commercially viable beers in the marketplace. This is very important at a time when beer SKUs are on the rise, and the variety and depth of selection is simply unprecedented.

Thus, the USA Beer Ratings event plays a very important role – in addition to providing a signal of quality to the end consumer in terms of medals and prizes awarded, it also provides a signal of quality to suppliers, distributors, importers, and retailers. An award from the USA Beer Ratings event is proof of commercial viability, and a signal to buy.

USA Beer Ratings and Monkless Belgian Ales

To see how all three of these criteria – Quality, Value, and Packaging – work together to find the real winners in the marketplace, look no further than the 2018 “Beer of the Year” at the USA Beer Ratings, which was awarded to Monkless Belgian Ales. This is a craft brewery in Oregon that is renowned for its brewing expertise. In addition to other awards and medals, this brewery has won in other competitions, it also won “Brewery of the Year” at the USA Beer Ratings event. Thus, the Quality of the products submitted to the competition is clear.

Monkless Belgian Ales

But Monkless Belgian Ales also offered something that other beers do not – a compelling brand proposition that attracts customers. Every aspect of the branding and packaging of these beers helps to connect customers to the Belgian tradition of brewing beers in monasteries. And the name “Monkless” helps to update that tradition to the modern, artisanal age while also appealing to younger millennial drinkers.

This is a great example of a high-quality beer that is ready for greater exposure in the commercial marketplace. It is also a beer that the USA Beer Ratings event is proud to promote as adhering to its overarching mission statement of helping to find and recognize the best beers in the world. There are a lot of different beer competitions out there, but the one truly international beer competition that attracts the best brewers and the most accomplished judges is the USA Beer Ratings event.

About Beverage Trade Network

Beverage Trade Network LogoBeverage Trade Network (BTN) is a global media and B2B networking platform servicing suppliers, buyers and beverage professionals in the global beverage industry. BTN also owns BevRoute, a magazine for importers and distributors, and runs a lineup of trade shows around the world, including the USA Trade Tasting in New York, IBWSS UK in London, IBWSS USA in San Francisco, and the ABID Conference in the U.S. Beverage Trade Network also owns and runs the London Wine Competition, London Beer Competition and London Spirits Competition.

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