When 115 brewers, beer sommeliers and acknowledged beer experts from 27 countries gather at the Doemens Academy in Gräfelfing near Munich, then it must be time for one of the most important beer competitions in the world: the European Beer Star, initiated by Privaten Brauereien Deutschlands (German private breweries association).
On 8 and 9 October 2015, the blind tasting was held for no less than the twelfth time. Featuring 1,957 beers from 45 countries, the competition once again broke new records. For two days the students of the Doemens Academy vacated their classrooms and – instead of devoting themselves to their studies – they lugged beer crates around, washed glasses and poured out beer samples. The logistics behind the process were sensational, because for each type of beer submitted the breweries had to send in ten bottles to the beer academy for tasting. Since mid-September the students had logged, categorised and prepared 20,000 bottles for tasting.
For two whole days the members of the jury did their best to pin down their favourites from 55 categories of beer. They tested the beers in the same way as consumers would: In addition to the taste, they cast a critical eye on features like the look, colour, head and aroma, the very same factors that would determine the verdict of beer drinkers in a beer garden or pub. In the European Beer Star competition, the focus is on the sensory experience and drinking pleasure. And that’s exactly what makes the European Beer Star a very special, consumer-friendly contest.
Diverse origins of beer and Jurors
A look at the jury shows that there are genuine beer lovers at work: From beer enthusiasts to specialist beer journalists and professional beer tasters like Oliver Wesseloh – brewer and world champion beer sommelier 2013/14 – all possible segments of the profession are represented when it comes to tasting a wide range of beer styles and awarding a gold, silver or bronze medal as per the Olympic model.
The jury member with the longest journey is definitely Marcus Cox, whose trip from Australia to Gräfelfing took a total of 28 hours. He’s the first and only jury member from the Australian continent who has ever taken part in the European Beer Star Award as a taster, and this is something he’s very proud of. This is also the first time in his life that he’s ever travelled to Germany and Bavaria in particular. In Brunswick, Melbourne, he heads a mid-sized brewery with a staff of 15 and produces more than half a million litres of beer a year. In 2014 and 2015 he won the “Australian International Beer Award.”
One of the youngest tasters, who is nevertheless taking part in the jury of the European Beer Star Award for the seventh time, is 29-year-old Hans-Günter Wirth from Neuhaus/Aisch. He is a master brewer, beer sommelier and hotel manager who is working in the tenth generation at his family’s brewery and hotel, which was established in 1747. He’s proud to be able taste the best beers in the world in such select company, and he especially enjoys the dialogue with international beer experts.
Naturally, the jury would not be complete without the input of female beer fans like Mareike Hasenbeck. A journalist by profession and publisher of the craft beer blog Feiner Hopfen (fine hops) , she is part of the 115-strong jury for the first time this year. Mareike Hasenbeck is very proud to be part of this select international group, because as she says: “You have to have a certain beer expertise, have tried a lot of beers and above all be familiar with different styles of beer in order to have a say here.”
Awards ceremony during BrauBeviale trade fair
The highlight of the European Beer Star Award was at the BrauBeviale, which took place from 10 to 12 November 2015 in Nuremberg. Every visitor to the fair also got an opportunity to demonstrate their own expertise in beer tasting: On 10 November, the consumer’s favourite, an extra prize decided by consumers, was chosen from among the gold award beers in each category. There were also various tasting zones in Craft Beer Corner. On 11 November a presentation ceremony was held for the winners of the European Beer Star Award.