Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beer Awards: What’s Your Opinion

Two major awards were released recently celebrating BC Brewers. These awards were people’s choice awards that operated by voting. One such award (CAMRA BC) had a technical error that allowed the same voters to vote multiple times if they deleted their cookies. Another award (North West Brewing News) was simply an online poll. Recently a brewery in British Columbia utilized the nature of these awards to their benefit by 1. Having people vote multiple times for them in the first contest, and 2. gathering a large network of supporters to vote for them in the latter.

The first tactic is ethically dubious, while the second is not. But, in my mind this underlies a fundamental flaw in beer awards generally. Namely:

1. Awards should not be popularity contests

Who cares if a brewery mustered the largest number of people to click for it in some poll? What does that tell you about the beer other than 1. it may be popular, or 2. It’s more aggressive at getting supporters to vote for it. Personally, I could care less about either.

2. Awards are too frequently marketing initiatives

Do we really need more marketing mechanisms? I don’t need to be marketed to via awards. Wine awards already do this and are, accordingly, meaningless and completely ignored by anyone who has any knowledge about wine. Should beer awards be the same? Shouldn’t effective beer awards have some sort of standards, some set of criteria, and a panel of experts to judge them? Otherwise, what’s the point? I’m all for trusting your own palate and drinking what you like, but I don’t see the need for a populist award if that is the case. I do appreciate what those with experience have to say when strict standards are adhered to, as even if I disagree with the results I can at least respect the process. Otherwise, awards are doomed to irrelevance.

What’s your opinion?


  1. Polling (and in a broader sense statistics) is not simple. Ask any Floridian! There are many beer awards that are judged by expert panels. However, these 2 particular awards were open to public voting. Whenever you have a public opinion poll, you run into all kinds of questions about what the results REALLY mean (if anything). Does that mean we should get rid of public opinion polls altogether? Is the opinion of a panel of "experts" always better than a sampling of the population as a whole? I'm not sure I agree with your post entirely. Yes, public opinion polls lead to some questionable results, and results should always be taken with large doses of salt... but that doesn't mean they aren't useful or interesting! As the saying goes, "it is what it is."

  2. I don't think it really matters. I rarely take notice if a beer has one some award or not. My non-beer geek friends most likely will have not heard about the CAMRA awards anyways. A news blurb about some brewery award may entice people to try a new product. But if the beer tastes like garbage, they will not try it again. Breweries are good because of quality and variety, not popularity contests.

  3. Just saw these comments now. I agree Flavius - they probably aren't relevant, yet... But, look at beer advocate and rate beer ratings. Those are influential and important. Food for thought.