San Diego Hosts ‘Olympics of Beer’

San Diego breweries will face off against international brewers in the global competition

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In case you didn’t know, San Diego is home to some of the world’s best beer. So it makes sense that America’s Finest City is playing host to World Beer Cup 2012 next week, where hundreds of beer tourists will be in town to sample some of the world’s finest.

The Brewers Association, described as “a passionate voice for craft brewing” organizes the prestigious global competition.

It’s known in the beer community as the “Olympics of beer competitions.”

Every two years a professional panel of beer judges honors the top three beers in 90 beer style categories with gold, silver and bronze awards.

Brewers from across the globe have sent their best concoctions to San Diego this year in hopes of taking home the gold. More than 200 judges from 29 different countries will be at the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley from May 1-5 to taste some of the world’s best brews.

This year there are roughly 4,000 entries, according to Julia Herz, the craft beer program Director at the Brewers Association. She said a “tremendous” amount of the breweries competing are from outside the U.S.

“That is the unique aspect about it,” she said. “It’s the Old World established beer companies versus the New World brewers.”

Critics will taste various beers during a three-day double-blind tasting event leading up the winning ceremony on May 5.

“Judges will be sitting at the table talking until the beer arrives,” said Herz. “But then it goes quiet. It is true silence until each judge has evaluated the beer.”

From there, they discuss the beers at length and make the winning selections.

It’s not easy getting to sip some of the world’s finest suds. Judges have to be educated in beer and brewing styles, and there is always a waiting list to participate in the panel. Herz said she thinks this is one of the most difficult judge selection processes in the business.

The judges are also responsible for choosing the host city for the World Beer Cup. Turns out, they’re fans of America’s Finest City.

“The judges again and again request San Diego,” said Herz. “The come already knowing, in advance, that San Diego is a beer town … It’s an extremely popular craft beer city.”

San Diego-area breweries racked up 12 awards in 2010. The competition was fierce, as San Diego competed against breweries from across the globe – including Japan, Germany, Sweden and Italy.

A local favorite, Ballast Point Brewing Company, was a powerhouse in the event and won multiple awards. Not only did it win three gold medals, but it was selected as the Champion Brewery in the small brewery category.

Yuseff Cherney, head brewer at Ballast Point, is happy he won’t have to travel far for this year’s World Beer Cup.

“San Diego has this reputation of making really kick ass beer,” he said. “To drive beer tourism to San Diego is just awesome.”

Ballast Point has proudly displayed its awards the last couple years. Cherney said when Ballast Point faces off in various competitions that they place their World Beer Cup trophy where people can see it.

“It’s the most prestigious award a brewer can garner,” he said. “It lends that much more credibility to what you’ve done. To have your peers recognize you as one of the best, shows you’ve been doing stuff right all along.”

Since Ballast Point won in 2010, their company has doubled its distribution. Last time Cherney and co. were in the small brewery category and this year they’re in the midsized beer categories, facing off against popular breweries such as Firestone Brewing Co.

Cherney is confident, yet humble for the upcoming contest.

“People are making really good beer these days,” he said. “We know people are making great beers out there and we’re even competing against friends in the area.”

While the World Beer Cup isn’t open to the public, San Diegans can rest easy knowing that they can easily sample some of the world’s best beers in their own backyard.

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