The Great American Beer Festival handed out bucketloads of medals once again this past weekend. But this year’s ceremony was also the official coming out party for Hazy IPAs and Pale Ales. This week, we asked the Fervent Few if they thought these medals mattered. Do they help a brewery achieve notoriety? Do they increase revenue? Are they just another footnote?
Caldwell Bishop: “I feel like this is a bit of a hot take, but for me, no, not really. I drink beers I like (usually based on personal recs, branding, description, past experience), and if that overlaps with medal winners, that’s great. If it doesn’t, I won’t be surprised. I’ve had medal winners that I can’t give away fast enough they’re so unpalatable for me—even when I love other beers in that category.”
Matt Paonessa: “As a brewer, accolades are always nice. But at the same time, a lot of GABF submissions are selected based on how competitive each category is. I don't think I'd ever submit an IPA, no matter how good I thought it was. As a consumer, I don't pay that much attention to other breweries' medals after being to breweries with a a couple medals under their belts but resoundingly mediocre beers on tap.”
Rob Cartwright: “I stopped paying attention to medals when Miller Lite started touting their World Beer Cup awards. But if I'm in a taproom and see something won an award—even if it's something obscure like the Best of Mayberry Cup—I am much more likely to order it.”
Steve Rimington: “GABF medals are not meaningful as so many brewers choose not to enter. If it were done independently and not based on submission it would hold more value to me.”
Dan Pixley: “No data to support, but I think it depends on the style. If it's NE IPA or a Pastry Stout category, then yes, it tends to move the needle and creates hype in the market for that beer/brewery. If it's anything else, then it's just pride/bragging rights.”
Rob Steuart: “If the style is really popular, then sure, prize-winning IPAs, or barrel-conditioned Stouts, for example. But if it is the best draught Lager, it's not going make it sell any more. Awards are all about meeting the style guidelines. I think consumers are now much more interested in drinkability and experience, and that is what’s driving their purchases rather than the number of gold stickers stuck to the bottle.”
Suzanne Schalow: “Most customers don’t know what GABF (or World Beer Cup) is, but the more we talk about it, the more familiar it becomes. Customers do look at packaging and they do notice medals on packaging, often times asking questions. Competitions show some subjectivity—not all enter, so we may not have a group of the actual best in a category. Judging is tough work, with its own challenges, like judges having more experience with styles, palate fatigue, etc. I believe the BA works hard to ensure they have the best judges from around the world at this competition, doing the work. There are lots of things to take into consideration, but the simple answer is YES, GABF medals do matter and they do help move the needle of amazing beer forward!”
Manny Gumina: “It matters for the brewer's intention. There's no reason for a brewery to enter a beer if they didn't intend to hit the style category. Read the guidelines, then make the beer, then enter it. Don't make the beer, then read the guidelines, then enter it. From a consumer perspective, style guidelines don't matter as long as we know if the brewery was trying to hit the competition target or their own target.”
What do you think? Are you more inclined to purchase a medal-winning beer? Do winning breweries get more of your money? Join the Fervent Few and let's talk about this—and honestly, just about anything else.