Records from four beer competitions were the starting point for this feature.
(Brewing Industry International Awards), founded in 1886, is held biannually in Burton on Trent, England (this year also in London).
Criteria: “the commercial worth of the beer quality”
In 2004—23 categories, 69 medals awarded
822 entries from 299 breweries in 48 countries
(World Beer Cup), founded in 1996, is held biannually in the United States.
Criteria: “beer that accurately exemplified the specified style”
In 2004—81 categories, 231 medals awarded
1566 entries from 393 breweries in 40 countries
(Australian International Brewing Awards), founded in 1993, is held annually in Australia.
Criteria: combination of technical characteristics and appropriateness for class
In 2004—39 categories, 39 best-in-class
720 entries from >100 breweries in 23 countries
(Great American Beer Festival judging), founded in 1987, is held annually in Denver, CO.
Criteria: “…beers that best represent each beer-style category”
In 2003—65 categories, 191 medals
2005 entries from 393 breweries, U.S.A. only
The three international competitions are acknowledged to be the most comprehensive. They are open to any commercial brewer. BIIA and AIBA judges are working professional brewers; the WBC judges are drawn from a wider, including brewers, writers, consultants, and other acknowledged experts. The same is true of the judges for the fourth competition, the GABF awards, the nation’s largest competition, but one that is open only to U.S. breweries.
This medal search for this feature included 3,515 medals awarded at 35 events:
532 medals awarded by BIIA in 9 competitions, 1988-2004
921 medals awarded by WBC in 5 competitions, 1996-2004
107 medals awarded by AIBA in 4 competitions, 2001-2004
1,955 medals awarded by GABF in 17 competitions, 1987-2003
In 2003-4, there was roughly one medal awarded for every ten beers entered in competition. In the 35 events altogether, a reasonable estimate for total numbers of entries judged is 35,000.