Taking It Up a Notch
The professional tasting panel began in 1988. By then, the list had grown to include 144 beers from 69 brewers. For the first time, medals were awarded, in the style of the Olympic games, with gold, silver and bronze winners recognized in each of the 23 styles judged.
At that time, it was customary for most wine and beer medals to be awarded very freely, as were those of the 1989 Brussels Institute International pour le Selections de la Qualite. The Institute’s “Monde Selection” (world choice) committee considered 213 beers from 97 breweries around the world. The committee then awarded 22 gold medals with palms (10.3 percent), 168 gold medals (78.9 percent) and 19 silver medals (8.9 percent). Only four beers were awarded bronze. In total, 89 percent of the awards given were gold. Almost every entry was a winner―and I’m sure that the entry fee for each was a hefty one.
I continued sampling every beer I had not already tasted through the ninth GABF (’90), but I skipped the next two festivals. When I came back to the 1993 GABF, tasting every single beer was an impossibility, even for an inebriate such as I. The judging was more complicated, too; we 43 judges evaluated 32 different styles to award medals.
That year there were 630 beers from 136 brewers, and it was during this festival that I switched from careful evaluation to “surfing.” Surfing is a lot more fun, and one needn’t keep careful notes. Sometimes now I just wander around leaping at this or that beer―whatever tickles my fancy. At other times, I surf a particular geographic area of the country, or a particular style (such as IPAs or Imperial Stouts).