In what is both an act of honesty but raises an eyebrow on the judging process that takes place at festivals around the country, a brewery has returned a medal awarded last month. Earlier today Jason Yester of the TRiNiTY Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs, CO, returned the silver medal his brewery won at the recent Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB).
The reason, Yester said in an email to the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild (which organizes the festival) and was forwarded to All About Beer Magazine, was because the ale the brewery said it entered into the Wild/Brett category, Easy Swinger, was not actually a different beer and one that did not contain Brettanomyces.
“We unfortunately shipped the wrong beer and shipped our Lacto/Sach interpretation from that series which was named ‘Swing Se Pliser.’ The Lacto only version won a silver medal in the wild/brett category, and I’m 100% positive there is no Brett in that single batch…. I’d even be willing to plate it microbially,” Yester wrote to the competition organizers, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.
“I’m at a real crossroads….,” he continued in the email sent on November 25, “although ‘Swing Pliser’ is beautiful beer, I feel that winning an award for Wild/Brett with an all Lacto beer not only compromises the educational intent behind our Swingline project (and the 20 months of planning to develop the project), but I also feel like I didn’t earn this medal as it was our ‘screw up’ on our part for shipping the wrong beer. That guilt is what has led to authoring this email.”
The 12th annual FoBAB was held in Chicago on Nov. 14 and 15 and according to its website featured more than 90 breweries pouring more than 300 beers.
According to a press release from FoBAB in the Wild Beer/ Brett category Off Color Brewing Company of Chicago took gold for its American Wild Ale Papillon and Oakshire Brewing Co. of Eugene, OR, was awarded bronze for Hermanne 1882, a Belgian golden ale and matured with Brettanomyces in a Anne Amie Pinot Noir Barrel.
Yester said that the beer that was judged was part of the brewery’s 6th anniversary release, where it created six different interpretation of an India Pale Ale, and had hoped to show the difference between Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus.
“Basically that brett is nearly exclusively funky and Lacto is definitely exclusively acidic,” he wrote.
In his letter to the Illinois Brewers Guild, Yester said he believed that “a judging panel who can not distinguish the differences between brett and lacto will compromise the touted reputation of the fest. … I do feel returning the medal would be the correct decision for my conscious.”
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild released the following statement in response to Yester’s communication and the festival’s judging process.
The Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers was created in 2003 as a way to recognize those in our community making exceptional wood-aged beers. Quality, integrity and credibility are our top priorities. Of course we regret any errors, but mistakes can and do happen. Beyond this, thirty-four awards were given out that day to beers that exemplify what FoBAB is all about.
All of us brewers strive for perfection. Like the industry itself, this is a relatively new and rapidly growing competition. We continually strive to improve and perfect the process, and welcome constructive input along the way. We stand by the winning selections of our judges and congratulate them once again.
—Illinois Craft Brewers Guild
John Holl is the editor of All About Beer Magazine.