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A Bronze Medal In Beer Writing…

Combine my recent foray into regular online posting, a full-time job, and a recent two-week vacation to Japan and you end up with the first posts in over a month. I use this site primarily as a place for previously published articles and as a medium for shorter pieces that don’t make it into print. Along these lines, I hope to have a few articles published here on the beer-related Japan adventures, of which there were a very memorable few. Suffice it to say, Yo-Ho Brewing and the Baird Brewery pretty much sustained me while traveling.

While away I received an unusual critique of a recent article I wrote. Some readers may know that I write the monthly ‘Defending Beer’ column in Beer Advocate Magazine. I use the column as a way to offer critical thoughts on the industry that I believe we don’t see enough of in beer writing. The column has generated some positive and a lot of less-than-glowing responses. Of the price creep article, one retailer wondered whether I even lived in the real world.

I recently wrote an article on judging beer and how consumers can critically view the myriad awards brewers tout on their bottles and six-packs. Putting aside the content (pick up the May 2007 issue of Beer Advocate Magazine or see the article to be posted here in a month or two), I briefly focused on one particular private tasting group, excerpted here:

Consumers also need to be discerning about contests sponsored by private organizations. Of these events, perhaps the best known is the World Beer Championships run by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago. BTI’s medal-based competition is run a bit differently from other events, with less weight placed on style adherence and more on a brewer’s creativity within a certain category. In a laudable twist, the institute’s respectable panel of judges tastes products throughout the year instead of packing all beer judging into less than a week of sessions.

The way an organization awards medals can also be a telling aspect of how consumers should value the honor when choosing a beer. The BTI contest employs the familiar 100-point scale to score beers and awards platinum (96-100), gold (90-95), silver (86-89), and bronze medals (80-84). Beers that fall below 80 points receive a ‘not recommended’ finding. Of the 1650 beers in BTI’s database, only 53 have been rated below 80 points and would fail to snag at least a bronze medal. The BTI event reminds me of a little of a correspondence school where you mail a check for fifty bucks and they send you back a medical degree.

So upon my return from Japan, I received a package from BTI in the mail. The contents revealed a letter from Jerald O’Kennard, Director of BTI and the World Beer Championships. In the letter, O’Kennard congratulated me on my article and announced that BTI had awarded me a bronze medal for my “bronzy efforts in journalism.” I’ve attached a photo of my award. O’Kennard assured me “an invoice for $50 will be sent to you shortly.” Kudos to the folks at BTI for having a sense of humor in letting me know they hated my column.

BTI Bronze Medal

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