On Episode 31 of Life Behind Beer we talk about Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and why Iron Horse Brewery has traditionally strayed away from entering beer competitions. We discuss the pros and cons to entering a beer festival.
Jared: Typically Iron Horse has not submitted our products to judged competitions. Greg has always contended that in order to get an award you have to want to win an award. One of the things with the landscape changing, I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t do ourselves a bit of a favor by submitting our beers to these various juried competitions. I’m not sure about some of these smaller local ones but maybe some of the bigger national ones.
What would happen if we changed our position on that?
Jake: I think it would be great. With the market right now, a lot of people are doing a lot more research on craft beer because there’s just so much of it. There’s so many craft breweries opening up there’s just huge amounts … if you really want to get your name out there in a positive light one of the great ways to do that is to enter a competition. If you win a gold medal there then you’re not just a brewery that makes Irish Death. Now all of a sudden, you’ve got “Iron Horse won a gold medal for this” and you get that recognition from that side of the market.
Morgan: Do you think the other side could happen? What if you enter into these competitions and never win an award? Will people now look at your brewery and say they make Irish Death, and that’s good; they’ve tried to win other stuff but their beers always fall flat.
Paul: I don’t know how many people are really looking at who’s not winning beer awards out there. They don’t say, “Ok here are the winners and here’s the entire list of the losers.”
Wes: I think the real metric to look at is exposure because like Paul is saying if you enter and don’t win you’re not getting exposure but it’s not like you’re going to get recognized as the brewery that didn’t win at GABF because hundreds of breweries don’t win at GABF. There’s that balance of exposure versus risk. Whereas if you win not only do you have that award but I would say the most valuable aspect is the exposure you get as a brewery and for whatever product won that award. I’d say it’s a safe bet to enter and not worry what the damage could be.
Paul: One of the problems for us entering beers is historically our beers haven’t adhered to style guidelines that would have allowed us to compete. I don’t know if we’re moving away from that.
Jake: Yes, we just did a hazy IPA.
Paul: I guess the last year or two we’ve been making more beers that could be entered in competitions. Maybe that answers the question. Now that we’re making beers we can enter I don’t think it’s a bad idea to get out there and test the water and see how we stack up with other breweries.
Jake: A lot of them are not their normal brand. It’s something they specifically tailored for that style guideline. They specifically made this beer to submit to GABF.
Paul: Maybe going forward having our new brewhouse at the brewpub that’s going to be smaller we’ll be able to do more specialty batches like that.
Jared: Or we create a subsidiary called award winning brewery.
Wes: I also say maybe not adhering to the style guidelines exactly could benefit you in a lot of competitions. They won’t necessarily ban people from submitting things they’ll lump it to whatever style category it’s closest to.
Listen to more of the Life Behind Beer podcast episode here.
What do you think? Should IHB start submitting our beers to beer competitions? Do awards matter to you when choosing a beer?