“If there’s been any opportunity to share my knowledge, where I’ve felt I can have a knock-on effect for the good of the industry, so that it is healthy and that quality is paramount, I’ve taken it.”

Amidst a 34-year career in beer, where she has selflessly given so much time, talent and energy to the betterment of the industry, commendations about Tina Panoutsos come easily from her peers and they come with reverence.

From her support of the entire beer category, including from a sensory education and evaluation point of view as one of the world’s best palates right through to her mentorship and care for a growing legion of women in the industry, she is held in the very highest regard.

But perhaps, as one of our judges so succinctly put it, her legacy, and one that she only builds upon to this day, is that “the quality of beer is better in this country for having had Tina a part of the industry”.

Tina has never wanted people to settle for beer that is just OK. But rather, and leading from the front with her considerable knowledge and hands-on experience in tow, she endeavoured, and has succeeded, to help raise the stakes so Australian beer – from both the big end of town, right down to the smallest nook – is striving for a product that is of a consistently world-class standard. And as the major Australian beer awards that she continues to lend her nous to attest, we now see records tumbling for the proportion that snare medals and are free of discernible faults.

“I just want to see that next generation come through with fewer hurdles,” Tina said. “The odds are stacked against us in this industry. Evolving trends and economic factors are influencing not only consumer engagement with the category but interest in having a career in it. While there is still some way to go, it’s encouraging to see more diversity represented which I’d like to believe will open up opportunities to think differently about beer.

“I’ve always wanted to reinforce that beer is not this homogenous liquid that we gulp down on specific occasions, and help to shift the mindset around how we consume beer, when we consume it and culturally how we can lift the profile of beer.

“If there’s been any opportunity to share my knowledge, where I’ve felt I can have a knock-on effect for the good of the industry, so that it is healthy and that quality is paramount, I’ve taken it.”

After graduating Victoria University with a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Graduate Diploma in Education, her life in beer began on October 23, 1989 when she started in a role at Carlton & United as one of their quality assurance chemists. It’s where she remains to this day albeit now ultimately working for Asahi and in a multi-faceted role as their Senior Manager of Drinks Knowledge where she’s charged, among many things, with creating and maintaining an immersive beer culture.

Despite enjoying the lab work of her first job, Tina’s many strengths would before long lead her down the sensory, evaluation and education path with CUB where she formalised and implemented their tasting and training processes into a national sensory program across all the company’s brewing sites. A few years later she would develop and roll out the World of Beer education program for non-technical employees and would take on the position as CUB’s brewing science manager. She has held multiple different roles with CUB since, with a focus on sensory, innovation, education and more recently developing product knowledge within the commercial space.

“It has to be 27 years since I implemented CUB’s national sensory program and to this day I see the impact of that program,” she added. “I’ve not written the holy grail, but it’s been a valuable resource that has supported sensory leads and breweries to implement practices that ultimately result in quality beer.

“Sharing that knowledge along the way has supported a focus on improving the abilities of tasters and judges to be considered second-to-none globally in identifying faults and differentiating good from bad.”

Picking good beers has been another huge component of Tina’s career, where she has taken so much of what her CUB roles entailed and brought them to the judging table at Australia’s and the world’s leading beer awards. It’s been where her influence and expertise has been perhaps most keenly felt by the industry at large.

“Back when I was judging at my first major Australian beer awards (in 2007) my dad couldn’t understand how judging beer was a thing. He said ‘don’t we just drink beer?’. That was a realisation for me to say ‘hang on, the average person doesn’t understand what beer is, they just see this product as something you have at a social occasion’. But I always felt that beer had a place and is as important as any other judgeable product.

“I felt I needed to help address the gap and find a way to show that the industry is more than just the raw ingredients and the brewing, but that there are so many components to it.

“But sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough to help celebrate the category of beer and there is still so much to be done.”

Tina is the embodiment of what it means to win a lifetime achievement award. Another of our judges summed it up best: “For everything she’s given to us, the least we can do for her is to recognise her achievements”.

What the judges said:

“Her role as head judge for Australia’s two most recognised beer competitions, the AIBAs and The Indies, reflects her expertise and influence in the field. Beyond her impressive career, Tina is kind, patient and a guiding light for younger women in the industry, someone we truly look up to. Her contributions have not only advanced her career but have also broken gender barriers, making her a true beer connoisseur.”

“Tina is a legend who has been selflessly teaching, mentoring and leading current and future generations of brewers, Cicerones, beer stewards and afficionados alike. She was described by the World Beer Cup organisers as ‘one of the top 10 palates in the world’. Tina is the only person I can think of who also belongs on this list.”

“Tina’s love for beer is easily surmounted by her love of people. She puts others first, offering listening ears, great banter, thoughtful advice and genuine friendship. To achieve so much in the beer industry is of course impressive, but to do so while devoting the time and energy to help elevate so many others alongside her, is truly inspirational.”

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You can view all of our 2023 Awards coverage here.

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