COVID-19 travel restrictions have prompted Australian Bill Taylor to stand aside as chairman of judging for the UK-based International Brewing and Cider Awards – a position he’s held since 2011.

The former Lion Nathan chief brewer (pictured front centre) was due to preside over the 2021 competition but travel restrictions between Australia and the UK made it logistically impossible. In turn, he’s taken the opportunity to pass the reins on for good, in the interest of “fresh ideas” and change.

He has now been replaced by Canadian Rob McCaig, who most recently was chief brewer at SABMiller/Asahi Breweries Europe and is a former judge at the International Brewing and Cider Awards.

Speaking with Beer & Brewer, Bill said the Awards tend to rotate judges once they had adjudicated at three competitions, so there was a blend of experience and innovation, and he felt “the same practice ought to apply to the chairman of judging too”.

“Change, and bringing in fresh ideas, is a good thing. When I started in 2011 I was more or less tasked with rejuvenating the Awards, giving it an international perspective. And at the end of 10 years, it’s a nice round number. I think I’ve done my bit and it’s time to let the Awards grow and develop.

“I can’t get there this year, so it’s happened a year sooner than we would have preferred… but I’ll still be online and on call as the upcoming Awards are happening to help with the changeover.”

Looking back at his 10 year stewardship of an Awards that have been around since 1888, Bill said his time, where he introduced several new innovations around the judging process, for example, was just part of the event’s “wonderful history” that has reflected “wars, politics, changes in duty, availability of ingredients and so on”.

As well as leading the international judging panels for 10 years, he was instrumental in returning the event to its historical home in Burton-upon-Trent in 2011 after the awards were moved briefly to Munich in 2005, followed by a short hiatus.

“Many times I’ve heard brewers give feedback about the sheer value and reverence they place on the competition, because they respect being judged by such a quality group of peers and their ability to judge innovative products… I’d like to think that’s what I’ve helped nurture.”

Director of the Awards Ruth Evans said: “We’d like to thank Bill Taylor for his hard work and dedication to our awards for the last decade. Under his leadership, the awards have become synonymous with the best of the brewing industry. Leading our judging panels of some of the foremost brewers from across the globe to achieve consensus on the diversity of entries was challenging. Bill has taken on this task with enthusiasm and passion”.

The entry deadline for the 2021 Awards has been extended and now closes on October 18 while the competition takes place from November 16 – 18. Winners are announced on November 19 ahead of a planned Awards ceremony on April 6 next year.

For this year’s competition, new zero alcohol categories have been introduced to reflect key trends that have emerged in the beer markets since the last event. Because legislation on the alcohol levels permitted in non-alcoholic beers differ across countries and regions there will be three categories in this class: Zero Alcohol (ABV 0.0-0.05%), Ultra Low Alcohol (ABV 0.06-1.1%) and Low Alcohol (ABV 1.2-2.8%).

With the Awards held every two years, the 2019 competition saw Canberra’s BentSpoke Brewing win gold and silver medals for their Barley Griffin Pale Ale and Crankshaft IPA respectively while Barley Griffin won the Champion International Small Pack Ale Trophy.

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