What makes an international beer competition truly global? Lotte Peplow, Brewers Association American Craft Beer Ambassador for Europe looks at the latest World Beer Cup.

There are many international beer competitions around the globe today all purporting to find the best beers in the world. This is a bold claim to make if the competition itself does not attract a truly international list of entries or is not judged by an international jury with eclectic palates and different perspectives.    

The World Beer Cup, organised by the Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association representing small and independent American craft breweries, which took place last week in Las Vegas, is one such competition that stands apart as a genuinely global contest. Its goal is to identify up to three world class beers that best represent each beer style category according to the Brewers Association style guidelines and is one competition that brewers the world over want to win. New styles may be added (or deleted) from the guidelines according to relevance and this year, West Coast IPAs and pastry stouts were new additions. Last month’s World Beer Cup was the first year they were judged.

At this year’s awards, dedicated gluten-free brewery, TwØBays Brewing Co. in Dromana, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, won gold in the Gluten-Free category for its Session Pale Ale. This marks only the fifth time an Australian brewery has achieved such a high accolade at the prestigious World Beer Cup.

Richard Jeffares, Owner, explains the significance of winning at the World Beer Cup.

“We wanted to benchmark our beers against leading gluten-free beers in the USA and other countries, so the fact that our beer stacks up against the rest of the world is massive for us. All brewers know how hard it is to win at the World Beer Cup and it is the one competition they all want success in. Winning gold removes any doubts about the beer’s quality and provides a huge lift for the team.

“Since winning we’ve had great feedback from brewers throughout the world, from our customers on social media and additional orders from bottle shops and other venues.  We didn’t go into the competition for commercial success but being crowned best in the world for gluten-free beer is going to be very powerful for us.”

Let’s examine the facts….

  • The World Beer Cup is the biggest and therefore the most competitive beer competition in the world attracting 9,300 entries from 2,060 breweries across 50 countries, 25 per cent of which were international breweries in the 2024 iteration.  
  • There were 280 judges of whom 103 were from overseas spanning 37 countries.
  • Awards were judged in 110 categories, covering 172 beer styles (including all sub-categories) with the total number of possible awards at 330.
  • Judging took place over a period of seven days, four in the first phase in Colorado and three in the second phase in Las Vegas, with winners announced on the final night of the Craft Brewers Conference and Brew Expo America. 
  • The World Beer Cup started in 1996 and took place bi-annually until 2022 when it became annualised.

In 2024, the most entered styles were:

  • Juicy/Hazy India Pale Ale with 326 entries
  • West-Coast Style India Pale Ale with 281 entries
  • German-Style Pilsner with 221 entries
  • American-Style India Pale Ale with 213 entries
  • Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout with 198 entries

The World Beer Cup offers a unique benefit to overseas entries by providing a series of consolidation hubs throughout the world in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Netherlands, UK, Japan, and Mexico. The Brewers Association arranges for beers to be air-freighted from the consolidation hubs to the USA and covers the cost. A level playing field for all entries is provided, for example by judging more delicate beer styles that might degrade rapidly in the first phase of judging to ensure overseas entries are not disadvantaged. 

Winning breweries are free to use the World Beer Cup logo on their packaging and website to promote their success. 

For any brewery winning a medal at World Beer Cup is huge but for international entries from little known corners of the brewing world it is gargantuan. They may be competing with internationally or regionally focused styles and win success in unexpected categories. For example, in 2024 a brewery from Seoul, Korea won gold in the speciality Saison category, a Brazilian brewery won gold in contemporary Gose and old/strong ale styles and there were several gold medal winning beers from Japan.

Additional congratulations to Hop Nation Brewing Co in Melbourne, Victoria for winning bronze in the American-Style Amber/Red Ale.

Fortunately for American craft beer lovers around the world, many US winning craft breweries export overseas so look out for medal-winning American craft beers from Coronado Brewing Co, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co, Deschutes Brewery, Reuben’s Brews, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co and many more in Australia.

Next year’s World Beer Cup and Craft Brewers Conference will be held in Indianapolis, 28 April – 1 May 2025 with registrations opening in November 2024. 

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Lotte Peplow

Lotte Peplow is a Certified Cicerone, accredited Beer Sommelier, international beer judge and beer writer who conducts talks and tastings about American craft beer, organises events and is a keen advocate...

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