Some companies use cheesy videos with horrible actors to train their employees. The military uses combat scenarios. Gold Coast Beverage Distributors, Inc. throws homebrewing competitions.
Last Thursday, the ever-faithful associates of Gold Coast Distributors assembled at America's Backyard for the fourth year to hold a private homebrewing competition against each other all while learning the ins and outs of craft brewing.
Twenty-six teams comprised the competition. They were made up of Gold Coast employees, client representatives, and this year for the first time, bar and restaurant operator/owners. Like any other homebrewing competition, guests and team members commingled, sampled beers and ate one another's food. The winner received an all-expenses-paid four-day trip to the Great American Beer Festival held from October 11-13 in Denver. Team Total Eclipse, which brewed a dark IPA, won the competition.
All of the teams at the event were finalists. They were tasked to brew beer, bottle it, design a label for it, build a beer stand, and pair food with their brew. Other than the grand prize for best beer, there were competitions for best label and best stand. The labels weren't required to be on the bottles, but still had to be submitted for judging. The level of creativity and originality that went into designing the labels and stands, not to mention the brewing process, compares to that of a commercial microbrewery.
Most contestants had prior experience in brewing beer, but some did not. The beer styles ranged from black IPAs to barrel-aged imperial stouts to English ales. Some home brew was professional-grade; others would make a better cooking ingredient, but all were drinkable (to some extent). Team were allowed to dress according to their beer style. For example, members from team Finer Miner Golden Ale all dressed as miners with brown overalls and yellow hard hats. Team Coco Mole dressed as Mexicans with sombreros.
Food pairings were an essential part of the contest. The food was all bite-sized and ranged from chocolate-covered bacon to fine meats and cheeses to fresh pineapple, pears and farmhouse cheese.
The contest was judged via a blind taste test conducted by a panel of four judges. Each
team received a chance to place a vote for fellow teams, but the votes
that counted came from the judges. Although it was an internal event,
the level of competition was high and the judging was carried out with
just as much honesty and integrity as a public event.
"The ultimate goal is for them to understand how difficult of a process
it is to brew a good beer and what goes into it," says Darren Dougherty,
the craft and import special sales manager for Gold Coast Distributors.
"The most important thing to us is learning, learning, learning.
The Doral-based beer distribution company is the largest beer distributor in the state of Florida, according to Gold Coast's website. There are four other beer distributors in South Florida, but Gold Coast
holds roughly 60 percent of the market share, says Dougherty. The company began in 1946 as a
Coors-Pabst distributor and even though the majority of the product
they distribute is brewed by MillerCoors, owners are wise to the
fact that craft beer is a profitable venture.
Gold Coast now distributes craft beer in South Florida. Just recently Schnebly Miami Brewing Company signed up to have Gold Coast distribute their tropical fruit-inspired craft beers.
The mastermind behind the event was the Boston Beer Company, a Golden
Coast partner that is the brewer of Sam Adams Boston lager and responsible for gifting the winning team's trip to the GABF.
Hosted by the Brewer's Association, an American trade group consisting of over 1900 members, the three-day festival is the ultimate beer exposition in the United States. The first festival was held in 1982 and had 222 brewers. In 2009, that number swelled to 457 and is now
considered one of the most popular ticketed beer festivals in the United States. Over 50,000 people attend each year.
At the end of the day the competition was all in good fun. But the takeaway was craft beer. Is craft beer still gaining ground? Even though official numbers may point to only it holding a small share of the greater market for beer, slow and steady wins the race; trends shall pass, but lifestyles are here to stay.