By James Atkinson

The recent practice of brewers using unconventional ingredients to differentiate their beers doesn't sit well with top beer judge, Peter Manders.

Manders, the chief judge for the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA), told TheShout that beer judges worldwide are facing a lot of "blurring of the style guidelines" in competing brewers' entries.

"Being a maverick today is one of the problems we're starting to face," he said.

"I know the brewer out there is trying sometimes to create a point of difference, but to enter them in a beer awards can sometimes be a little bit disconcerting for judges."

When pushed for an example, Manders pointed to "hibiscus flowers in beers and all this sort of thing".

"To us, that's experimental. It shouldn't go under a lager-style or an ale-style because we are attempting to judge down the line on what that true style is meant to be." [continues below]

AIBA Chief Judge, Peter Manders tasting this year's entries

"If we start letting brewers do their own thing, then we won't know where we're going to be in the end.

"How do you judge a beer that you don't know what it's meant to be?"

Manders said this year's winning entries were the best embodiments of the classic beer styles they were supposed to represent.

"This is the thing that we as brewers want to continue to see," he said.

"We'd like to see the continuation of Pilsner-style beers, of Australian lagers, of Australian pale ales, of IPAs, of imperial stouts – not with all sorts of other things going into them to make them a bit different."

"It's the excellence of the choice of malt, hops, yeast and the freshness of the beer."

But Manders said the AIBA is going from strength-to-strength, with an annual increase in entries of about 10 per cent every year, and entries from as far afield as Colombia, Central Asia, Africa and all over Europe.

"It's now starting to gain legs, which for us is quite fantastic, we've got real recognition," he said.

"As we see these increases, we're seeing a lifting of standards of the beers that are being presented to us."

"If I go back 16 years ago to when I first started judging, there were a lot of beers that never even made it to first grade. Now we're seeing 95 per cent or more are getting up to being beers of medal standard."

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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