For most people, the arrival of February means Valentine's Day is at hand. It's a time to find the perfect gift to tell that special someone just how much they mean to you. However, for some of the world's beer brewers, it means it's time to gear up for competition. The Brewing Industry International Awards happens in February, described by some as the brewing Oscars. This year's competition and award ceremony sees some of the best beers and breweries from around the world come to Burton-on-Trent, in Britain.
For those lucky enough to attend this weeklong event, an incredible array of beers will be available. Close to 800 different beers from all around the world will be exhibited. There are entries from 15 different nations, and quite a few of the best-known names in the brewing world will have something on offer here. Why Burton, though? For many people around the world, Burton is the brewing center of the UK, so it's only natural that the ceremony and competition is held here, at the national Brewery Centre.
The event has both local and international judges, all of whom are actual brewers. In addition, the contestants are not judged on a set of "beer criteria." Instead, they are evaluated on how successful they could be with the public. Each competition class (there are several) will have 32 medal winners, with a selection of nine beers being listed as the overall champions of the event, during an April event held in London.
However, the real story about this year's festival is the historic event that happens afterward. For the entire 125-year history of this competition, the beers have never been available to the public afterward. This year, that changes. Once the judging is over, the location will be transformed into a beer fest, the likes of which few people have ever seen. All cask and bottled beers will be available for sampling to the public, something that might take a very long, long time to do (though what better way to spend an entire weekend than sampling 800 of the world's best beers?).
For those not lucky enough to make it to this year's celebration (it ends on the 13th), there's always next year. The competition does travel to different locations, though, so don't count on this as a chance to visit Burton-on-Trent next year, though there is every chance that the city might once again be chosen as a host.