A couple of weekends ago, more than 400 beers from almost 70 Washington breweries competed at the first annual Washington Beer Awards. Many of the state’s best breweries competed in just about every style category you can think of, and the best of the bunch were selected as winners. The results will be announced at the Saturday, June 15 session of the upcoming Washington Brewers Festival at Marymoor Park in Redmond.Selecting the "best" anything is a dicey business, and Washington adopted the tried-and-true GABF method of professional judging. (They even used the Brewers Association guidelines.) I think it's a great idea to highlight a state's offering, and I'd love to see Oregon promote its beer with annual awards. I'm not sure this is the ideal approach, though.
Washington is going to announce winners in ninety categories. That may be great for Evergreen State brewers, nearly all of whom will be able to boast some award or other. But it completely dilutes the effect for consumers. A better system might be Britain's, which has just eight categories (mild, three bitter categories, golden, specialty, winter, and bottled); a Champion Beer is selected from among the category winners. Obviously you wouldn't use those categories, but something like IPA, dark beer, Belgian-style, lager, wild ale, strong beer, and small beer, say, would be clear and meaningful.
I would also include the public in voting. Maybe an initial judging to select a certain number of beers in each category and then open voting. You could do it during the month of July as a tie in with Craft Beer Month. Maybe give SNOBs a ballot, too, and consider that 25% of the tally. Or have professional judging, SNOB ballots, and general public ballots and average the three. But I do think getting the public involved is a good idea--these should, after all, reflect the regional tastes of Oregonians. That would be interesting to people outside the state who might wonder how, say, Boneyard IPA became Oregon's favorite.