July 30, 2018

Golden Beer 2018: Winners and unanswered questions

The Golden Beer competition in Israel was started last year by the Ben Ami Studio, the same agency which produces the BEERS Exhibit in Tel Aviv.  It is open only to commercial beers, that is, brewers with a legal production license. 

Last year, 26 prizes were awarded in nine categories, and they were all Israeli craft brewers.  [Read about that competition here.]   

This year, seven beers won prizes in only two categories (Pale Ale and India Pale Ale), and they included two imported beers from Scotland!  

Here are the winners of the Golden Beer 2018 competition:

Pale Ale
First:  Typhoon -- HaDubim (The Bears)
Second:  Vagabond -- BrewDog (Scotland)
Third:  Dead Pony -- BrewDog (Scotland)

First: Dark Matter -- HaShachen (The Neighbor)
Second:  IPA -- Shapiro
Third:  Pressure Drop -- HaShachen (The Neighbor)
Honorable Mention:  The Ugly Beer -- Ronen  

After seeing these results, I had questions about the numbers and the participation of foreign beers.  So, calling on my rapidly receding background as a journalist, I thought I might ask a few questions. 
I first spoke with Rotem Bar Ilan, partner-brother of HaDubim (The Bears) Brewery, whose Typhoon Pale Ale took first place in that category.  He opined that limiting the competition to only two categories provided the event with greater focus and made it easier on the judging.  Concerning the imported beers, Rotem said that he heard that the organizers believed that Israeli craft beers have now reached a level where they can compete with foreign breweries.  

No automatic alt text available.
HaShachen Brewery won
first and third prizes in the
IPA category.
According to Itay Marom of HaShachen (The Neighbor) Brewery, whose Dark Matter and Pressure Drop won first and third prizes in the IPA category, the organizers of the Golden Beer contest are to be congratulated for holding Israel's only competition for commercial brewers.  He suggests that the reason there were only two categories is that there are enough Israeli brewers making Pale Ale and IPA to make this a real competition.  Most other styles do not have this critical mass.            

I'm not convinced.  If that were the case, why was it necessary to allow foreign beers to compete?  And how can you explain that only nine beers were entered in the Pale Ale category, which had three winners (two of which were foreign beers!), and 14 were entered in the IPA category, which had four winners.  I think by anybody's count, the number of winners vis-a-vis the number of entries were too small to give the results of the competition any relevance.

Others mentioned that it is not beyond feasibility that the import agency had the necessary clout to get its beers into the competition, even though the original intention was just for Israeli beers.       

Not that this takes anything away from the accomplishments of the winners.  Gadi Deviri, one of Israel's most respected beer judges and a member of the Golden Beer judging panel, said that all of the entries were judged blindly and the best beers were chosen as winners.  There was no way to distinguish between the Israeli beers and the foreign beers.                 

Gadi also told me that he remembers that last year's Golden Beer also included foreign entries.  If that's so, I asked him, how does he explain that all of the 26 prizes went to Israeli beers?  That was "weird," he admitted. 

I continued searching and found a multilogue on Facebook involving Gal Granov, who blogs at Whisky Israel (www.WhiskyIsrael.co.il), one of the top 40 whisky blogs in the world.  Gal was also asking why there were foreign entries in what was heralded as an Israeli competition, and which beers these were.  No answers were forthcoming.

When I spoke with Gal, he told me to take these beer (and other beverage) competitions with a "grain of salt."  "I have seen whisky contests where they make categories so that everyone is a winner.  You have a right to be suspicious of them all."

As I said, the winners deserve our congratulations.  There's no denying that.  But there are still unanswered questions regarding the background to the competition itself, the categories chosen and the beers entered.  

If you would like to join this conversation, your comments are cordially invited.             


  1. you should check under, and look after the names of the sponsors or people that connected to the organizers in the industry.
    MANO wiesenfelder beer

  2. Dear Doug, I agree with Itay Marom; although I have absolutely no inside knowledge and know of the competition solely through you. I believe the focus of such awards must be marketing. The award must be developed and branded slowly so that it will enjoy market influence in a few years. Including Brew Dog or other foreign craft beers (so long as they're foreign) does in my eyes add value to the weight of the competition. I think there's scarcely much monetary value to winning the prize, such that I doubt there's any kind of corruption. Rather I think the BEERS people are trying to help brand local products with a focused, elite, international prize opportunity and that can only be a good thing.

  3. Follow the money...


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