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Good Beer Hunting

Apr 6, 2024

What happens when a respected name in wine and spirits tries to make a move into the beer world? Does their experience translate into a new category, or do they have to build a reputation from the ground up? Does the beer industry welcome interlopers, or view them with skepticism and confusion? And if they’re asking to judge your beer at a new competition, does anyone show up?

These are all questions I asked myself when I was invited to judge at The Tasting Alliance’s second ever beer competition in December 2023. I, like some others in and around beer, had never heard of the group, or only knew them for their wine and spirits competitions that take place in San Francisco, New York, and Singapore. 

In this episode, I talk to Maddee McDowell, vice president of The Tasting Alliance and the person who handles the logistical organization of their beer competition. You’ll hear about what it was like for me to participate in judging, but also what The Tasting Alliance hopes sets them apart from other competitions. Maddee shares what the biggest category of entries was (it’s shockingly not IPAs), some of the differences between running wine and spirits competitions versus beer, and how they’re trying to build relationships in the beer community to gain a wider diversity of palates at the judging table. We also talk about how the competition changed from year one to two, and how many entries she, somewhat optimistically, hopes to receive in year three. 

The competition doesn’t end once medals are announced, McDowell assures us. And at the very least, The Tasting Alliance’s experience is another way for us to better understand competitions and what it takes to make them happen.