On a chilly evening in LoDo, people gathered in a back room to witness the crowning of a new champion. Not a sports champion, but a champion of beer.
The 18th annual Beer Drinker of the Year by the Wynkoop Breweing Company was held at the brewery’s restaurant. Three strong candidates were chosen by a highly selective process. The winner would possess bragging rights and most importantly, free Wynkoop beer for life.
Earlier this year, Wynkoop took applicants for its Beer Drinker of the Year contest. Applicants had to submit videos explaining why they should be Beer Drinker of the Year and a special Wynkoop panel selected the best videos and put them up on Facebook for a public vote. Using a combination of the panel’s picks and the public’s votes, the applicants were whittled down to three who attended the finals competition, which was held on Wednesday, October 5. The chosen three were:
Kevin Cox of Muncie, IN – Beer hunter, homebrewer and beer advocate, Cox has visited over 400 breweries and tasted over 6000 different beers on four continents and 12 counties. He has been a member of the American Homebrewers Association since 1983 and a member of Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale since 1985. His home beer bar is Broad Ripple Brewpub in Indianapolis.
Shawna Cormier of Denver, CO – Cormier’s life-long love affair with beer began at the tender age of four when her grandmother let her take her first sip of Budweiser. Originally from New Your City, she has been an actress, an educator, a writer and is now a Certified Cicerone at Black Shirt Brewing Company in Denver.
Mike Dixon of Wake Forest, NC – Dixon is a homebrewer, a national BJCP judge and beer writer. Dixon so loves beer, that he was instrumental in getting North Carolina to change state beer laws allowing people to brew and to distribute beer above 6% ABV. His home beer bar is Clouds Brewing in Raleigh. Cox, Cormier, Dixon (Left to Right)
The judges for this event were: Tony Drewry of Austin, TX, is best known as the banjo player and lead singer of Shotgun Friday; PJ Hoberman, founder of Denver Off The Wagon; Michael Roberts of Golden, CO, currently working at New Terrain Brewing in Golden and has visited more than 900 breweries, 794 in one year in 2014; and John Sims, originally from Texas, he is now head brewer at Wynkoop. Cody Christman, 2009 Beer Drinker of the Year, was the Emcee.
The competition featured eight tough rounds. First the candidates gave opening statements on why they should be Beer Drink of the Year. Cox pointed out that we as humans would not exist if it weren’t for beer because it was Louis Pasteur who noticed that people who drank beer back in 1800s did not get sick while people who drank water often did. This led to his study of yeast and bacteria and the development of Pasteurization.
The first two rounds were Trivia and Individual Questions from the judges. Questions such as: What year did the oldest brewery in the world first get taxed? Answer: A brewery in Munich in the year 1040. Another question: Which brewery has the largest lauter tun in the world? Answer: Corona.
Round 3 was called Beer Whispering where each finalist conducted a 75-second chat with a beer they brought with them to the finals. Dixon told a story about how he almost died on a river rafting trip and that the Natural Light beer he drank afterward was the best beer he’d ever had because it meant he was still alive.
Round 4 was the Bribing of the Judges. While Cox and Dixon brought rare beers, Cormier not only offered a rare beer, she also brought books suited to each judge. Judge Sims received a book on llamas while another judge received a book on camping. She also included a $1000 signed check for each judge, which she had already voided.
After a brief intermission, the finalists answered questions from the audience for Round 5. Round 6 was Beer Listening, where the finalists had to taste two unidentified beers and write down the style and tasting notes of each beer. The judges were impressed at how accurate all three finalists were.
New this year was a Talent Show for Round 7. Dixon sang his version of John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy entitled Thank God I’m a Craft Beer Boy. Cox performed a spoken word poem entitled Down at the Koop. Cormier performed Air Timpani to Also sprach Zarathrustra AKA theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The final round consisted of closing arguments where each candidate had one minute to plead their case as to why they should be Beer Drinker of the Year.
The judges were then sequestered for deliberations. After much arguing and adding of scores and more arguing, the judges returned with their choices. The winner? Shawna Cormier! She was given a golden mug trophy and a crown of hops. As she begins her reign, she joins an elite club of only 18 people in the world who can claim the title, Beer Drinker of the Year.
Prizes for the contest are a trip to Denver during Great American Beer Festival week for the three finalists. The winner receives a $250 credit to their home beer bar, the opportunity to collaborate with John Sims on their own beer brewed at the Wynkoop, their name engraved on a trophy and free beer for life at the Wynkoop. Since Cormier lives in Denver, she might be one of the few winners to actually enjoy this prize.
Do you think you have what it takes to win all this? Then stay tuned for Wynkoop's request for resumes in 2017.
Photos via Carrie Dow
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