The Beerlympics are Coming…


With Sochi 2014 just around the corner, some of us in the Ottawa Beer Blogging community decided that we should come up with an Olympic-themed beer event. Like many of our better ideas, this was the byproduct of a few inspired tasting sessions early in January. The concept evolved with great enthusiasm, as we incorporated new ideas and rules, and now with all the tweaks and revisions complete we’re excited to announce “The Beerlympics”, which will be taking place on February 7th, 2014.

Now, before you get too excited, I should make it clear that this isn’t us paying homage to the movie ‘Beerfest’. There won’t be any beer pong tournaments, monkey chugs or das boots. There’s actually nothing all that athletic about the Beerlympics – not that funneling beer calls for a high level of fitness. Moreover, there are no teams, at least not officially, and we aren’t really competing against one another.

So how does the ‘Olympic’ element fit in? Well, let me start with some background. You see, taste is subjective. There are a lot of elements that come together to form the basis of our personal likes and dislikes; not the least of which is experiencing something first hand. That said, there are forces that bias our perspectives whether we know it or not. As a marketer, I always wonder just how effectively I’m being marketed to. When I say ‘marketed to’ I don’t just mean by advertising, but also from things like word of mouth, reviews from trusted, and sometimes not so trusted, sources, product brands, etc. While many of us, myself included, consider ourselves to be objective and open minded towards new experiences, we are all influenced to some degree by externalities.

Ottbeerbloggers is a group of people who write about all things beer in their free time. Some of us review products outright, while others lean more towards the experiential side of things – events, food pairings and home brewing, for example. No matter what the focus of our beer-blogs may be, they all contain some degree of personal opinion, which by nature means there is some degree of bias – and there’s nothing wrong with that, unless you’re trying to pass it off as gospel. That’s an important point. Blogs can make great guides, providing insight, anecdotes and tips when you’re looking to branch out and try new things – but just because I like something doesn’t mean that you will. I was recently contacted by someone about my 2013 Beer in Review post, where I highlighted my favourite beers from Ontario breweries over the past year. He was sore that Great Lakes Brewing’s ‘No Chance With Miranda’ Saison was not mentioned in my list, and wanted me to know it. I had to explain that a) Miranda had no chance, because I still hadn’t tried it, and b) I was still working on his favourites’ list – but was having trouble – so maybe he could just tell me the rest of the beers he liked instead, and I’d have it up in a jiff. Sarcasm aside, it did pose an interesting question; “how can we put together a beer review piece while eliminating much of the subjectivity”?

This is where the Olympic element starts to fit in. We came up with a competition that will pit beer against beer in the pursuit of Beerlympic glory. The format of the competition is a blind tasting; one of the ways we’re trying to remove much of the bias from the equation. A group of nine of us, with one control and one arbitrator, will perform tastings broken into flights of three or four. During the tastings we’ll jot down our impressions and ultimately score the sample using a system similar to Olympic figure skating (1-10 with part marks) – it’s like ice dance on my palate. The beers, regardless of what flight they were part of, will be ranked based on their average score and Gold, Silver and Bronze ‘medals’ will be awarded.

To reiterate, this tasting is blind – so not only will we be sampling beers in nondescript glasses, but we won’t actually have any idea what beers are included in the competition. All the beers sampled must be readily available in the LCBO or at The Beer Store. We can nominate ones that we would like to see included, but there’s no guarantee that they will be. Ultimately our arbitrator and our control will decide which ones make the cut. Another way we’re trying to eliminate our personal biases is by opening it up to everyone. Instead of picking from a pool of our favourite beers and writing about them, we want to open it up to everyone. WE WANT YOUR INPUT! What beers would you like to see included? What do you purchase frequently? Do you have a sentimental favourite? Let us know and we’ll include it on the list!

The Beerlympics are going to be a lot of fun. Not only will it be interesting to see which LCBO-available beers come out as our Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists, but also to see just how much our predisposition towards a given beer impacts our drinking experience. Which styles rate the highest? Which countries produce the best products? Are macros really all that bad? So many great questions! I just hope that we don’t end up with: Gold – Budweiser, Silver – Molson and Bronze – Pabst, or I think we might be in trouble…


Meet our other judges:

Katy WattsSasha DunfieldMatt PetitpasDave PriceDave EvansBrian PapineauRyan BelleriveApril Thibert