When an old, established European brand meets the marketing muscle of an international beverage giant, you get the perfect confluence of sizzle and suds. Hype and hops, if you will, and ELV and his staff think it couldn’t happen to a better Belgian brew.
That’s one of the reasons we bit hard on the chance to attend (on A-B InBev’s dime, thanks A-B InBev!) the American finals of the Stella Artois Draughtmaster’s Contest in Boston two weeks ago. We’ve always been fans of the brew, even if it is now a mass marketed product. We’ve been drinking Stella ever since the early ‘9o’s and always found it to have a body, aroma, and sweet hoppiness that puts Budweiser, MGD and Coors to shame.
And since we had judged the Las Vegas portion of the semi-finals, we thought a trip to Boston was in order to see how our winner Scott Ast would stand up to the ultimate brew-pour competition. Both Scott and Sarah Arnold (the other Las Vegas contestant who made it to Boston, after coming in second place in Vegas whilst competing during her Dirty Thirty party) performed admirably, but for all of her sex appeal, and Scott’s savoir faire, neither will be getting a trip to London (England, not Kentucky).
The judging panel of of Marc Stroobandt (Master Beer Sommelier), Avril Maxwell (2009 Stella Artois World Draught Master – a great beer babe), Ashley Daley (NESN-TV Reporter – a total babe) and Gregg Glaser (Beer Writer/Editor – All About Beer & Yankee Brew News – a great dude, but not babelicious, at least not by ELV’s standards), gave it to Chris Myers of Madison, WI, who defeated Washington, D.C.’s Brady Locher by a single point during the final match of the night. Ast finished a close third, and acquitted the Belgian beer drinkers/pourers of Las Vegas admirably.
The two day event began with a morning of L’Ecole de Biere (Beer School) where Anheuser-Busch brewmaster Tim O’Connell (who didn’t look old enough to drink) schooled the contestants on the many fascinating aspects of the art of brewing. Included in the lessons were malt tastings (that everyone took a bite of) and a hops tasting (that only ELV had the cojones to try).
Truth be told, hops have a stale, musty, dirty hay smell that can be more than a little off-putting. And you taste them for hours after just a small bite. But this essential beer component is also a preservative, and since we weren’t planning on kissing anyone, we dove right in and ate an entire bud, much to the ohhs and ahhs of the competitors.
Among the 16 U.S. finalists, 15 were top finishers in eight regional semi-final markets – Tampa, Orlando, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Washington D.C., New York City and Boston – and one was a wild-card participant randomly chosen from the top 25 national scorers in the interactive 9-Step Pouring Ritual game found at www.DraughtMasterUSA.com. Over the course of the night, each competitor demonstrated their mastery of the 9-Step Pouring Ritual. When the Stella folks swing through next year, you should give this a whirl and maybe win a trip or two to an exotic beer tasting mecca…
Here are the 16 U.S. finalists who competed in Boston:
- William Huetz , Tampa
- Chuck Rogers, Tampa
- Grant Huff, Orlando
- Sarah Arnold, Las Vegas
- Scott Ast, Las Vegas (THIRD PLACE)
- Will Schneider, Denver
- John Van Bockern, Denver
- Ryan Petro, Phoenix
- Chris Meyers, New York (FIRST PLACE)
- Ryann Wietecha, Boston
- Jerome Eno, Boston
- Nate Garel, Boston
- Therese Steiner, Boston
- Aimee Chambers, Washington, D.C.
- Brady Locher, Washington, D.C. (SECOND PLACE)
- David Silverman , New York City (“What’s Your Pour Score” wildcard)
And here’s the proper way to pour one: