About the 2021 Alberta Beverage Awards
By Tom Firth, Competition Director
As we approached our ninth Alberta Beverage Awards, my thoughts turned to relationships. It was time to give credit to the people involved in a huge undertaking like this. From our stewards in the back room - many who have worked on competitions long before these Awards – and to our judges, who bring their expertise to these long days of tasting.
After 9 years, this experience and accumulated knowledge make for a smooth operation, completely due to the cool capability of our stewards. They check that bottles are in the right spots, and that samples are the correct temperature. They know where everything is, how to find it, and what needs to be done.
A competition like this is a massive undertaking. Long before the first cork is pulled, we are confirming dates and commitments, preparing materials, revising and improving the endeavour, and critically looking at what didn’t work quite as planned last year. Again, we knew that the ongoing pandemic was a consideration, and forced to wait until the picture became clear.
This year, we saw a massive increase in entries. Nearly 1150 entries were submitted, and every category saw a significant increase; in some ways due to uncertainty, as no one can accurately predict what, or how much, Albertans will be drinking in the year ahead, but in many ways, the Alberta Beverage Awards are a microcosm of the beverage world to come. The products we saw include stalwart and trusted labels, spirits widely produced at home and abroad, so many wonderful beers and ciders, and also the rapidly growing ready to drink and bottled cocktails categories.
With about 35 percent growth, we had the equivalent increase in scores to enter, paperwork involved, time to set up the back room... Add to the mix our judges, almost a dozen stewards, more than 5000 glasses to be polished, labelled, filled, served, and cleared over three days in July.
In each category is a “Best in Class”, which is the top performer in its category, followed by “Judges’ Selection” which are the other high performing wines in the category. In several categories, there is also a “Top Value” - a Judges’ Selection wine that has been identified by the Culinaire editors as providing excellent value as well.
As every retailer is different, in many cases we’ve included a range for the retail price. Many Alberta-based products on these pages might only be available at the cellar door, so I’d suggest trying to find them on the shelf, or contacting them directly – spending your dollars locally makes a tremendous impact in our communities.
Each product also has a “CSPC” number, which can be used to help you find it at your local retailer or at liquorconnect.com. Some products also have a symbol to identify products that not only did well this year, but also in previous years, indicating that this product is consistently good. New this year, we have added a (***) designation indicating winners that have earned awards in five or more years of the competition
We’d like to thank our partners at Calgary’s Carriage House Inn, including Lino Savino and Roxane Carlson, and our photographer Jason Dziver - the preeminent bottle photographer in the country. Thanks also to Medium Rare Chef Apparel, The Import Vintners & Spirits Association, and to
Spirit Wares. We couldn’t do all this without Len Steinberg and our stewards – Mairi, Danielle, Chelsea, Grant, Patrick, Lana, Paul, and Colleen. And thank you to all the importers, producers, and partners that entrust us with their products.