About the 2020 Alberta Beverage Awards
By Tom Firth, Competition Director
At the beginning of this year I was expected to judge five different beverage competitions, yet by early March all those plans were cancelled, postponed, or worse – some were in danger of folding. However, a significant part of my year is planning and running the Alberta Beverage Awards, which is well underway behind the scenes in February.
So, what were we to do? Would COVID miraculously go away? Or would businesses be shuttered for months to come?
We held off making our decision until the end of May, eventually finding that in our personal lockdowns, folks still enjoy having a glass or two. Liquor retailers have been busy these past months, distillers and brewers too, while restaurants have had a tough go of things. We kicked off the competition for entries in June, and had a very busy few weeks confirming our judges, confirming our stewards, the venue, connecting with importers, producers, and regulatory bodies – it takes a lot of hard work to bring you these results.
Our 8th year turned out to be our largest yet. Just shy of 850 entries were sipped, swirled, savoured, and assessed by our judges over three days at Calgary’s Carriage House Inn. We are already the largest blind competition for Alberta-made liquor products, but we had a renewed interest from other Canadian products and international bottles, which was surprising, but in our competitive liquor market, people appreciate a little help to find the best products, or at least recommendations of something they’d like.
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.
Each winner has an approximate retail price – every retailer is different, so we’ve included a range in many cases. Though many Alberta-based products might only be available at the cellar door, 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 after them to identify products that not only did well this year, but also in previous years, indicating that this product is consistently good, year after year.
The success of our Awards is a team effort, and we thank our partners: the Carriage House Inn including Lino Savino and Roxane Carlson, The Import Vintners & Spirits Association, and Liquor Connect. Special thanks go to Len Steinberg, who helps manage the back room, but whose insight and experience is crucial; our judges; and our wine stewards: Mairi, Danielle, Darin, Lana, Patrick, Paul, Grant, and Chelsea. It is unbelievable what they can accomplish. And finally, a big thank you to Jason Dziver, our talented photographer responsible for shooting all the product entries.