I have bit of a rant coming up. Before we get to that head over to my post from last year to refresh your memories on who won the 2013 awards.
The self-description for these awards focuses heavily on their democratic nature. Interesting in theory, but when the ballot box can be linked to from social media it’s really just another encouragement for a dizzying amount of spam. Everyone is acting with honest and understandable motivation – the organizers want web traffic and to draw attention to their endeavors; folks want trophies for their case. In common with most times when we lose perspective it’s reader-consumers who get the shaft from this arrangement.
This year, a category was added for best beer writer and that meant a constant stream of “vote for me” tweets and an equal number of self-critical, pseudo-ironic joke campaigning. Both came from those who I usually value as sources of thoughtful (or at least entertaining) beer writing. Ben Johnson won the award for best beer writer and I often read, share, and link to his work, but I wish he could say this victory had nothing to do with a thorough schedule of tweets and Facebook updates.
(Full disclosure: I guess I was technically eligible for this award and could have campaigned, so you’re free to assign these critical paragraphs to your mental dustbin marked “sour grapes”. In the past, I’ve participated in “vote for me” contests, but have come to see that they are always more trouble than they’re worth.)
Writers are not the only culprits here. A small handful of breweries have social media marketing figured out (at least in the brute force sense) better than everyone else and therefore have a lock on the top couple categories. Equally, there are a few perennial winners – Bellwoods and Granite come to mind – who do little or no campaigning and still snag a couple well-deserved awards.
What’s the solution? Start by banning campaigning, I’d say. Also, if the idea that the awards are democratically chosen is essential, how about voters sign up to participate well beforehand and a random subset are sent a ballot by email? Or have in-person ballot boxes at Ontario beer festivals throughout the year. (Both of these will hopeful eliminate the situation where a brewery tables at events offer the “convenience” of an iPad with a pre-filled ballot.) Or let the candidates campaign the hell out of being nominated to a short list and then have a panel select the winners.
The Golden Tap Awards organizers do a commendable service for the province’s beer drinkers and producers alike. I don’t mean to take away from the credit they deserve, but as the industry grows from tiny and with an uncertain future to commercially successful, events like these need to fine-tune their approach.
With that off my chest, I’m happy to share the list of 2014 Golden Tap Awards winners:
- Best Craft Brewery in Ontario: Great Lakes Brewery
- Best brewery for cask-conditioned ale in Ontario: Great Lakes Brewery
- Best brewpub or tied house: Bellwoods Brewery
- Best craft cidery in Ontario: West Avenue Cider Co.
- Best regularly produced beer: Beau’s Lug-Tread
- Best seasonal or one-off: Great Lakes Thrust, an IPA
- Best cask-conditioned beer: Granite Hopping Mad
- Best bar for draught selection: Bar Hop
- Best bar for bottled (or canned) beer selection: barVolo
- Best bar for cask beer selection: barVolo
- Best beer event in Ontario: Cask Days
- Best beer writer: Ben Johnson, blogTO
- Best beer bar staff: Bar Hop
- Newcomer award: Sidelaunch Brewery
- Most innovative brewery: Bellwoods Brewery
- Best packaging design or label artwork: Beau’s All-Natural
- Editor’s circle: Buster Rhino’s Southern BBQ (beer outside Toronto, events)
- Editor’s circle: Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (special events)
- Editor’s circle: Beau’s Oktoberfest (special event)
- Editor’s circle: George Milbrandt, C’est What (publican)
- Editor’s circle: Nickel Brook Brewing (most improved)
- Brewmasters’ choice best beer in Ontario: Sawdust City Lone Pine IPA