What are the Alberta Beverage Awards?

The ABAs are a blind tasting competition produced by Culinaire Magazine for wines, beers and spirits available in Alberta. Products are evaluated blind by panels of Alberta beverage experts to identify the best in each category. Judges know the type of product (such as varietal or blend), but do not know the country, producer or even the price of entries.

In addition to a sound competition method and using some of the finest palates to judge the competition, we work very hard to keep the ratio of award winners to total entries at less than 30 per cent – meaning we don’t hand out “participation” awards. The total number of awards in a category depends on the number of suitable entries in that category. A larger category, like cabernet sauvignon, will most likely have more award winners than a smaller one such as Cognac or sparkling rosé.

Why should I enter?

It’s a crowded market for beverage alcohol. The Alberta Beverage Awards (ABAs) were created and designed to identify the best beers, wines and spirits available to Albertans judged by Alberta experts. Our competition is valuable tool in elevating your product above its peers, giving you an opportunity for added sales and reach for your brands.

What are the Award classes?

“Best in Class” Awards are given for the top performer in a category, while runners-up in each category are awarded a “Judges’ Selection.” Additionally, in some categories, the editors at Culinaire Magazine will identify a Judges’ Selection as a “Top Value,” which is a product that performed exceptionally well, but at a good price point.

Why do I need to pay to enter my products?

To be blunt, it takes money to run a competition the right way. Anyone who has planned a wedding or any other large event knows how expensive it can be – and that usually is only a one-day event. The ABAs take four days at the venue – one to set up, and 3 days to judge. We pay the judges an honourarium for their time (and they work for it!), feed them and the back room staff, and we pay rental costs associated with the venue, office supplies, storage, and many other costs. We’ve made every effort to keep costs down and are confident that our entry fee is very fair. If you are an IVSA member, you also save 10 per cent on your entry fees. As of 2015, we have also created a discount for those who are entering larger numbers of entries, but may not be IVSA members. In 2017, as craft beer, wine and spirit production took off in Alberta, we’ve also created a discount for AB producers who enter several products. Please contact the Competition Director, Tom Firth tom@culinairemagazine.ca for details.

Where do I bring my samples?

The samples should be delivered to Tom Firth. He uses a home office and receives, double checks the entries, and then takes your samples to secure, off-site, temperature-controlled storage until set-up for the competition takes place. If you aren’t familiar with the address for dropping off or shipping, please contact Tom (tom@culinairemagazine.ca) and he will forward shipping instructions.

Why do you need multiple bottles of wine and beer entries?

We want your products to show at their best. As we all know, some bottles show flaws whether cork taint, reductive or oxidative notes, or even poor seals. Judges are permitted to ask for a “re-pour” on a product and the best products will proceed to a final round for tasting a second time where a fresh bottle is poured. We could ask for even more bottles for judging, but we feel that three wine bottles and the equivalent of a six-pack for beer is a safe minimum to keep your costs low, but to still provide the best examples of your products to the judges. For spirits, we feel a single, standard bottle (usually, approximately 750ml) is more than enough.

The spirit I want to enter is pretty expensive. Is there any way to give you a smaller bottle?

We are able to coordinate the return of the unused portion of spirit sample bottles post-competition. Details are sent to the parties entering spirits post-judging, which includes the “deadline” to collect your sample bottles. Our judging process only requires about five to 10 ounces of spirit samples, so smaller bottles are acceptable. We do however photograph all the bottles entered for use in the results, and smaller bottles generally don’t photograph well. Please get in touch if you would rather ship a small bottle. PLEASE NOTE: Wholesale pricing and CSPCs entered with your registrations should be for whatever the “standard” (750 ml) bottle found on shelves is.

I missed the deadline, what do I do?

Get in touch with the competition director Tom Firth either by phone or email (tom@culinairemagazine.ca or 403-818-5304) or Linda Garson (linda@culinairemagazine.ca or 403-870-9802) right away. We make every effort possible to accommodate late entries or late shipments. PLEASE NOTE: If your samples don’t arrive by the start of judging, there is very little we can do to accept your product without giving it an unfair advantage. Unfortunately, we cannot provide refunds for entries that didn’t arrive in time.

Can I come by during the judging to see the event?

Sure thing, we have nothing to hide and are proud of our judging process. We do ask that you make an appointment or arrange a time to visit with us ahead of time to minimize the disruption to the judges.

I made a mistake entering, how do I make changes?

The best thing is to get in touch with the competition director Tom Firth, either by phone or email (tom@culinairemagazine.ca) right away and let him know which product is incorrect and what the correction(s) is.

I entered, but forgot to send my samples. Can I get a refund?

Unfortunately, no. We go through a lot of planning beforehand including building flights, assigning them to judges, and so on. If you forgot to send your samples, get in touch with us right away (Tom Firth, 403-818-5304 or tom@culinairemagazine.ca) and we’ll do everything we canto fit your entries into their spots up until the last minute.

Who can enter the ABAs?

Anyone can enter a product in the Alberta Beverage Awards, whether it is the producer (brewery, distillery, or winery) or the agent or representative of the product in the province of Alberta. The only stipulation is that the product must be available in the province or be in the process of being listed for sale in Alberta. Each product should have a CSPC or be in the process of getting one. If you don’t have the CSPC in time for completing your entries please enter it as 123456. We’ll note it and make sure to follow up with you.

What does it mean if I win an award?

First off, congratulations! If you receive an award, your product was selected by our judges as being an exceptional product from amongst all the other products in its category.

Are the results embargoed once I know how my products performed?

Absolutely not. We want you to share your success! Once you get your notification email regarding your awards you are free to share with your suppliers, clients, retail and restaurant accounts, and whoever else you would like. We are able to forward digital files of the competition logos and roundels if you would like them for sell sheets or other material. Foil bottle stickers are also available (at a small cost) if you wish for stickering bottles on shelves etc.

What about the results?

The results are printed in Culinaire Magazine in the fall as well as appearing online at CulinaireMagazine.ca. Several of our judges are involved with various publications and are encouraged to write about their favourites, the results of the ABA, or things they might have tried. All the judges go home with their tasting notes and a key indicating all the samples they tasted as well to reference throughout the year or for further attention. We are working on building partnerships with other media outlets.

Who are the judges?

The judges can and will change each year. We strive to bring in experienced judges with good palates and great attitudes who want to spend a few days systematically tasting wines, beers, and spirits in a blind tasting. Our judges usually include, sommeliers, cicerones, buyers, educators, media, and other industry professionals. Judges are typically announced in the spring.

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