By Tom Firth, Competition Director
It’s been seven years since we launched the Alberta Beverage Awards, and a lot has happened in those years. Most notably for beverage enthusiasts, we’ve seen an absolute explosion in craft brewers and distillers in Alberta. In fact, I’d easily put our Alberta-made products among the best in the world. Why so good? Our natural innovative and risk-accepting spirit mean we are willing to learn from the best, but also, we rarely rest on our laurels.
The selection gracing our liquor store shelves and on our restaurant drink lists is easily among the best in Canada, being free from a provincial liquor board deciding what probably should be on a shelf means we have access to some of the best drinks from around the world and from here at home.
The goal of the Alberta Beverage Awards has always been to separate the wheat from the chaff, but what we’ve been finding since our inception is that our shelves are thriving with great products. Sure, there are some…weak or overtly…commercial offerings, but not a lot that are truly bad products. So, our task is almost to find the best examples from a pool of excellent, varietally or stylistically sound offerings.
Not such a bad job really.
In our seventh year, we are pleased to say that we had our second highest number of entries to date. Nearly 850 wines, beers, spirits, meads, Ready to Drink, Coolers and everything in between was offered up to our judges for three days of blind tasting at the Hotel Blackfoot in July. Our stewards poured around 5000 glasses for our 20 judges selected from among Alberta’s finest sommeliers, retailers, journalists and educators, and buyers.
In each category on the following pages is a “Best in Class”, which is the top performing wine 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”, which is a Judges’ Selection wine that has been identified by the Culinaire editors as providing excellent value as well. Each listed wine has an approximate retail price – every retailer is different, and we’ve included a range in many cases. Though many of the Alberta-based producers might only be available at their cellar door – I’d suggest trying to find them on the shelf, or contacting them directly. Each product also has a “CSPC” number, which can be used to help you find it at your local retailer or online at Liquorconnect.com. Some products also have a symbol (EXAMPLE-USE 2018) after them to identify product that not only did well this year, but also in previous years, indicating that this product is not only good, but also consistently good, year after year.
With so many moving parts, the success of our competition has to be a team effort, and we have to thank our partners, the Hotel Blackfoot including Scott Garrioch and his team, The Import Vintners & Spirits Association, and Liquor Connect. Special thanks go to Len Steinberg, our judges, and our wine stewards; Mairi, Danielle, Darin, Lana, Patrick, Paul, Grant, Chelsea, Lynne, Karen, and Clint. It is unbelievable what we can accomplish with them. And finally, a big thank you to Jason Dziver, our talented photographer responsible for shooting all the entries and our wonderful behind the scenes images and judge’s photos.