(image from jamesbeard.org)

I avoided work, today, by watching the webcast of the James Beard Awards. Basically, these medals are the Oscars for food world. Really this is all you need to know about them but I’ll go on anyways.

The host is the James Beard Foundation (JBF) whose mission is “to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.” James Beard, the man, was a highly influential chef, writer, and teacher from 1937 up to his death in 1985.

The awards break into 5 classes, so to speak:

  1. Books
  2. Broadcast and New Media
  3. Journalism
  4. Outstanding Restaurant Design
  5. Restaurant and Chef (the big deal)

Overall, the awards skew more towards the food world, however, the beverages still have a place at the table through categories like Outstanding Wine, Spirts, or Beer Professional, Best Bar Program, Best Wine Program and Journalism in Wine, Spirits and Other Beverages.

Looking through the list of winners since the awards’ inception in 1991, I’ve counted over 50 opportunities where a beer professional or beer writer could have been nominated, let alone wine. Wine is without a doubt, the heavy hitter. It took 5 years for beer to even get a point on the board; in 1996, Benjamin Meyers piece, “It Must Be Spring – Bock Is Back” won for Newspaper Writing on Spirits, Wine and Beer. Four years later, we scored one more with Michaeul Skube’s article,”Experiments with Hops, a Welcome Development.” Beer’s first big win came with Fritz Maytag’s 2003 award for Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional and the next time we got one was for his Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Tonight, I drink a Liberty Ale, which seems appropriate to celebrate the Mexican army’s win over the invading French at Puebla.

It should be noted that Beer Folk have gotten into the Semi-Finalist and Finalist rounds. For instance, this is not Oliver’s first nomination and Sam Calagione, of Dogfish Head, has been nominated 3 times. So far as as I can tell though, those listed above are the only wins up to this year. For the mathematicians, that’s less than six percent not of the total awards given, but rather, just the awards for which brewers, beer professionals, and/or beer writers could have been nominated. Draw your own conclusions. And somebody else do the math for how many medals Our People have won relative to the total amount of medals given. SPOILER ALERT: it will be a slightly deflating.

(image from firstwefeast.com)

I know Brooklyn Brewery, of which Garret Oliver is the brewmaster, is not the highest rated brewery on Beer Advocate and RateBeer. To my knowledge, they don’t have any highly-sought after beers with a cult following. But is the beer badFar from it. If anything, it seems as though they suffer from lack of flash in the current craft beer market. That’s just conjecture; Stockholm sees more of Brooklyn Brewery than I do in L.A. Anybody who has read Oliver’s The Oxford Companion to Beer, hell, anybody who has picked up the 920 page tome does not question his knowledge of, and passion for, our favorite grain-based beverage (to say nothing of The Brewmaster’s Table, one of my favorite beer books). He is by far one of the most thoughtful and well-spoken beer professionals that comes to my mind. I may only be a guy writing on his dinky Tumblr page at 10:53 PM on Cinco de Mayo 2014 but I think the award is well-deserved. And, if that’s not enough for you, he walked up on stage in a green velvet blazer. Somehow, it looked natural. No small feat.

Here’s to more in the future.

While I’m here, though, the biggest slight I see in regards to the James Beard Award winners lists, besides that whole less than six percent thing: Michael “The Beer Hunter” Jackson.

Here’s a link to a .pdf with the full list of this year’s winners.

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