The size of this competition –- around 500 beers -- is much smaller than that of many others. In 2010, the World Beer Cup, for example, featured 3,330+ beers from 642 breweries. The 2010 Great American Beer Festival, which claims to be the largest beer competition in the world, had 3,523 beers entered.
Even these two large contests do not reach a full range of the world's beer offerings. Many European brewers simply do not enter U.S. competitions, leaving categories such as Belgian-Style Tripel, German-Style Märzen, and Belgian-and French-Style Ale open to brewers from non-European countries. For example, Baird Brewing’s Saison Sayuri, from Japan, took the 2010 WBC gold in the last category, from a field of 57 entrants.
Further, some of the world's top brewers focus their energies entirely on making great beer and not on winning awards or other forms of promotion. Alan Sprints, of Hair of the Dog, is a case in point -- several of his beers are regularly rated very highly at RateBeer, com.
The World Beer Awards appears to be a favorite among Japanese brewers. This year, for example, Kiuchi Hitachino Nest garnered no less than four awards; Swan Lake, Ise Kadoya, and Fujizakura had three each. Even the less-than-renowned Kamakura Beer took the award for world's best Altbier. I'm sure that many self-respecting German brewers would smile wryly at this, if they knew about the contest at all. Also, Minoh, themselves, won the same award last year for their regular stout.
So, although the award winners are very likely quite good, they are probably not the “World’s Best..”
Minoh Beer, as many Japanese beer fans are aware, are quite capable of making really wonderful beer, yet their quality is sooo inconsistent. Note that on RateBeer.com, their “world's best” Imperial Stout ranks at only the 37 percentile by style. Their once wonderful W-IPA has some of the widest range of ratings you will find anywhere on the RateBeer site, varying from 4.6 to 2.1 on a 5-point scale.
(Have a look at http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/minoh-beer-w-ipa/97975/)
Anyway, I'm hoping that this award means that Minoh’s Imperial Stout is back in top form... I'll give it another try soon.
The best beer? It's the one in your hand.