The USBTC takes a unique approach in that its competition is held in multiple stages. We conduct a series of field trials wherein our judges sample beers of similar styles and select the best to advance on to subsequent rounds. Field trials are typically conducted over a one-month period in separate locations near Boston, MA, Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL. For each beer category, the field trials continue for several rounds until the winning entries are selected.
The USBTC is also unique in its regional approach. We conduct separate field trials for beers from six different regions of the country: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic/Southeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountain/Southwest, Northwest/Pacific, and California. The field trials first determine regional winners in each category. The top beers are then pitted against each other in order to name a national grand champion. The USBTC is held each year in two separate sessions, one winter and one Summer
All beers are rated using a hedonic scale indicating overall pleasure achieved from tasting the beer. Our scale incorporates aroma, flavor intensity, balance, complexity, and mouth-feel (since we feel great beer is mainly about great taste, our system does not assign points based on the appearance of the beer). One point regarding the entries; while significant efforts are conducted within each category to find relatively unknown good beers that are worthy of consideration, extensive searches of numerous other reference lists and competition results are also done to make sure that products considered exemplary by other respected authors, organizations, etc. are included (i.e., we’re not above having others do some of the work for us!). Thus, we feel our entries tend to include the best currently produced beers in each category.
This year, the USBTC will name both a national and regional champions in each of the different beer categories listed below:
Summer SessionWinter Session
India Pale Ale Bock/Double Bock Barleywine Dark Lager
Pale Ale Pilsner Strong/Old Ale Brown Ale
Amber/Red Ale Dortmunder/Helles Imperial Stout Scottish-Style Ale
Bitter/ESB Wheat Beer Stout Abbey/Strong Belgian
Kolsch/Golden Ale Fruit-Flavored Beer Porter Vienna/Marzen Lager
French/Belgian Specialty Ale Spice-Flavored Beer/Holiday Beer
Sour Style Barrel Aged
Why all these categories? Good question! Relative to the largest competitions, we opt for somewhat fewer, more inclusive categories (e.g., all stouts versus oatmeal, sweet, dry, etc.) versus more, thoroughly exclusive categories. One reason is that many products push the limits of certain styles to the point of blurring the boundaries. Second, we feel that many of the categories in large competitions are overkill. Finally, we believe that some styles are not produced by enough brewers to warrant their own category. Weighing all these factors, we came up with the aforementioned twenty-two category system.
We usually add in a "Pull Out" style to keep things different. In the past we have done "Yeast Killer", Imperial Pilsners, Barrel Aged etc. This gives brewers a chance to go out side the box when brewing a style and show it off.
In a nutshell, that is the approach of the USBTC. However, we are always looking to improve and we are very interested in your suggestions and/or questions regarding our championship!
There is no charge to submit to the USBTC and there never will be. We only ask for 4 bottles/Cans per style being entered.
At USBTC, we have but one simple mission, and that is to find the best beers in America. We are not a corporation or affiliated with a particular beer marketing organization or brewery, we are simply beer lovers whose goal is to find the best beers in America and share those results with you.