Judging for Canadian Brewing Excellence

As lab technologist at the CFWI Innovation Centre, Kelly Byer manages Niagara College’s research labs.

Niagara College’s Kelly Byer, research laboratory technologist at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, had the recent privilege of lending her expertise as a judge in the 2021 Canadian Brewing Awards – the country’s national competition for judging the quality of Canadian beer.  

The sanctioned blind tasting is to determine the best beers in 55 style categories. A Canadian Brewing Award medal is a widely recognized symbol of Canadian brewing excellence. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the judging was held outdoors at the Indie Ale House production facility in Toronto from July 5 to 18. Award winners will be announced at the 19th Annual Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference Sept. 16 to 18 in Québec. 

Byer was joined in the judging honour by fellow NC beer experts Adrian Popowycz, brewmaster, professor and research lead with Research & Innovation, and Victor North, NC Teaching Brewery professor. 

This was Byer’s first major beer judging opportunity since receiving her certification from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) last year. 

“I was impressed by the logistics requirements of a large event like this (obtaining the samples, storing them, sorting them into styles – all the work that has to be done before the event, not to mention the actual judging), and to do this with the COVID restrictions took an incredible amount of work – kudos to Jason Stranak and his team!” she said.  

“As for the beers themselves, these were beers from craft brewers across Canada, which I generally don’t get to try. I knew the incredible breadth and depth of the industry in Ontario, and it’s nice to see that replicated across the country.”  

Byer, who has taught Brewing Chemistry in the CFWI, is also heavily involved in helping the craft brewing industry in the province. She utilizes the leading-edge equipment at the CFWI Innovation Centre labs – one of the very few labs where the craft beer industry can get their brew analyzed.