Athletic Brewing Co's Free Way IPA is declared Supreme Champion at this year's International Beer Challenge in a historic victory for no/low alcohol beer

For the first time in the Challenge’s 24 year history, an alcohol free beer has taken the top prize at the International Beer Challenge 2020 - a clear indication of success for the popular low/no alcohol trend.

Free Way IPA: the light, hoppy, alcohol free beer crowned Supreme Beer Champion at this year's International Beer Challenge 2020
Free Way IPA: the light, hoppy, alcohol free beer crowned Supreme Beer Champion at this year's International Beer Challenge 2020

Beating over 500 competitors from across the globe, Athletic Brewing Co.’s Free Way IPA has been named the Supreme Champion Beer at this year’s International Beer Challenge (ITC) – with judges having assessed beers virtually in a game-changing year for the food and drink industry.

The Free Way IPA sailed through the ITC’s tough, rigorous judging process to establish itself as a frontrunner in the competition, with senior judges declaring it the Supreme Champion after a blind taste event held over Zoom. With the IPA also taking the title for Best No & Low Alcohol Beer, the North American brewery achieved great success at this year’s event – having additionally been declared Brewer of the Year for North America.

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Athletic Brewing’s co-founder and head brewer, John Walker, said: “This achievement is a testament to our entire brewing, packaging and quality teams - it is their dedication to creating the highest quality brew that made this recognition possible.

“We are especially humbled by this award because our beers were rated on par with some of the best non-alcoholic and alcoholic beers around the world at a world-renowned competition, the International Beer Challenge, and received top honours!"

Meanwhile, the edgy producer behind some of Britain’s favourite fruity APAs, Beavertown, was declared Brewer of the Year UK, while British retail chain Marks and Spencer managed to scoop awards for Best Retailer and Best Stout or Porter for their Irish Stout.

The success of the ‘nolo’ alcohol trend has spurred innovation in the industry as top brands hope to entice a sober curious market with no or low alcohol beers, cocktails and spirits. In 2018 the Office for National Statistics found that 16-24 year olds in Britain were less likely to consume alcohol than any other age group, while GlobalData reported that millennials influenced by the wellness boom were driving sizeable growth in the no and low alcohol industry.

Jeff Evans, IBC Chairman, said: “For many years, the No and Low-Alcohol section of the IBC judging has been a poor relation to the rest of competition. But no more! This year, in recognition of the number of No and Low-Alcohol beers being produced, we added a new trophy for this sector and our judges were hugely impressed with what they tasted.”

CAMRA’s director for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Joe Crawford, added:

“From very little choice a few years ago, we have certainly seen an incredible amount of innovation in this sector will styles from Hoppy IPA’s to robust Porters now being available in Pubs and from off-sales.

“Now you don’t have to compromise on taste when you’re watching your units, making beer and pub-going still a viable option for today’s non-drinker."

To see the full list of winners at this year’s International Beer Challenge, visit their website here.

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