The 2016 semifinalist nominations for the James Beard Awards were announced Wednesday, and the good news is there are quite a few beer professionals among the nominees for “Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional.” If you’re not familiar with the prestigious food awards, here’s how the James Beard Foundation describe their annual awards. “Covering all aspects of the industry — from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers and architects and more — the Beard Awards are the highest honor for food and beverage professionals working in North America.” Until very recently, the awards were almost exclusively food and wine-centric, but more recently “beverage professionals” has slowly been expanding to include craft beer and spirits, too. It’s been nice to see the prejudice against beer in the food, cooking and restaurant world finally beginning to slide away. Too slowly, perhaps, but still … it’s about time and nice to see.
The list released Wednesday is the semifinalists. On March 15, a smaller list of finalists will be announced from among the semifinalists and the award winners will be announced May 2. In the category “Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional,” six of the twenty semifinalists work in the beer world. Last year it was five and the year before there were seven beer professionals nominated. Hopefully, many of them will make the cut next month. Here’s the beer people for this year:
- Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
- Wayne Carpenter, Skagit Valley Malting, Burlington, WA
- Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA
- Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn, NY
- Jim Koch, The Boston Beer Company, Boston
- Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, ME
Congratulations to all the semifinalists. It’s a great list, all deserving, though I’m especially pleased to see Vinnie Cilurzo, who’s a friend and neighbor.