This week we had a chance to catch up with two time U.S. Brewers Cup champion (2014, 2016) Todd Goldsworthy as he prepares for his second appearance at the World Brewers Cup. For those new to the competition, the Brewers Cup exhibits the world’s best in manual brewing and service skills. During our chat with Todd, we got a glimpse into what it’s like prepping for the world stage, as well as what he’s learned from 2014.
Brewer’s Cup Basics:
Before we dive into our chat with Todd, let’s cover a few Brewers Cup basics. Whether it’s the U.S. Cup or World Cup, there’s two rounds of competition: the preliminaries and finals. In both rounds, competitors present their brew process to a panel of judges and serve three individual beverages for tasting. This past U.S. Brewers Cup at SCAA, 37 brewers displayed their brewing and service skills during the prelims over three days. The judges then chose six finalists that moved on and competed in the finals.
In past U.S. cups, competitors complete a compulsory service and open service during the preliminary round. During compulsory service each brewer is given the same whole bean coffee. During open service, each competitor can use whatever coffee and brewing method they desire. This year, the U.S. competition cut the compulsory round and focused on just open service for both the prelims and finals.
The world competition has kept the compulsory round for the prelims and changed a few rules in an attempt to make it the truest test possible of distinguishing brewers purely on their technique.
Given the differences between the U.S. and World competitions, we were eager to talk with Todd to understand what he does to switch gears between these two events and mentally prepare for the big stage.
So explain what’s different about the World Cup from the US Cup?
In the compulsory round everyone used to get just the same coffee, but could otherwise do their own thing. Now we all have to use the same coffee, water and grinder. I’ve been playing with the specs a lot. The required water has a low TDS (85 mg/l) and usually the lowest I use is 100 mg/l (at SCAA we used 150 mg/l). The big drop in TDS will be challenging. It’s also not finalized what grinder and model we will all be using.
Did you start planning for these rule changes early?
I wanted to focus on the SCAA U.S. cup before focusing on the new rules for worlds, so didn’t look at the rules until after [SCAA].
This seems like a big shift in strategy from U.S. to Worlds, what are you doing to mentally prepare yourself?
I practice with distractions because nothing ever goes perfectly on stage. My coach has two sons – a 2 year old and a 3 year old who are very distracting. I’ll practice my routine while the oldest is singing “Old Mcdonald” and shaking the table I’m brewing on. I also like performing in front of coffee professionals and novices as it helps me understand what’s confusing about the routine and what’s missing.
In 2014 you went to Worlds in Italy – what have you learned from that experience?
On the world stage there is a language barrier. Certain flavors can come across differently depending on your word choice. The judges have different perspectives for different words. This time I am focusing on what words I use more carefully.
Any surprises in 2014?
Before worlds last time I never really heard the music or myself at the U.S. level and never practiced with music. Then, when I went to worlds I could hear myself and the music. Now I practice with music along with the other distractions I mentioned to help prepare.
Is your routine set?
I will be tweaking all the way up to the day before working on the script.
Although Todd’s routine will stay fluid for the next few weeks, we’re excited to see if Stagg makes an appearance into his routine like at the U.S. Cup. Either way, we’re routing for a him to take the trophy home. For more details about the World Brewer’s Cup (Dublin, Ireland June 23-25) visit: worldbrewerscup.org