Meet the 'Beer Geek' Nacho Curto
A good conversation and a pint of beer go hand in hand. In the world of beer competitions, it is no different. Through the exchange of experience, competitors can improve their technique, products, and organizational skills. We spoke with Ignacio José Curto Sillamoni, better known in the Latin American beer community as ''Nacho Curto''. A homebrewer since 2008, he performed in all posts that a beer competition entails: he competed both as a homebrewer and still competes as head brewer at Laurus; he collaborated with the organization of a number of competitions in Argentina; and quite frequently is invited as a judge to events in different parts of the world, most recently the World Beer Cup. In this conversation, we focus on the organizing roles, vital to any association or club that is considering this kind of Enterprise.
BAP: Tell us a little about yourself, how did you start organizing craft beer competitions?
N. C.: My name is Nacho Curto, and I’m from Argentina. I have been a brewer for the last 10 years, and I started with beer competition organization 3 years ago. My first experiences were with local beer competitions and some internal beer quality controls for our city beer festivales, organized pretty much in the same manner as a beer competition, but with no prizes.
BAP: In your opinion, how important are craft beer competitions for the brewing community?
N. C.: There are many obvious advantages of beer competitions: feedback from experts or more experienced brewers, medals that can help with commercial objectives for breweries, and sometimes the participation in satellite events around beer competitions, which can be an opportunity for homebrewers to meet and exchange experiences with their peers. For breweries and professional brewers, these events are an occasion to network and even sell beer directly to the consumer.
From the point of view of judges, you connect with other people in the beer industry, you learn from more experienced colleagues, and bigger events push you to train your sensory skills and in knowing your beer styles.
There are some not-so-advantageous points linked to the competition. Sometimes beer competitions (and judges also) take results as the absolute truth, and we all know that, as any “game” or process, nothing is perfect. A beer that won a competition is very likely a very good beer, but a medal in a given competition means strictly that this beer performed well against a given set of beers judged by a certain group of judges.
BAP: What are the biggest challenges for anyone considering organizing this kind of event?
N. C.: The biggest challenge for a beginner, in my opinion, is to master all aspects of the operation of the event. I believe that organization is the key. Being responsible for coordinating judges, storing and organizing beer samples and assembling a competent team of staff requires plenty of management skills. In addition, there are other topics that need an organizer's attention while the competition is running, such as checking the judging process, feedback management, results, and medal assignment.
BAP: What tip would you like to have received before organizing your first beer competition?
N.C.: Put together a good working team to receive, process, and organize the registrations and beers. Allow for a fair time for sorting and recodification of entries. Have a good and experienced judge director, a cellar máster and a head of stewards.
BAP: How can automating competitions with BAP benefit the organizers?
N.C.: This will sound like a piece of commercial advice, but I will never again consider going through a beer competition organization without software, for the judging process and the general organization of entries. Especially with digital judging, but not restricted to it, BAP does a very good job and keeps adding new features continuously.
Outside the brewing world, Nacho Curto is an Aeronautical Engineer with a Ph.D. in Materials Sciences. Besides that, he has been working as an assistant professor in the department of Aeronautical Engineering at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata since 2004.