Over the last weekend of August 2017, the west coast kicked off the 2018 United States Barista and Brewers Cup season with preliminary events in Seattle, Washington and Rancho Cucamonga, California. Preliminaries are a new addition this year and will take place over the next six weeks in eight locations. Those who rank highest are guaranteed spots in one of the two Qualifying Events this winter (more info coming soon)). From there, the best of the best get slots in the United States Barista Competition and Brewers Cup next April at the 2018 SCA Event.

Nicholas Balcer (Barista in Portland) speaks to judges. Blacer will advance to Qualifiers.

The Specialty Coffee Association calls these preliminaries “member-driven events” and are decidedly smaller in scale and less expensive to enter than the larger SCA produced Qualifiers and Nationals. Sprudge has covered the US Barista Championship and Brewers Cup events live since 2011, and our commitment to these events continues this season with select original coverage at the preliminary events nationwide.

“What do you think of this experiment?”

The question on everyone’s lips this weekend in Seattle and Rancho. Over the last decade, the United States Barista Competition circuit has gone from convention center sized venues to unconventional boxing rings and in its 2008 hay day, the SCAA hosted ten regionals. This year, there will be seven barista competitions and Brewers Cup preliminary events, held in smaller venues with abbreviated performances and judging pools. This move was made following two years of consideration after smaller regionals were eliminated entirely in 2016 and 2017.

Sam Bradvien (Dillanos Coffee Roasters) presents a milk drink for the judges. Bradvein will move on to Qualifiers.

“This set-up reminds me of what it was like in 2006,” Dismas Smith, the 2002 North American Barista Champion, told us at the Synesso event in Seattle. The factory, the crowd size, and boot strap nature of it all gave it a house-show in the basement vibe. Synesso hosted the Barista Competition, with fifteen baristas competing in all, throwing open the doors to their working factory in Seattle’s SoDo industrial district to two days of community hangtime.

“We felt that the opportunity to host the preliminaries fell directly in line with our ongoing desire to have deeper engagement within the specialty coffee community,” says Sarah Palmer, Synesso’s Global Sales Manager. “It was an absolute blast to have the privilege of hosting!” The Northwest Region will conclude its prelims action beginning Saturday, September 9th with a Brewers Cup preliminary event in Portland, Oregon, hosted by Portland Coffee Social Club.

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In Rancho Cucamonga, Klatch Coffee Roasting and Wilbur Curtis Co. held both the Brewers Cup and Barista Competition preliminaries under the same roof. There was a dunk tank, a mondo-sized Jenga, and a warm community feeling throughout. Two-time US Barista Champion Heather Perry (2003, 2007) of Klatch shared announcement duties with Brewers Cup Champion Todd Goldsworthy and Matt Barahura. Augie’s Coffee provided frozen cold brew cocktails for all in Curtis Granita machines.

“For Klatch Coffee competition is not a season but an everyday aspect of business,” Todd Goldsworthy told us, “We push ourselves to be the best we can be at everything we do. We are so proud that we were able to open our doors and create a space for like-minded competitors to come together and show their best at what they can do right here in Rancho Cucamonga. We are excited for the Rancho top 12 and are excited to cheer them on all the way to Seattle 2018!”

Frozen cold brew refreshments for all in a Curtis Frozen Beverage Machine (CFB-3) (Photo: Just Shannon for Sprudge)

“The Barista and Brewers competition have always been viewed by Curtis as crucial to fostering the growth of specialty coffee on a national and global level,” says Andrew Gomez, Specialty Coffee Sales and Training lead at Wilbur Curtis Co. “When Klatch approached us to be a co-sponsor for the newly designed Preliminary events we jumped at the chance to be involved, and with it basically being in our backyard, we were excited to provide some fun amenities to make this event feel like an end of summer bash.” We provided a Curtis Frozen Beverage Machine (CFB-3) and our good friends at Augie’s Coffee Roasters filled them with some of their tasty recipes like a Cold Brew and Lemonade mixture sweetened with cranberries and honey, and the most popular drink of the weekend; an amazing Tequila based Cold Brew Margarita! The whole weekend was a beautiful example of the coffee community coming together to help put on a great preliminary event. Curtis would like to thank all the volunteers, judges, Klatch coffee family, and other sponsors that helped kick off a great round of preliminary events!”

Seattle Baristas Moving On:

Robert Uribe (Cherry Street Public House)
Andrew Iwerson (Cherry Street Public House)
Connor Nolan (Cherry Street Public House)
Sam Bradvein (Dillanos Coffee Roasters)
Adam Berge (Seattle Coffee Works)
Nicholas Balcer (Barista PDX)
Brian Seaver (Anchorhead)
Morgan Macinnis (Batdorf & Bronson)

Participation trophies were given to every competitor in Seattle.

Rancho Cucamonga Baristas Moving On:

T. Ben Fisher (Elixr)
Matthew Barahura (Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters)
Naida Lindberg (Verve Coffee)
Kay Cheon (The French Press)
Suzy Lippmann (Augie’s Coffee Roasters)
Jen McElroy (Klatch)
Hana Kaneshigo (Verve Coffee Roasters)
Alexandra Mireles (Klatch)

Brewers Cup competitor Blair Smith (Augie’s) gets splashed at the Splash Tank in Rancho Cucamonga. Smith will advance to Brewers Cup Qualifiers. (Photo by Just Shannon for Sprudge)

Rancho Cucamonga Brewers Moving On:

Blair Smith – (Augie’s)
Andy Tan – (Equator Coffees)
Nick Rivera – (Portola Coffee Lab)
Ben Silkes – (Elixr)

The next preliminary event will be the Portland Brewers Cup held on September 10, 2017 in Portland, Oregon. Read more about upcoming events vis the US Coffee Championships online.

Coverage from Seattle reported by Zachary Carlsen  for Sprudge Media Network. 

Coverage from Rancho Cucomonga reported by Just Shannon for Sprudge Media Network. 

Much more coverage from the world of barista competitions at our sister site, Sprudge Live. 

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