OpenWater and Airtable: A System to Determine the Best Craft Beer

Whether you prefer pilsners, porters, or IPAs, generations of craftsmanship flow through every pint of craft beer.

OpenWater raised glasses for a toast when the Best of Craft Beer Awards selected our awards management software.

This prestigious awards program, presented by Original Gravity Events, is located in Bend, Oregon. The awards program recognizes 86 categories of excellence. Last year, 153 winning breweries from 39 states took home medals for exceptional beer. There were 88 judges, comprised of vetted brewers, guest judges, and notable tastemakers across the craft beer industry in America.

Beer and Barcodes

The Best of Craft Beer Awards needed an awards management program to coordinate entrants and judges. By virtue of the product under review, the program had some additional, unique considerations.

OpenWater is experienced working with a wide range of awards. This includes award entrants with perishable goods. (See, for example, our work with Specialty Foods’ sofi Awards.)

However, the “craft” origin of the brews under review added a layer of complexity. None of the entries would have a standardized identifier beyond the submission paperwork. This had the potential for error and confusion.

“During our onboarding conversation we learned that our client needed a way to track each and every bottle. This was necessary to input data into OpenWater,” explains General Manager Zack Schwartz. “Of course, handcrafted items aren’t packaged like most products.”

A barcode would ensure easy tracking and prepare the data for entry into OpenWater.

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“We suggested that Original Gravity use a third-party tool called Airtable. This would allow them to scan and track a unique barcode, or QR code, for every submission. An added bonus is that anyone on their team with a smartphone could scan and track all incoming entries.”  

He continues, “On our side, in OpenWater, we use a tool called Api2Pdf. This allows Original Gravity applicants to generate barcodes and packing slips. This is a very important part of the process.”

The barcode infrastructure made categorization and inventory control much easier. This also made it easier for administrators to assign each pint to the respective judging categories in OpenWater Awards.

Airtable Integration


Airtable is a tool that combines spreadsheets and databases. The primary benefit is the ability to sort complex data in a visual, easy-to-use format. Users may duplicate existing Airtable workspace templates to start, and add on customized, app-like functionality.

Asset tracking with barcodes is built into Airtable by default.

Original Gravity set up a standard workspace with Airtable. Applicants submitted entries with barcode data. When they arrived for evaluation the Original Gravity team started scanning. All the inventory was easily managed in the warehouse, and in OpenWater, too.

“The client’s data lives in Airtable,” explains Findlay Hilchie, Account Manager. “OpenWater assigns a barcode using the Application ID number associated with each bottle. That data that is pushed back to Airtable. The tracking is important because the client moves bottles around to set up beer flights for tasting.”

Judges from around the country gather in Bend, Oregon to evaluate hundreds of American craft brews. Here, a sample is labeled and ready for review. By combining Airtable’s barcode functionality with OpenWater’s award management software the organizers can track every individual bottle throughout the multi-step judging process. Photo: Best of Craft Beer Awards.



The Best of Craft Beer Awards enjoy a flexible solution to accept physical samples for review and track them throughout multiple rounds of judging.

Using OpenWater awards management software, they:

  1. Discovered a cost-effective inventory tracking system, Airtable. OpenWater anticipated a pain point (inventory management of artisan products) and suggested a solution. This database solution simplified workload and eliminated errors. Now any team member can gather appropriate information about an entry with the snap of a barcode.
  2. Enjoyed seamless data exchange with OpenWater. OpenWater is an all-in-one online system to manage applicants, submissions, and judges. Airtable assimilates and assigns barcode data to any number of evaluation-related tasks in OpenWater.
  3. Are Now Positioned for Growth. The Best of the Craft Beer Awards now have the infrastructure necessary to build and grow their awards program. Starting in 2019 the Best of Craft Beer Awards will expand into international territories. Fortunately, their award management system will grow with them with very little additional cost or time investment.

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