Leonardo Sewald Cunha
How did you get into the beer industry? Why does beer matter to you?
I started as a homebrewer in south Brazil around 25 years ago. I created a homebrew club with some friends, and was getting close to a few fellow Brazilian breweries, who were very friendly towards homebrewers. Eventually, I decided to take it to the next level and earned a brewing degree at Siebel Institute in Chicago. That not only helped me get the brewing and entrepreneurial knowledge I needed but also exposed me to the values of American brewing: fun, camaraderie, creativity, and a serious commitment to quality. Brazil didn't have many breweries by the late 2000s, and none of the existing ones were focused on American styles of beer. With that in mind, the decision to start a brewery inspired by American beers in Brazil was an easy one. And it paid off: To this day, Seasons is viewed by consumers as one of the pioneer breweries in Brazil, something I'm really proud of because, to me, beer is so much more than just a beverage. Beer is history, science, culture, and entertainment. There's a unique social aesthetic to beer, something that brings people together and makes them feel at home with each other. It's just great!
Why do you judge at the World Beer Cup? What does judging at the World Beer Cup mean to you?
So many things. There’s the learning aspect: I’ve been judging beers for almost 20 years but I’m always learning something new. Meeting fellow judges from around the world is also really cool. From a more personal point of view, being a judge at the World Beer Cup is a privilege; since I started in the brewing business and then became a beer judge, it has always been a dream of mine to be a part of this event. Competitions like this help shape the world of beer. With so many different beer trends and beer scenes around the world, having a competition like the World Beer Cup raises the bar for everyone: high-level contests draw attention to brewers large and small. Their goals might be getting feedback or having a shot at an award, but what happens, in the end, is a celebration of quality. Each and every year we see higher quality beers on the table. As judges, we see the work of choosing the best beers getting harder and harder every year. And that's great because that means there's better beer out there for everyone. Competitions like the World Beer Cup play a big role in that.