Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) was founded in 1981 as the first international wine competition in the United States, adding beer, spirits, cider, sake, mead and more to the repertoire in 1994. Using industry-leading methodology co-developed with Cornell University and a one-of-a-kind approach to trade focus groups and sensory panelist recruitment, BTI’s evaluations are so much more than a competition. Beverage Testing Institute has become the most comprehensive and reliable source for alcohol beverage product testing and professional reviews in the world.

We’re the research, advisory and engagement company that helps alcohol brands be better. Our value to the trade is built on our unique position as an advocate for the alcohol beverage industry, an independent publication, and a decades-long, consumer-trusted brand. On this foundation, we develop, refine, recognize, and launch the world’s best beverages.

BTI establishes and advocates for the highest standards in the beverage industry. Our proprietary, ASTM-compliant methodology is so rigorous that it has been vetted and accepted by the National Advertising Department of the Better Business Bureau and used by leading beverage brands as the basis for numerous successful quality-based claims in national media campaigns.

For 39 years, our clients and partners have accelerated their development processes, improved the quality of their products, and amplified their brands reputation and worth through quality-centric messages and marketing strategies that we have developed with them.

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBCWine Enthusiast, Restaurant Hospitality, The New Yorker, Wine & Spirits, International Wine, and All About Beer, are just a few of the many media outlets that tap into BTI’s acumen and expertise.

Our Mission: To improve the beverage industry, one brand at a time.

We utilize exceptional methodology, proprietary tools, and decades of experience to offer research, development, and marketing services that protect large investments, elevate brand reputations, optimize market reception, and engage consumers.

We help beverage competitors convert concepts into winning products.


Jerald O'Kennard

Jerald O’Kennard

Executive Director

Jerald is one of the world’s leading authorities in the drinks space who, over the course of his 20 years as director of BTI, has professionally reviewed and analyzed over 75,000 wines, beers, and spirits and trained hundreds of hospitality and drinks professionals in the science and art of critical liquid evaluation and sensory analysis. Leveraging his deep knowledge and vast experience, he collaborates with beverage brands of all sizes seeking to create great products and winning marketing and sales strategies. Over the past two decades, Jerald has worked closely with the world’s most-admired beverage brands and holding companies, including Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, Beam-Suntory, PepsiCo, Heineken, Starbucks, Bacardi, Campari, MillerCoors, Brown-Forman, and the Boston Beer Company.

Frequently sought out for his expertise and analysis, Jerald has contributed and provided articles, insights, and critiques to media that include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNBC, The Chicago Tribune, All About Beer, The New Yorker, BBC, and Restaurant Hospitality, and many others.

A graduate of the University of Chicago with a BA in Economics and post-graduate work in the arts, Jerald has amassed certifications and honors that include being valedictorian of his class at The Chicago Wine School, a Certified Sensory Specialist by The Siebel Institute of Technology, Pilsner Urquell’s Beer Connoisseur #2 (the late, great drinks author and BTI panelist Michael Jackson being #1), and an appointment as ‘Cavaleiro’ by the Confraria do Vinho do Porto—an honorary Portuguese Knighthood for his service in the understanding, appreciation, and promotion of Port wines.

Debra O'Kennard

Debra O’Kennard

Vice President, Operations

Debra manages the day-to-day operations at Beverage Testing Institute.  With over 30 years of experience working in hospitality with a focus on food and beverage, Debra not only understands beverages from a product standpoint, but from the context in which beverages are consumed and brand loyalties are forged.

With a degree in restaurant management and extensive experience managing large-scale events at prestigious and high-profile occasions including the Kentucky Derby, Debra keeps a laser-like focus on efficiency and achieving objectives.  Clients and partners benefit from Debra’s ability to bring simplicity and order to complex undertakings.

In addition to bringing her culinary expertise to bear for clients and partners, Debra also volunteers by teaching cooking classes for Share Our Strength, a national organization working to end childhood hunger in the United States.

Laura Kruming-Berg

Laura Kruming-Berg

Associate Director

Laura joined the Beverage Testing Institute in 2017 and uses her strong analytical and strategic planning skills to help brands effectively make data-driven production and marketing decisions. She has moderated over 400 BTI focus groups analyzing over 10,000 wines, beers, and spirits using industry-leading sensory analysis methodology.

A passionate advocate for the craft spirits industry, Laura holds a WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits and she is a Certified Specialist of Spirits from The Society of Wine Educators. She brings over a decade of professional experience to bear for BTI’s clients and partners.  Recognized for her expertise in the beverage industry, she has presented at major industry events including the National Restaurant Association’s BAR show and American Distilling Institute’s Craft Spirits Conference.

Major brands trust Laura’s deep understanding of consumer tastes and preferences, and she recently co-executed a national consumer taste test for Jim Beam Black—the first of its kind in the US alcohol industry.  She has successfully worked with household-name brands including Heineken, Stoli, Glenfiddich and Kirkland Signature, as well as trade groups that include the New Jersey Wine Growers Association and Arizona’s Willcox Wine Country.

Diana Kruming-Berg

Diana Kruming-Berg

Client Marketing Manager

Diana’s status as a hospitality industry veteran has been cultivated through 20+ years of managing, serving, and bartending in Chicago’s top restaurants and nationally recognized cocktail lounges.

In addition to working in tandem with critically acclaimed and James Beard Award-winning chefs and restaurateurs, she is a whiskey aficionado and wine professional, having earned recognition for her intensive studies from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her sales and marketing career boasts portfolio management from boutique Italian wines to craft-heavy spirits, and she further honed her whisky expertise as brand ambassador for both The Balvenie and Glenfiddich Single Malts.

Diana’s vast industry experience and personal values of empathy and hospitality are the driving force behind her interpersonal communications, and she draws upon this wealth of wisdom when sharing sales and hospitality insights with BTI clients.

Julia Gordon

Julia Gordon

Production Manager & Editorial Lead

Julia is acknowledged in the bartending community to be one of the top professionals in the drinks field today. Prior to joining Beverage Testing Institute, Julia was an opening staff member and former bartender/bar manager at Lost Lake, winner of the 2018 Spirited Award for Best American Cocktail Bar and a multi-time James Beard Award Finalist.  In addition, Julia was named one of GO Magazine’s 2018 Top Queer Bartenders in the Country, and one of Beverage Media’s 2018 Bartenders to Watch.

Clients and partners benefit from Julia’s product expertise and their penetrating insights into consumer tastes and preferences. They combine their experience as a published writer with in-depth comprehension of industry trends to craft high-impact content that promotes BTI’s clients and engages readers. Their management of tasting panels and BTI’s trade network helps to ensure that beverage brands receive the feedback needed to successfully develop, optimize and launch winning products.

Passionate about food and beverages since childhood, Julia received their Bachelor of Arts Degree in the Anthropology of Food from Indiana University. They are a multi-time Speedrack national finalist and have earned a Bar Ready distinction from the prestigious BAR 5-Day program.

"The consistency and broad consumer reach of BTI ratings and reviews really solidified the quality message of our artisan brand and helped us build a well-distributed and highly regarded specialty portfolio of beers."
Laurent-Xavier Gilbert,
VP Development at La Brasserie Unibroue
"The BTI rankings have an effect on what restaurants put on their wine lists, and ultimately on what you might be drinking."
Joe Gray,
Editor, Chicago Tribune
"BTI is still the outstanding tasting organization, uniquely independent. Keep up the good work!"
Jan Wells,
VP of Marketing, Cannon Wines
"Beverage Testing Institute is a professional operation with a professional approach. I like that they are committed to truly blind tastings and that their reviews are comprehensive and informative. We highlight the reviews in our tasting room and post them on social media; the consumer response is very positive. "
Edwin Richards,
Winemaker/Owner, Adastra
“Our BTI awards have helped us with our US distribution. Sales have increased form 0 cases to 250 cases in just a couple of months. We opened two new accounts in Seattle and New York.”
Eduardo Aguirre Victoria,
Terre de Vignerons
“[BTI's] is well known as a main reference for connoisseurs, experts and followers of spirits.”
Otto Flores,
Ron Barcelo
"We have used (BTI) for the last 5 years and couldn’t be happier. They always have great customer service and support! Not only do they have detailed professional reviews and tasting notes, the addition of the metallic stickers and shelf-talkers help us capture customers, and drive bottle sales. The trophies, medals, and printed awards are displayed as center pieces in our tasting room. Their website is easy to navigate and has great product information."
Mike Huffman,
Whidbey Island Distillery
“Our winery has had BTI rate our wines for a number of years. We use the bottle stickers and shelf talkers for both education and to enhance our marketing. We have had distributors request bottle stickers, and during wine pourings, we use the shelf talkers as a customer take away. We appreciate the information written by BTI since we find it to be concise, descriptive, informational, and a well rounded review of our wines.“
Janet Soderberg,
Alamira Wines, Vistaflores Estate
When we found out that our 20 year Pappy Van Winkle had been entered in BTI's 1997 World Spirits Championships and received their 99-point rating, that’s when we started getting calls from distributors around the country looking for our whiskey.

That was a benchmark moment for our business. Every time we received a high rating from BTI over the years, interest increased for our brand.

We owe a lot to the Beverage Testing Institute for our success.
Julian P. Van Winkle, III,
President, Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery

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