Total Pageviews

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Virginia craft brewing has arrived! A recap of the Great American Beer Festival Awards Ceremony

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
toasts the assembled craft brewers.
This past Saturday I attended the Great American Beer Festival Awards ceremony held in the Wells Fargo Theater in downtown Denver where the Brewers Association handed out the medals and awards for the judging portion of the festival. Charlie Papazian, the godfather of American homebrewing, and president of the Brewers Association greeted and awarded each brewer or brewing team that was privileged to be called up to the stage.

One of the cool stories of the awards ceremony was watching the east coast beer scene really come into its own. Devils Backbone Brewing, by any definition, kicked ass and stole the show taking home 8 medals (2 golds) and small brewpub and brewpub brewer of the year award. With their strong showing at the Virginia Beer Cup and now here, I think we can safely crown them heir-apparent to the brewing crown of Virginia. While they may sit on the throne now there are still usurpers waiting in the wings to seize it. My local, Port City Brewing, took a bronze with Monumental IPA and Blue Mountain Barrel House (Devils Backbone's neighbor up the road) bronze medaled with Local Species, Mad Fox Brewing  and Rock Bottom - Arlington also grabbed some nice shiny hardware.  Half the Virginia breweries that entered the competition took home at least a medal. While Virginia made a strong showing so to did other breweries in the region. DuClaw from Maryland medaled and so too did the District's own DC Brau. To the south, Mother Earth Brewing in North Carolina grabbed a bronze and to the north, Troegs of Pennsylvania ran away with a few medals and the mid-sized brewery and brewer of the year award. A bit closer to my heart was the showing by Wisconsin breweries. Old favorites of mine such as New Glarus, Stevens Point Brewery, and Central Waters also took home medals. 

Devils Backbone Brewing of Virgina stole the show. 
The competition had 84 categories with a total of 4338 entries by 666 breweries (This is the real reason why Devils Backbone won! It's a conspiracy) and was judged by 185 beer industry professionals from 11 countries over three days. Take a moment to think about that because that is a lot of beer and a good portion of it has only recently emerged on the scene in the last ten years or less. As for the beer itself, IPAs still dominate with the American-Style India Pale Ale category having over 200 entries submitted and the Imperial IPA category had over 100 entries. As one brewer said sarcastically while receiving his medal, "These IPAs are just a fad."  Other categories that were deep with entries were Herb and Spice beer, American Pale Ales, American-Style Strong Pale Ales, and surprisingly the Wood and Barrel Aged category.

The big picture is this. There is no better place in the world right now for beer. Time and again it was said that America is brewing the best beer in the world. American craft beer can go toe to toe, pound for pound against any country in the world not only in beer quality but also for sheer diversity. It is hard to refute that when you look at the strong showings by breweries across the country in all the categories.  

On a side note, one of the things that was interesting to note was audience reaction to several of the winners.  Of particular interest was how former crafts who had been bought up by macro companies were treated. Both Goose Island and Leinenkugels appeared to get the cold shoulder with only perfunctory applause from the audience when their medals were announced. Meanwhile Pabst got a rousing applause from the crowd for its gold medal in American-Style Lager. Make what you will about that. 

Final results can be found here.