I suppose I'm stretching the "Philadelphia region" just a bit farther than you might expect. To accommodate my purposes here, let's go (roughly) with eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and all of Delaware.
The annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver is upon us once again, scheduled this week from October 2-October 4. GABF means different things to different people, from attendees and volunteers to judges, vendors, and brewers. Some see it as work while others see it as a sort of vacation. Some write it off without much value and others bask in the glow of the world's largest beer festival-slash-judging event. There's no debating, however, the enormity of it and the spectacular effort that the Brewers Association undertakes in order to showcase our favorite beverage.
As for brewers submitting beers to be judged at the mammoth specatacle of great beer, the approach can vary quite a bit as well. Some brewers pride themselves on grabbing production beers off the line, submitting them, and letting the chips fall where they may. Others brew special batches or recipes and submit themselves to plenty of pre-screening agita prior to submitting their candidates.
No matter the approach, award-winning brewers return home with plenty of pride. Being validated on a platform the size of GABF with medals bestowed from top-tier judges with a well-regarded judging process is an honor that most enjoy showing off to their customers back home.
Across the eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware brewing landscape, below is a quick rundown from those I heard back from regarding their participation in the 2014 GABF. But first, a quick recap of recent awards won from local brewers at the 2013 GABF, 2014 World Beer Cup, and 2014 Summer Beer Tasting Championship.
Who will surprise us this year? The first surprise would be if a perennial winner from Iron Hill like Russian Imperial Stout or ones from Tröegs such as Sunshine Pils or Troegenator did not return with another medal for its walls. Or if something in the lager realm from the likes of Iron Hill, Neshaminy Creek, Sly Fox, Stoudts, Tröegs, or Victory does not represent the eastern European brewing roots of the region as it typically does. And as new brewers continue to fill in the landscape, there's greater chance than ever to see other newcomers to join the young Barren Hills, Mispillions, and Neshaminy Creeks of the world in the GABF winner ranks.
Great American Beer Festival 2013
Gold - Neshaminy Creek Churchville Lager (Vienna-Style Lager), Stewart's Stumblin' Monk (Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale), Tröegs Troegenator (Bock)
Silver - Dogfish Head Midas Touch (Specialty Honey Beer), Flying Fish OktoberFish (American-Style Amber Lager), Iron Hill Russian Imperial Stout (Imperial Stout), McKenzie Brew House Dark and Stormy (Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer), Rock Bottom KOP The Hammer (Baltic-Style Porter), Sly Fox Grisette (Belgian- and French-Style Ale), Yards Brawler (English-Style Mild Ale)
Bronze - Sly Fox Oktoberfest (Vienna-Style Lager), Tröegs Sunshine Pils (German-Style Pilsener), Yards Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce (Indigenous Beer)
World Beer Cup 2014
Small Brewpub of the Year - Iron Hill
Gold - Dominion Candi Belgian Tripel (Belgian-Style Tripel), Iron Hill-Chestnut Hill The Golden Child (American-Style Brett Beer), Iron Hill-Media Russian Imperial Stout (British-Style Imperial Stout), Iron Hill-Media 2009 Russian Imperial Stout (Aged Beer)
Silver - Al's of Hampden/Pizza Boy Hoptart (Experimental Beer), Mispillion River Brewing Beach Bum Joe (American-Belgo-Style Ale)
Bronze - Barren Hill Barren Hill Biere De Extra (Belgian- and French-Style Ale), Flying Fish HopFish (Classic English-Style Pale Ale), Iron Hill-Maple Shade Honey Tripper (Specialty Honey Beer), Iron Hill-Phoenixville Bock (Traditional German-Style Bock), Stoudts Pils (German-Style Pilsener)
US Beer Tasting Championship 2014
"Grand Champion" - Victory Prima Pils (Pilsner) and Weyerbacher Double Simcoe (Imperial IPA/Red Ale)
Even though all but two of the responding breweries supplied me with the list of beers that they submitted to be judged, I chose to withhold the beer list for a couple of reasons, most significantly for the appearance of propagating what has become sometimes known (somewhat unfairly) as a "loser's list".
Of the nearly fifty breweries that I "surveyed", here is a list whose beers you can expect to see in Denver potentially coming home with some new bling.
- 3rd Wave
- Dogfish Head
- Iron Hill
- 16 Mile
- Flying Fish
- Triumph (Princeton)
- Cape May
- Rinn Duin
- River Horse
- Village Idiot
- Barren Hill
- Earth Bread + Brewery
- Forest & Main
- Free Will
- Nodding Head
- Rock Bottom (King of Prussia)
- Roy Pitz
- Sly Fox
- St. Boniface
- Susquehanna Brewing
- Triumph (New Hope)
- Barley Creek
- McKenzie Brew House
- Philadelphia Brewing
- Tired Hands