Tuesday, October 07, 2014

More fun stuff from GABF 2014

Another Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has wrapped and the judging results are officially in the books.

You may have seen me with live updates throughout the ceremony this past Saturday bringing you the winners from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as they were called to the stage. For the record, here's a link to the final list of those winners.

It was a fast and frantic pace trying to keep up for almost three hours, plus some quick social media commentary that I added along the way. Below are some other quick scribble notes that I made along the way during the awards ceremony on Saturday that I found interesting.

In no particular order...

- Leading up to GABF, Peggy Zwerver from Earth Bread + Brewery mentioned to me that it was the first ever GABF entry for husband/brewer/business partner Tom Baker -- including his days at Heavyweight Brewing Company in Ocean, NJ. He took gold for the storied and excellent Perkuno's Hammer in the Baltic-style Porter category of 42 entries. The beer dates back to his days at the lauded Heavyweight.

- In my preview posting for GABF last week, I noted (not all that boldly, admittedly) that there'd be someone from the "...new brewers...continue to fill in the landscape..." to go home with a medal. In Pennsylvania, Four Seasons surely fit that description as they held off 54 other entries and grabbed a silver medal for its Darkside of the Pint in the Oatmeal Stout category. I covered it in my forthcoming book and described it with "...A well-made oatmeal stout is not a common enough occurrence. This one makes the cut..."

- Also, I mentioned that it would be a complete shock if a perennial winner like "...Iron Hill's Russian Imperial Stout or ones from Tröegs such as Sunshine Pils or Troegenator..." didn't make the grade. The Troegenator saved me as it snagged yet another gold in the bock category to add to its impressive resume.

- I also covered Kane Brewing Company from Ocean, NJ in my book and featured A Night To End All Dawns. I referred to it as "...rich aromas and flavors of bourbon, chocolate, raisins, vanilla, and coffee. An experience worth sharing with others." and the judges seemed to agree, bestowing a gold medal upon it in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category with 109 total entries.

- Each year, particularly since they began canning it for distribution, I've sung the praises of Sly Fox's Grisette. I couldn't be more happy for them, and a bit validated as well, as they scored a gold medal for it in the Belgian- and French-Style Ale category.

- I've drunk Devils Backbone for quite a few years now and their continued strong showing insists that I pay them a visit in 2015.

- I appreciate how "old reliables" can continue to fare well in competitions. In 2014, see Boulevard Zon, Heavy Seas Gold, Left Hand Milk Stout, Ommegang Witte, Shiner Bock, and Victory Golden Monkey as a handful of examples.

- Two of the most polarizing beers, and two that I truly really enjoy — DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus! (bronze-Chocolate Beer, 44 entries) and High Water Campfire Stout (gold-Specialty Beer, 47 entries) — took home justified medals as deftly-balanced beers showcasing "unusual" flavors.

- Speaking of old reliables, Alaskan Smoked Porter continues its world dominance with another bronze added to its medal wall.

- A favorite of mine from coast-to-coast, the under-recognized Telegraph Reserve Wheat may not be so under-recognized for much longer. It was awarded a well-deserved gold medal in German-style Sour Ales, a rapidly growing category this year with 80 entries. Picked up a case from The Beer Yard last month. Drinks well now; ages quite nicely too. Send more, please.

- Bronze and Silver may have played out as expected in the Imperial IPA category with Russian River Pliny The Elder and Port Brewing Hop 15, respectively, wearing those medals. However, catching many by surprise was the Columbus Brewing Company's Creeper which, well, crept up and took a gold medal back to Columbus, Ohio over those two beers and 132 others.

- Not content to be a surprise in the Imperial IPA category, Columbus also took a bronze for American-style IPA behind Half Acre's Heyoka in Illinois, and Breakside IPA from Oregon.

- Of the 21 states with at least one medal winner in a German/Eastern European-based style, only five states were in the northeast, long thought to be the province of solidly-made beers in these categories.

- Exemplifying this condition, take the German-style Pilsener category. This year, Tröegs Sunshine Pils (2013 bronze, 2012 and 2011 silver, 2009 bronze) took a back seat to defending gold medal winner Pivo Pils from Firestone Walker, silver medal winner Russian River STS Pils, and bronze medal winner from Wiseacre Tiny Bomb from Memphis, Tennessee. Mention FW and RR and my hunch is hop bombs and barrel-aging will be mentioned long before Pilsners.

- Likewise, the Vienna-style Lager category, typically listing east-coast states such as Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia amongst the best, this year showed Figueroa Mountain from California and Platt Park from Colorado atop of the judging results of 48 entries.

- And no one below, say North Carolina, really gets into making big stouts, really good big stouts, right? Well, in 2014 a Denton, Texas brewery (Armadillo Ale Works, just north of Dallas) took gold in Imperial Stout for its Quakertown beer and Pinthouse Pizza Craft Brewpub took bronze in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout category for its Jaguar Shark all the way down in Austin, Texas. Now that's weird!

- On one last note, how about some of the favorite beer names in the competition? Dogfish Head Choc Lobster or Columbus Creeper or Old Town I'd Like to Buy the World a Kolsch or Lion Bridge Workman's Compensation (in English-style Mild category) or MobCraft Batshit Crazy (in Coffee Stout category) or Bottle Logic Lagerithm for the mathematician in some of us.

I'm sure I could dig up some more interesting relationships/observations of interest, but I'll leave it to the Brewers Association, which continues each year to impress with its own level of analytics. Check out their page for more statistical breakdown.

Until next year, get out there and enjoy an ever widening world of great beer. Cheers!

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