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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hail the DC, Maryland, and Virginia 2012 GABF victors. And, one in particular.

The awards for the 2012 Great American Beer Festival have been announced.

This was the 31st iteration of the GABF, organized annually in Denver, Colorado, by the Brewers Association —a trade association for American breweries producing fewer than six million barrels of beer a year. All American breweries, regardless of size, are invited to participate, and, in fact, there are light beer-ish categories which are natural fits for Budweiser, Pabst, and their ilk. But for the most part, it's all about the littler guys, the 'craft' breweries. Think of the competition as the Oscars of American beer, and the winners —the breweries, brewpubs, and brewers— as among the best in their profession.

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By the numbers

Per the festival website —www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com, 673 breweries from 48 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam (out of approximately 2,100 breweries nationwide) entered 4,338 beers (a record amount), to be judged in 84 categories representing 134 beer styles and sub-styles.

The judges —185 industry professionals, from 11 countries, invited by the GABF organizing committee— judged the beers in a 'blind' fashion, being only told the category (and sub-category, when relevant). They awarded a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal to the top three beers in each category, except for Robust Porter, for which they selected no Gold winner. In total, 254 medals were awarded.

Best-of show honors were awarded to six breweries based on some sort of algorithm combining brewery size, whether a brewpub or brewery, total number of medals won, number of competitors, and the strength of the medals (gold, of course, being the best). Three prizes were also awarded in a Pro-Am Competition (in which a homebrewer collaborated with a professional brewery) for which there were 94 entries this year, again, a record.

The category most entered was American-style IPA, with 203 beers. Next was Imperial IPA with 126, followed by Herb and Spice Beer with 114 entries. The second-to-least subscribed category was a surprise: Classic Irish-style Dry Stout, with only 16 entries. The category with the fewest beers entered was American-style Dark Lager, with 12. (Hint to breweries: It's smart to enter by the numbers.)

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Mid-Atlantic Round-up

As this blog —YFGF— is based in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, here is the list of the 7 winning breweries in that tri-state area. Together, they garnered 15 medals.
  • Two Maryland breweries received a total of 2 medals: one gold, one silver (down from 3 medals last year, including 1 gold).
  • Four Virginia breweries received a total of 12 medals: 3 gold, 3 silver, 6 bronze (up from 8 last year, including an identical 3 gold).
  • One D.C. brewery received one medal: a silver (up from ... zero last year).
Further comparing to 2011, that's a total increase of 4 medals overall for the area. The gold medal count stayed even at 4. The silver count increased by 1 to 5. The bronze count doubled from 3 to 6.

What did change —big-time— was that only one brewery in the area took multiple medals, winning 8 of the area's 15, 53% of the total bling. It won 2 of the 4 golds, 2 of the 5 silvers, and 4 of the 6 bronzes. From Virginia, it won 8 of that state's 12 medals. Who was that brewery? Here:

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  • GOLD
    • Category 17: Gluten-free Beer
      Rock Bottom (Arlington, Virginia): Nikki’s Gluten Free Honey Pale Ale
      brewmaster: Dave Warwick
      There were 20 entries in this category.

    • Category 35: Vienna-style Lager
      Devils Backbone (Lexington, Virginia): Vienna Lager
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      Devils Backbone has both a brewpub —its original location, which opened in 2008, in Roseland— and a production-only facility, which opened this year, in Lexington. There were 36 entries in this category

    • Category 64: German-style Altbier
      Union Craft Brewing Company (Baltimore, Maryland): Balt Altbier
      brewmaster: Kevin Blodger
      There were 35 entries in this category.

    • Category 65: German-style Sour Ale
      Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia): Berliner Metro Weiss
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 29 beers in this category.


  • SILVER
    • Category 7: Chocolate Beer
      DuClaw Brewing (Bel Air, Maryland): X-1
      brewmaster: Jim Wagner
      There were 39 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Chicago Brewing of Nevada for its Cocoa for Coconuts.

    • Category 39: American-style Dark Lager
      Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia): Old Virginia Dark
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 12 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Spoetzl of Texas for its Shiner Bock.

    • Category 41: Bock
      Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, Virginia): Elixir Maibock
      brewmaster: Bill Madden
      There were 33 entries in this category. Fellow Virginia brewery, Devils Backbone, took the silver. The gold medal was won by Tommyknocker Brewery of Colorado, for its Butt Head Bock.

    • Category 43: Baltic-Style Porter
      Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia): Danzig
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 31 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Rock Bottom of Pennsylvania for The Hammer.

    • Category 70: Belgian- and French-style Ale
      DC Brau (Washington, D.C.): Your Favorite Foreign Movie
      brewmaster: Jeff Hancock
      In a manner, this was a Pro-Am winner. The recipe was designed by a Washington, D.C. homebrewer Brian Barrows for a competition, whose prize was to brew the recipe at DC Brau. The name is a line from the Steely Dan song, Peg. There were 68 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by The Lost Abbey of California, for Saint’s Devotion.

  • BRONZE
    • Category 28: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener
      Devils Backbone (Lexington, Virginia): Gold Leaf Lager
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 26 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Auburn Alehouse of California, for its Gold Country Pilsner.

    • Category 21: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer
      Blue Mountain Barrel House (Arrington, Virginia): Local Species
      brewmaster: Taylor Smack
      Blue Mountain has both a brewery and tasting room —its original location, which opened in 2007, in Afton— and a barrel-aging facility, which opened in 2011, in Arrington, both in Nelson County. There were fifty-one entries in this category. The gold medal was won by BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery of Arizona, for its Jerry Maker.

    • Category 41: Bock
      Devils Backbone (Roseland, Virginia): Turbo Cougar
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 33 entries in this category. Fellow Virginia brewery, Mad Fox, took the silver. The gold medal was won by Tommyknocker Brewery of California, for its Butt Head Bock.

    • Category 48: English-style India Pale Ale
      Port City Brewing Company (Alexandria, Virginia): Monumental IPA
      brewmaster: Jonathan Reeves
      There were 54 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Goose Island Beer Company of Illinois, for its India Pale Ale.

    • Category 76: Classic Irish-style Dry Stout
      Devils Backbone (Rosemont, Virginia): Ramsey's Draft Stout
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 16 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Pizza Port Solana of California, for its Starry Night Stout.

    • Category 77: Foreign-style Stout
      Devils Backbone (Rosemont, Virginia): Ramsey's Export Stout
      brewmaster: Jason Oliver
      There were 25 entries in this category. The gold medal was won by Island Brewing Company of California, for its Seaside Stout.

The 8 medals, including 2 golds, for Devils Backbone did not go unnoticed. The 4-year old brewpub —and its entire brewing team, led by Jason Oliver— was recognized as the Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year for 2012. That's a lot of hard work, a lot of brewing acumen (especially in brewing lagers), and smiles from Nikassi. Congratulations!

Fine cigars, growlers, brewer


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National Round-up

The other overall winners, nationwide, were:
  • Large Brewpub / Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
    The Church Brew Works (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) / Steve Sloan
  • Brewpub Group / Brewpub Group Brewer of the Year
    Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company (Madison, Wisconsin) / Rob LoBreglio
  • Small Brewing Company / Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
    Funkwerks (Fort Colins, Colorado) / Funkwerks Brewing Team
  • Mid-Size Brewing Company / Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
    Tröegs Brewing Company (Hershey, Pennsylvania) / John Trogner
  • Large Brewing Company / Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
    Pabst Brewing Company (Los Angeles, California) / Gregory Duehs
California breweries left Denver with the most overall medals and the most gold medals: 49 and 20, respectively. The number two spot was captured by host state Colorado, with 35 and 15, respectively. In third was Oregon, with 24 medals, of which 6 were gold. Pennsylvania took fourth, with 17 medals and 5 gold.

And, rounding out the top 5? That was Virginia, with its 12 medals including 4 gold.

A downloadable list of all the winners is available via the Great American Beer Festival website: here. A searchable database of winners from all 31 years of the festival is available, as well: here.

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  • The dates for the 2013 Great American Beer Festival have been set: 7-13 October ... in Denver, of course!
  • Are 134 beer styles a (bit) too much? Are they really beer 'styles?' What is a beer 'style?' I muse/rant on that: here.

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