You may have noticed a bit of an earthquake on Saturday morning at about 11:30 a.m. local time. The shaking earth was the result of hundreds of thousands of hipsters simultaneously jumping for joy when it was announced that Pabst Blue Ribbon won a gold medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF). No kidding. They won a gold medal for best American light lager, or something. When the news was announced, Twitter completely exploded.
The Great American Beer Festival is more than a beer fest. It is a judged competition. In fact, it is the largest competition of its kind in North America. The competition awarded 254 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the United States. Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world.
Today, while the crowd filled the festival hall, medals were awarded in more than 80 different style categories. At first blush, it seems that Washington breweries got the cold shoulder from the judges this year, bringing home just seven medals. In 2011 the Washington medal-count was an even dozen. However, to say we got snubbed would be a gross over-simplification. Washington beer lovers, do not despair. Our brewers did us proud.
Not every brewery submits beer to the competition. The judges can only award medals to beers that they taste. Your favorite IPA may not have even been in consideration. Recognize that this is a triple-blind tasting. The beers are judged based on style guidelines and not the popularity of the brewery. There is no favoritism. They don’t know what they’re drinking. It’s all about the beer. That is why Redhook consistently brings home medals. Apologies to you Redhook haters, but they make good beer.
It is a numbers game. For example, there were 203 different beers entered in the American-Style IPA category and there were 128 beers entered in the Imperial IPA category. In other words, the competition is not only stiff, but it is massive as well. Trying to stand out amongst 200 IPAs is no easy task. Determining the beer category into which your beer best fits, and has the best chance of performing, is an art unto itself.
There are currently about 2,000 breweries in America. Compared to just a few years ago, that is a staggering number. It is great to bring home medals from the GABF, but the competition just keeps getting tougher and tougher.
The following Washington breweries brought home hardware this year:
- American Brewing, Edmonds – Bronze Medal, Polska Porter. Category: Baltic-Style Porter.
- Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham – Silver Medal, Chuckanut Kolsch. Category: German Style Kolsch.
- Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham – Silver Medal, Chuckanut Vienna Lager. Category: Vienna-Style Lager.
- Elysian Brewing, Seattle – Silver Medal, Men’s Room Original Red Ale. Category: Ordinary or Special Bitter.
- No-Li Brewhouse, Spokane – Gold Medal, Crystal Bitter Ale. Category: Extra Special Bitter.
- Redhook Ale Brewery, Woodinville – Silver Medal, Redhook Pilsner. Category: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener.
- Redhook Ale Brewery, Woodinville – Bronze Medal, Winterhook. Category: American-Style Amber/Red Ale.
If you’d like to see the complete list of GABF winners, Click Here: 2012_GABF_winners (PDF).
You can also view the winners on the GABF website, but it is getting pounded right now and may fail to load.