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gabf

Back in 1982, the craft beer revolution was becoming something exciting, marked by something new—a premier, national festival and competition. 24 breweries, 50 beers, and 800 attendees seemed like small potatoes, but it was grand on a different type of scale. It was the first Great American Beer Festival, after all.

Now it’s 2018. Over 800 breweries, 4,000 beers, and 60,000 attendees over three days of craft madness reflects a different kind of picture, if not the same revolution. If you’ve been drinking craft beer these past few years, you know what the market looks like—unlimited options of craft from all over America. Craft beer is a good thing, so there can’t be too much, right? Right.

GABF, annually organized and put on by the Brewers Association, marks the still-growing and ever-changing craft industry across the world. The all-encompassing nature of the experience is overwhelming (in a positive way), but here’s what we took away as enthusiastic representatives of Michigan and our own craft mitten lifestyle.

Navigating the Colorado Convention Center is like navigating a small city. Countless rows of breweries from A-Z are stacked end to end with large endcap booths marking the beginning and end of another section. In the heart of it all is a meet-the-brewer neighborhood with extra industry folk, extra beer, and hey, it’s extra crowded. Outlying spaces are filled by seminar space, local food trucks, stages for music, walls of merchandise, and casual seating.

Every step and every direction there is something to catch the eye, the interest, and the taste buds. One brewery brought its own break-dancers. One seminar highlighted a bug and beer pairing featuring traditional bug dishes from Mexico. Jameson, as in the whiskey distillers from Ireland, had the biggest festival setup—at a beer festival!

Michigan represented well. We saw pioneers like Bell’s Brewery, New Holland Brewing Co., and Short’s Brewing Co. boldly stake their claim on the floor with eye-catching endcap booths and, as always, delicious beer. Short’s setup screamed northern Michigan, with a booth decorated in waterskis and bright colors. New Holland brought aspects of their original Holland location with them and created a mini, brick-layed pub that created just the right ambiance to highlight their most popular brew, Dragon’s Milk.

Michigan also had some great newbies there, like Eastern Market Brewing Co. and Grand Armory Brewing Co. representing from Detroit and Grand Haven respectively. As first-timers, these breweries were excited to get fresh feedback on their beers and brands from national consumers.

How does all of this come together? How does it connect? Craft beer has always been about fun, but beneath that are attributes that have defined the industry since the beginning—aspects like quality, independence, local, community, collaboration, creativity, hard work, and innovation. This universal language of craft strives to bridge gaps everywhere. Local to global. Professional to amateur. Community to community. Brewer to retailer. Brewery to consumer. Craft to other craft.

Some new offerings at GABF this year definitely fell under the above characteristics and practices. New this year was both a Pro-Am Brewer Competition as well as a Collaboration Competition.

The Pro-Am united professional breweries with homebrewers to collaborate on recipes to compete for top, national honors. This exchange of skill sets, opinions, and experimentation reflects the creativity and transparency of the craft industry. Craft workers always strive for better quality, new ideas, and further education. Most professionals and commercial breweries now are marked by homebrewing pasts. It’s a cycle that keeps craft as dynamic as ever and challenges the industry to go down new pathways.

Also new this year was the Collaboration Competition, which connected multiple breweries in the creation of one great recipe to win national honors. In the spirit of community, this brings two brands, two missions, and two businesses into a new practice with each other. Open communication has always marked workers in craft beer—there is no information hoarding here. This competition just ups the ante on the creativity and collaboration that already defines the craft beer community.

GABF’s evolution reflects craft communities across the nation—how they grow, adapt, and change. What stays the same is the enthusiasm. Brewers create because they love the craft of beer. Consumers drink because they love the liquid and the experience. It all begins and ends with actual beer. Everything in between can change and evolve at anytime. This mystery and guessing and experimentation are how we all get our next steps.

This is how the craft industry boomed with New England IPAs this past year. The demand and craze was so big nationally that GABF added it as a beer style category for the first time ever; and as it turns out, it broke the record for the most submissions in a category. The style that originated on the east coast picked up traction nationally—uniting brewery communities, cultures, and practices. New things created from old. New spins on traditional styles. This was just this year’s example.

What comes next? Breweries always have their ears to their consumers and to fellow brewers elsewhere for inspiration. Whatever it is, it will surely taste great and will represent something bigger than just beer in a glass.

 

Photography © Brewers Association

great american beer festival

LANSING, Mich.—Seven Michigan Brewers Guild member breweries were awarded a collective nine medals this past weekend at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Competition, in Denver, Colorado—the largest commercial beer competition in the world and a symbol of brewing excellence, presented by the Brewers Association.

The Brewers Association (BA) awarded 306 medals to 280 breweries across the United States with award-winning breweries receiving prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals in 102 beer categories covering 167 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country and earning a symbol of brewing excellence. Read more about the competition below.

Michigan Brewers Guild member received the following awards:

GOLD

  • West Coast Swing Amber – American Style Amber/Red Ale: The Mitten Brewing Co., Grand Rapids

SILVER

  • NZ Pilz (American Style Pilsener): Wolverine State Brewing Company, Ann Arbor
  • Kung Fu Smurf (Belgian Style Dubbel or Quadruple): Bastone Brewery, Royal Oak
  • Breakfast Stout (Coffee Stout or Porter): Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids
  • Roundhouse (Double Hoppy Red Ale): Bell’s Eccentric Café, Kalamazoo
  • My Brown Eyed Girl (English Style Brown Ale): Thornapple Brewing Co., Grand Rapids
  • Porter (Robust Porter): Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids

BRONZE

  • Cerveza Delray (International Style Pilsener): Brew Detroit, Detroit
  • Raucher (Smoke Beer): Wolverine State Brewing Company, Ann Arbor

The Great American Beer Festival is the granddaddy of all U.S. beer festivals, offering the largest collection of U.S. beer ever assembled. The judging panel awards gold, silver or bronze medals that are recognized around the world as symbols of brewing excellence. These awards are among the most coveted in the industry and heralded by the winning brewers in their national advertising. Medal distinctions are as follows:

  • GOLD: A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma and appearance.
  • SILVER: An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma and appearance.
  • BRONZE: A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor deviations in taste, aroma or appearance.

GABF Competition Statistics:

  • 32nd edition of the GABF competition
  • 8,496 entries plus 101 Pro-Am and 49 Collaboration entries
  • 2,404 breweries in the competition from 49 states plus Washington, D.C. (no Mississippi)
  • 293 judges from 13 countries
  • Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 83
  • Category with the highest number of entries: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (391 entries)
  • 280 medal-winning breweries (including Pro-Am and Collaboration)
  • 306 total medals awarded plus three (3) each for Pro-Am and Collaboration
  • 537 first-time GABF entrants
  • 31 first-time GABF winners

The Michigan Brewers Guild is the network of innovative and passionate brewers that serves as the recognized advocate for the Michigan craft beer industry. The mission of the Michigan Brewers Guild is to promote and protect the Michigan craft beer industry with an overarching goal to help craft beer acquire 20% of the market by 2025.

Michigan’s thriving brewing industry conservatively contributes more than $144 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $600 million. In terms of overall number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #6 in the nation – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.”

 

Photo © Brewers Association

great american beer festival

 DENVER, CO — The Brewers Association (BA) awarded 306 medals to 280 breweries across the United States at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition. In a ceremony at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, award-winning breweries received prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals in 102 beer categories covering 167 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country and earning a symbol of brewing excellence.

 

View the 2018 winners or download a PDF list of the winners.

 

GABF COMPETITION STATISTICS

  • 32nd edition of the GABF competition
  • 8,496 entries plus 101 Pro-Am and 49 Collaboration entries
  • 2,404 breweries in the competition from 49 states plus Washington, D.C. (no Mississippi)
  • 293 judges from 13 countries
  • Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 83
  • Category with the highest number of entries: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (391 entries)
  • 280 medal-winning breweries (including Pro-Am and Collaboration)
  • 306 total medals awarded plus three (3) each for Pro-Am and Collaboration
  • 537 first-time GABF entrants
  • 31 first-time GABF winners

 

MOST-ENTERED STYLE CATEGORIES

In its GABF competition debut, the Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale style category was the most-entered with 391 entries. Since 2002, the most-entered category was American-Style India Pale Ale (IPA), which saw 311 entries in 2018.

The winners of the top five most-entered categories were:

 

Category 63: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (391 entries)

GOLD: Alarmist Brewing – Le Jus, Chicago, IL

SILVER: Kros Strain Brewing Co., Fairy Nectar London Double Dry Hopped – La Vista, NE

BRONZE: Eris Brewery and Cider House, Foiken Haze – Chicago, IL

 

Category 62: American-Style India Pale Ale (311 entries)

GOLD: Root Down Brewing Co. – Bine, Phoenixville, PA

SILVER: Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Portsmouth, Not an IPA (P.S. it’s an IPA) – Portsmouth, NH

BRONZE: Green Cheek Beer Co. – West Coast IPA is Dead! – Orange, CA

 

Category 29: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout (177 entries)

GOLD: Against the Grain Brewery, 70K Amburana – Louisville, KY

SILVER: Kane Brewing, A Night to End All Dawns – Ocean, NJ

BRONZE: FiftyFifty Brewing Co., Eclipse – Truckee, CA

 

Category 59: American-Style Pale Ale (170 entries)

GOLD: Ocean Beach Brewery – B.Right On Pale Ale – San Diego, CA

SILVER: Ventura Coast Brewing Co. – Neighborhood – Ventura, CA

BRONZE: Maplewood Brewing Co. – Charlatan – Chicago, IL

 

Category: 28 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (162 entries)

GOLD: Drake’s Brewing Co. – Santa’s Brass – San Leandro, CA

SILVER: The Wrecking Bar Brewpub, Willett Barrel-Aged Ye Old Sprinklerhead Barleywine – Atlanta, GA

BRONZE: Revolution Brewing, Straight Jacket – Chicago, IL

 

NEW COMPETITION CATEGORIES

 

In addition to Juicy or Hazy IPA, the following categories were also new to the competition this year:

Category 60: Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale (132 entries)

GOLD: Tin Roof Brewing Co., Voodoo – Baton Rouge, LA

SILVER: Kings Brewing Co., Sippin on Dank – Rancho Cucamonga, CA

BRONZE: Fiction Beer Co., Madame Psychosis – Denver, CO

 

Category 65: Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double India Pale Ale (150 entries)

GOLD: Black Market Brewing Co., New England Style Double IPA – Temecula, CA

SILVER: Corridor Brewery & Provisions, DDH Double IPA – Chicago, IL

BRONZE: Alvarado Street Brewery, Contains No Juice – Salinas, CA

 

Category 35: American-Style Pilsener: (91 entries)

GOLD: The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Rocket 100 – Austin, TX

SILVER: Wolverine State Brewing Co., NZ Pils – Ann Arbor, MI

BRONZE: The Post Brewing Co., Howdy Beer – Lafayette, CO

 

Category 57: Australian-Style Pale Ale (46 entries)

GOLD: Butcherknife Brewing Co., Sunshine Express – Steamboat Springs, CO

SILVER: Worthy Brewing Co., Strata IPA – Bend, OR

BRONZE: Austin Beerworks, Flavor Country – Austin, TX

 

MOST MEDALED BREWERIES

  • Most medals won by a single brewery: 3

10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, OR – 3 medals

  • GOLD – Baywindow, category 77: Berliner-Style Weisse
  • GOLD – Passionate Envy, category 4: Fruit Wheat Beer
  • SILVER – P2P, category 96: American-Style Stout

 

Alesong Brewing and Blending, Eugene, OR – 3 medals

  • SILVER – Terroir Pinot Noir, category 19: Experimental Beer
  • SILVER – Terroir Pinot Gris, category 25: Brett Beer
  • BRONZE – Touch of Brett Mandarina, category 25: Brett Beer

 

Lewis & Clark Brewing Co., Helena, MT – 3 medals

  • GOLD – Miner’s Gold, category 2 American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
  • SILVER – Pompey’s Pilsner, category 42 Bohemian-Style Pilsener
  • BRONZE – Prickly Pear, category 55 Classic English-Style Pale Ale

 

BREWERY AND BREWER OF THE YEAR AWARDS

(See criteria here)

 

PACKAGING BREWERIES

Very Small Brewing Company of the Year – Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group

<1,000 barrels produced in 2017

Brink Brewing Co. – Cincinnati, OH; Brewmaster: Kelly Montgomery

 

Small Brewing Company of the Year – Sponsored by ABS Commercial

1,000 – 14,999 barrels produced in 2017

Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. – Helena, MT; Brewmaster: Lewis & Clark Brewing and Packaging Crew

 

Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year – Sponsored by MicroStar Logistics

15,000 – 6,000,000 barrels produced in 2017

pFriem Family Brewers – Hood River, OR; Brewmaster: pFriem Family Brewers

 

BREWPUBS

Small Brewpub of the Year – Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients

<750 barrels produced in 2017

Ocean Beach Brewery – San Diego, CA; Brewmaster: Jim Millea & Scott Watkins

 

Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year – Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group

750 – 1,500 barrels produced in 2017

Root Down Brewing Co. – Phoenixville, PA; Brewmaster: Root Down Brew Team

 

Large Brewpub of the Year – Sponsored by The Country Malt Group

Over 1,500 barrels produced in 2017

The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. – Austin, TX; Brewmaster: Amos Swifty Kim

 

LARGE BREWERIES OR MULTIPLE LOCATION BREWERIES

Brewery Group of the Year – Sponsored by Live Oak Bank

Over 6,000,000 barrels produced in 2017 or multi-location breweries wishing to compete as a group

FiftyFifty Brewing Co. – Truckee, CA; Brewmaster: FiftyFifty BrewCrew

 

PRO-AM COMPETITION

Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., The Country Malt Group and White Labs

Gold, silver and bronze medals were also awarded in the GABF Pro-Am competition, which pairs homebrewers with professional brewers, who scale up their award-winning homebrew recipes. The medal winners, including the winning professional brewers and American Homebrewers Association (AHA) member homebrewers are:

 

GOLD:             Little Harpeth Brewing Co. – Nashville, TN

Deer Crossing, Munich-Style Helles Lager

Brewmaster: Jesse Brown and Mike Onofray

Homebrewer: Chris Allen

 

SILVER:            Rock Bottom Brewery – Warrenville, IL

Gone for a Burton, English-Style Brown Ale

Brewmaster: Erik Pizer

Homebrewer: Jim Todd

 

BRONZE:         Cheluna Brewing Co. – Aurora, CO

La Bomba; Belgian-Style Pale Strong Ale

Brewmaster: Jennifer Perez

Homebrewer: Chris Cardillo

 

COLLABORATION COMPETITION

Medals were also awarded in the first-ever GABF Collaboration Competition, which recognizes the collaborative spirit of the professional craft brewing community.

 

GOLD:             New Belgium Brewing Co. – Ft. Collins, CO

TransAtlantique Kriek

Collaboration Brewery: Oud Beersel – Beersel, Belgium

 

SILVER:            Firestone Walker Barrelworks – Buellton, CA

Pixie Dusted

Collaboration Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Co. – Paso Robles, CA

 

BRONZE:         Quarter Celtic Brewpub – Albuquerque, NM

Mocha Hipster Bomb

Collaboration Brewery: Palmer Brewery and Cider House – Albuquerque, NM

 

GABF STATISTICS

  • 37th anniversary of the festival
  • Over 800 breweries in expanded festival hall
  • 4,000+ beers served at the festival
  • 62,000 attendees
  • 4,086 volunteers (festival and competition combined)
  • 584,000 square feet of festival hall

 

Photo © Brewers Association

brewers association

 

Boulder, Colo. —To educate beer lovers about the craft brewing community and what it means to be independent, the Brewers Association—the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent craft brewers—is launching a new national awareness campaign, “That’s Independence You’re Tasting.” This integrated advertising campaign is part of the Brewers Association’s ongoing efforts to distinguish and promote America’s small and independent craft brewers. The videos will be presented across a variety of media platforms.

“That’s Independence You’re Tasting” takes a proud and positive tone, focusing on independence and choice—both key tenets of craft brewing culture—and tells the story of the country’s more than 6,600 independent craft brewers. These hard-working women and men are entrepreneurs, innovators, collaborators, risk takers and underdogs who advance the beverage of beer.

“Independent craft brewers are a success story for American industry,” said Bob Pease, president & CEO, Brewers Association. “Each of the over 6,600 U.S. craft breweries is a unique contributor to its community and should be celebrated. As a national campaign, ‘That’s Independence You’re Tasting’ generates awareness beyond any one individual brewery or beer and touches the spirit of independence that is a core American value. We are proud to be able to do for all our BA members what would be extremely difficult for them to do individually. Together we are united in independence.”

The initial phase of the awareness campaign launched in June 2017 with the introduction of the independent craft brewer seal. Featuring an iconic beer bottle shape flipped upside down, the seal indicates that a brewery is certified to be independently owned. The seal has been adopted by more than 3,700 craft brewing companies—representing more than 80 percent of the volume of craft brewed beer.

“‘That’s Independence You’re Tasting’ is designed to keep independent craft brewers and their beers top of mind. Our hope is that after being exposed to these stories, beer lovers are moved to support independent breweries and seek the seal when making their beer purchases,” added Pease. “By choosing a beer that has the independent craft brewer seal, the beer drinker knows that they are supporting a brewery with ties to the community.”

To learn more about “That’s Independence You’re Tasting” and the independent craft brewer seal, visit CraftBeer.com—the Brewers Association’s website for beer lovers—follow along and join the discussion at #SeektheSeal.

 

 

great american beer fest

The popular refrain from the 1971 Gene Wilder classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory seemed the most appropriate way to describe my excitement when I found out I would be attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. As a lover of craft beer I was vaguely aware of the festival but never thought I would have the opportunity to attend. I’ve been to several West Michigan beer festivals but I was not prepared for the wonders that awaited me in scenic golden Colorado. Oh, and Golden, Colorado is the home of Coors… right? Get it? Golden ticket? Never mind…

The Great American Beer Festival was started in 1982 and had 24 breweries, 47 beers, and roughly 800 attendees in the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. Fast forward to 2017 where some 60,000 attendees, 3,900 beers, and 800 breweries were crammed into the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. Tickets sold out in just over four hours.

In an attempt to the make the trip as affordable as possible we packed up the MittenBrew-Subaru and made our way from the Midwest to the Rockies. We agreed to make the drive casual and did so by stopping at some cool places like 3 Floyds, The World’s Largest Truck Stop, several Kum & Go gas stations as well as a Pump and Pantry (no, I am not making those last two up). Once in western Illinois, the long straight highways were lovingly hugged on both sides by vast expanses of corn, grassland, and not much else.

We intentionally arrived two days early to hit some of the amazing breweries that call Colorado home. In no particular order we hit Avery, Oskar Blues, Crooked Stave, Bull and Bush, Left Hand, Wynkoop, Great Divide, Bootstrap, Mockery, Black Shirt, and Colorado’s own—Coors. At each location we were greeted warmly, treated well, and welcomed back. It’s a town very much in love with its beer, both macro and craft.

Returning to luxurious hotel accommodations after each day of exploring might have been nice, but we chose to camp with some great friends from Railtown Brewing and City Built Brewing. Warm, clear sunny days gave way to frosty cold nights (we’re talking 3 layers to sleep cold). I dreamt of having all 4 of Charlie Bucket’s grandparents on my air mattress to keep me warm. Ok, that may have been an overshare.

Thursday, the opening day of the festival, arrived and it was lovely outside—warm, sunny and just really pleasant. We attended the Michigan Brewer’s Guild gathering at 1-UP-LODO which was a lot of fun to watch. Brewers talking beer, the local sites, and playing vintage arcade games. I used to be a decent Galaga player, I am sad to report I am not any more. I was much better at KISS pinball. After some great laughs and beers we headed to the festival.

great american beer fest

The Colorado Convention center is monstrous and appears to be guarded by a frozen two-story tall blue bear. The general admission line was wrapped around the building and I never actually saw the end of the line, and this was almost 45 minutes before the gates opened. People were enjoying the sunny weather and the glorious anticipation of tasting some of the best beers in the world. It was very much like the 5 golden ticket holders meeting Willy Wonka at the gate when we arrived at the event door to get our media credentials—except that there were 2 of us.

I have attended large techie conventions before, but to see that many brewery booths was really overwhelming. Media attendees were granted early entry so I got to walk in and see the place before the onslaught. I casually strolled in trying to maintain my composure while planning my dark beer “must haves.” While perusing the giant map and list we began to hear bagpipes which meant the festival was about to open to the attendees. Reading that 60,000 people attend over the 3 days was a neat fact but it didn’t occur to me what that would look like. There must have been 2,000 people just standing inside the main door waiting to go through the gates. It was literally a river of beer shirts, beards, cargo shorts, weird hats, costumes, and smiles. The vibe was really positive. It was also clear that many people knew exactly where they were going right away, some even running to get that first pour of their favorite libation.

From that moment on it was elbow to elbow with people laughing, smiling, and celebrating the wonderful gift of beer. I was ecstatic to get some fantastic beers that I hadn’t tried before like Double Barrel Baptist from Epic, Barrel Aged Ten FIDY from Oskar Blues, Tweak from Avery, and to close out the festival I had a pour of Utopias from Samuel Adams. What an amazing journey of beer and community.

great american beer fest

These are my tips for first time attendees:

  • Cell phones are only good for taking pictures of your drunk buddies or co-workers. Don’t plan on making calls or getting texts in the convention center during the festival.
  • Know where the bathrooms are. It’s a long walk to anywhere on the convention floor and it takes 10 times longer trying to move through the crowds.
  • Pace yourself and stay hydrated #betterdrinkingculture
  • Smile and take it all in. The sooner you settle into the scene, the sooner you’ll realize you’re with friends.
  • Try something new. I am a dark beer lover and I had a sour or two—I let my hair down.
  • If you find yourself on a brewery tour and are invited to hold a hop pellet, might I recommend that you don’t eat said hop pellet. Trust me.

 

It was an amazing adventure and while I didn’t win control of the chocolate factory I did get to meet some great people. Dates for the 2018 Great American Beer Festival are September 20th – 22nd in 2018. I’ll be seeing you then Denver, and not as a green newbie this time!

Cheerz!

 

Photography: Steph Harding & Ray Ashley

Rockford, Mich.—Rockford Brewing Company returns to Michigan from this year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, with national recognition.

The brewery won multiple awards including Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year, a silver medal in the Irish-Style Dry Stout category for their Sheehan’s Stout and a bronze medal in the English-Style Brown category for Rogue River Brown.

“My head is still spinning. I’m very proud of the talent that we have at Rockford Brewing Company,” said Seth Rivard, co-owner of Rockford Brewing Company. “We have a passionate staff who never cease to amaze me.”

GABF Rockford Brewing

Seth Rivard & Jeff Sheehan

Rockford Brewing Company competed at the festival with 2,217 United States breweries. Their winning brews were selected by an international panel of 276 judges who blind tasted 7,923 entries.

“Each year the Great American Beer Festival showcases the best that American brewers have to offer,” said Chris Swersey, competition manager, Great American Beer Festival. “With a record 8,000+ entries, this year’s competition was the most competitive to date. Congratulations to all the winners who truly demonstrated why the U.S. is the world’s best and most diverse brewing nation.”

This year’s wins have energized Rivard and Rockford Brewing Company co-owner Jeff Sheehan to continue striving for excellence.

“I am extremely motivated for us to step up our game,” Sheehan said. “We want to stick to our values but continuously improve. We owe this success to everyone who has supported us—the West Michigan community and beyond.”

The brewery has been acknowledged by the Great American Beer Festival once before in 2015, when Rogue River Brown won its first bronze in the English-Style Brown category.

The owners hope the national recognition will encourage beer tourists inclined to visit West Michigan’s larger breweries to check out the greatness in the smaller ones, too.

“Grand Rapids is a country-wide destination for craft beer,” Sheehan said. “People come to the city and want to stop at the bigger breweries but these awards will hopefully prove that though we are a small brewery, we belong on that ‘must visit’ list.”

Rockford Brewing Company plans to celebrate their achievements with an event celebrating the fans and staff of Rockford. More information is to come.

 

Boulder, CO — The 2017 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition awarded 293 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the United States, plus three GABF Pro-Am medals to teams of homebrewers paired with professionals. Presented by the Brewers Association (BA), GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world and the premier symbol of brewing excellence.

gabf medals

View the 2017 winners

In a ceremony at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, award-winning breweries received prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals in 98 beer categories covering 161 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country.

Winners were chosen out of 7,923 competition entries from 2,217 breweries in 50 states plus Washington, D.C. (a 15 percent and 24 percent increase respectively from the 7,301 entries and 1,783 breweries in 2016).

The competition took place in six sessions over a period of three days and was judged by 276 beer experts from 13 countries, including the U.S. In addition to commercial brewery entries, the judging panel also evaluated 118 Pro-Am entries. The competition was made possible with the help of 365 volunteers.

 

2017 BREWERY AND BREWER OF THE YEAR AWARDS

PACKAGING BREWERIES

Very Small Brewing Company and Brewmaster of the Year | < 1,000 BBLS

Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group

On Tour Brewing Co., Chicago, IL and Mark Poffenberger & Mark Legenza

 

Small Brewing Company and Brewmaster of the Year | 1,000 – 14,999 BBLS

Sponsored by O-I

Sunriver Brewing, Sunriver, OR and Sunriver Brewing Team

 

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Brewmaster of the Year | 15,000 – 6,000,000 BBLS

Sponsored by MicroStar Logistics

Saint Arnold Brewing Co., Houston, TX and Saint Arnold Brew Crew

 

BREWPUBS

Small Brewpub and Brewmaster of the Year | < 750 BBLS

Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients

Rockford Brewing Co., Rockford, MI and Rockford Brewing Company

 

Mid-Size Brewpub and Brewmaster of the Year | 750 – 1,500 BBLS

Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group

Moon River Brewing Co., Savannah, GA and Moon River Brewing Company

 

Large Brewpub and Brewmaster of the Year | 1,500+ BBLS

Sponsored by The Country Malt Group

The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Austin, TX and Amos Swifty Kim

 

LARGE BREWERIES OR MULTIPLE LOCATION BREWERIES

Brewery Group and Brewmaster of the Year

Sponsored by Beer Institute

Melvin Brewing, Alpine, WY and Melvin Brewing

 

gabf medals 

 

OVERALL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS

  • Most medals won by a single brewery: Saint Arnold Brewing Co. (3)
  • Top three states by ratio of medals to entries by state:

o   West Virginia – 12 entries, 2 medals

o   Wyoming – 46 entries, 5 medals

o   Connecticut – 39 entries, 4 medals

  • First-time GABF competition entrants (self-identified during the registration process) numbered 584. Of those first-time entering breweries, 36 won medals.

 

STYLE CATEGORIES 

Since 2002, the most-entered category has been American-Style India Pale Ale (IPA), which saw 408 entries in 2017 compared to 312 entries in 2016. The top five entered categories and number of entries per category were:

  • Category 60 American-Style India Pale Ale (408 entries)
  • Category 61 Imperial India Pale Ale (221 entries)
  • Category 58 American-Style Pale Ale (199 entries)
  • Category 59 American-Style Strong Pale Ale (182 entries)
  • Category 29 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (175 entries)

 

The winners in the most-entered (that is, the most competitive) categories were:

 Category 60 American-Style India Pale Ale (408 entries)

Gold: Prairie Madness, Hailstorm Brewing Co., Tinley Park, IL

Silver: Gold Digger IPA, Auburn Alehouse, Auburn, CA

Bronze: Breakside IPA, Breakside Brewery & Taproom, Milwaukie, OR

 

Category 61 Imperial India Pale Ale (221 entries)

Gold: Manta Ray, Ballast Point Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Silver: Lupulin River, Knee Deep Brewing Co., Auburn, CA

Bronze: Chux, Danville Brewing Co., Danville, CA

 

Category 58 American-Style Pale Ale (199 entries)

Gold: Monterey Street, Central Coast Brewing Co., San Luis Obispo, CA

Silver: Mosaic Pale Ale, Lynnwood Brewing Concern – Production Facility; Raleigh, NC

Bronze: Triple Tail, SweetWater Brewing Co., Atlanta, GA

 

Category 59 American-Style Strong Pale Ale (182 entries)

Gold: Hubert MPA, Melvin Brewing, Alpine, WY

Silver: Wolfback Ridge, Headlands Brewing Co., Mill Valley, CA

Bronze: Breakside Stay West, Breakside Brewery + Beer Hall, Portland, OR

 

Category 29 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (175 entries)

Gold: Hurly Burly Port Barrel Aged Barleywine, Out of Bounds Brewing Co., Rocklin, CA

Silver: Woods Monk, Odyssey Beerwerks, Arvada, CO

Bronze: Barrel Aged Barleywine, Charleville Vineyard & Microbrewery, Sainte Genevieve, MO

 

2017 GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL PRO-AM COMPETITION

Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., The Country Malt Group, Yakima Chief-Hopunion and White Labs

Gold, silver and bronze medals were also awarded in the GABF Pro-Am competition, which pairs homebrewers with professional brewers, who scale up the award-winning homebrew recipes. The medal winners, including the winning professional brewers and American Homebrewers Association (AHA) member homebrewers are:

  • Gold: Just Another Pretty Face, Denver Beer Co., Denver, CO; Brewmaster: Jason Buehler and Denver Beer Company Brewing Team; Homebrewer: Doug Thiel
  • Silver: Lichtenhainer, Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins, CO; Brewmaster: Black Bottle Scuba Squad;  Homebrewer: Daniel Tomkins
  • Bronze: Eluxansis, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO; Brewmaster:  Odell Brew Team; Homebrewer: Mark Boelman

 

2017 GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL & COMPETITION STATISTICS

  • 36th anniversary of the festival; 31st edition of the GABF competition
  • Over 800 breweries in the festival hall
  • 3,900+ beers served at the festival
  • 60,000 attendees
  • 4,308 volunteers (festival and competition combined)
  • 2,217 breweries in the competition from 50 states plus Washington, D.C.
  • 266 medal-winning breweries
  • 293 total medals awarded
  • 7,923 beers judged (not including 118 Pro-Am competition entries)
  • 98 beer categories covering 161 different beer styles judged, plus the Pro-Am competition
  • 276 judges from 13 different countries
  • Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 81
  • Category with the highest number of entries: American-Style India Pale Ale
  • A gold medal was not awarded in the Fruited American-Style Sour Ale category

 

I recently moved to the great state of Wyoming and one of my biggest fears was missing Michigan craft beer. Not one Michigan brewery distributes in Wyoming, and my only saving grace was the state just eight miles south. When I found out I would be attending the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, though, what excited me most was being able to once again taste home.

 Arriving at the festival, I headed straight to the Founders Brewing Company booth, almost exactly opposite the media entrance. To my surprise, the line was already backed up to the booth across the aisle. Although the beer festival had just started, it was clear that Founders beer was in demand. Its a common name in the craft beer industry, but there are not many times us Westerners are able to get it.

 While my husband and I were there for Rubaeus and Backwoods Bastard, many festival goers were there for the limited release Imperial Red Ale, reDANKulous, gold medal award winner of its category it was gone before the last session was finished.

 The legendary, rare Founders KBS, named RateBeer.coms 2014 Best Beer in Americamade an appearance at the festival as well, if you knew where to go. While the Founders booth did not have it, the Michigan Brewers Guild did, along with several other Michigan favorites.

 Our second stop was right around the corner, Shorts Brewing Company, with a line as wide as their booth and then back a ways. People knew them, and it wasnt just other Michiganians such as myself.

 As I perched myself on the side of the booth to grab some photos, a man beside me was mingling with the Shorts representatives and discussing how great their beer was. One of my first thoughts was that he must be from Michigan, but to my surprise, he told me that he was from Denver. He just knew what Shorts was and was there to soak up each experimental beer in their line-up.

 I love beers that stimulate my palate in a different way, Andy Coyle said. Shorts beers, I think, create your palate it is evolving as you taste the different flavors.

 Experimental beers are Shorts expertise, bringing home a silver medal in the category this year for Melt My Brain, a gin and tonic inspired experimental Golden Ale. Other beers they featured in their lineup included Bloody Beer, which won a silver medal in Experimental Beer in 2009, and Key Lime Pie, which won a gold medal in Experimental Beer in 2010 and 2014.

 We kind of thrive in that area,Founder Joe Short said in a press release. Like many of our beers, they are developed from many different inspirations.

 Neither Shorts nor Founders are strangers to GABF, but many of the Michigan breweries made their first appearance at GABF in 2015.

 Its the coolest thing, Michael Biddick from Saugatuck Brewing Company said about attending the festival for the first time. People from everywhere are here to taste your beer. We get to try everyone elses beer, too. Its like youre traveling the U.S. in one big room.

 Mitten Brewing Companys Wob Wanhatalo admitted that he was somewhat new to the brewing industry in comparison to some of his colleagues but that his experience as a first timer was enlightening.

 Bookwriters, homebrewers, legends are all here and are trying our beers and giving us feedback, Wanhatalo said.

 While its nice having Colorado close by with some of the best breweries in the country, GABF proved that Michigan beer, while not distributed in the area, are still very much relevant in the craft brewing industry not that I have ever doubted that. This year, Michigan took home six medals total, but what spoke most to Michigan success in craft brewing was the popularity surrounding each booth and the longing for the beer many of these people may only get to have just once a year.

 To view the complete list of 2015 GABF winners, visit https://www.greatamericanbeerfestival.com/the-competition/winners/.