"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

GABF 2014: The Awards

Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has once again blown through Denver and, once again, Nicole and I were on-hand to experience the wonder that is America’s premier beer festival.  How does one encapsulate the essence of GABF in a blog post?  Not easily; the festival is multi-faceted, nonlinear, and inconsistent to the narrative storytelling format.  Ergo, I shall recall my experiences via vignettes separated into broad categories: The Festival Itself, The Media Luncheon, and The Awards.

The Awards

·        Admittedly, I’ve already written an awards re-cap for Denver off the Wagon and much of the information in this post I’ve pulled from that previous article.  Nonetheless, I intend to add a few extra tidbits to make this version slightly more distinct.

·        Colorado was second in overall medals accrued.  Here’s a list of the top five:

1. California (46)
2. Colorado (39)
3. Oregon (22)
4. Texas (16)
5. Pennsylvania (12)

·        Colorado was also second in most gold medals.  This leads one to conclude that Colorado was the second best state at GABF.  I prefer first, of course, but that’s how 2014 shook out for Colorado:

            1. California (15)
            2. Colorado (10)
            3. Oregon (7)
            4. Texas: (6)
            5. Pennsylvania & Washington (5)

Good times at GABF

·        It doesn’t do much to sooth the emotional wounds of local football fans but, to the satisfaction of beer geeks, Colorado avenged its Super Bowl loss against Washington in the arena of craft beer.  The Seahawks may have pounded the Broncos 43-8 but Colorado nearly reversed the score in overall GABF medals: 39-9.  That’s a spread of 35 points in the Super Bowl and 30 points in GABF.

·        Colorado’s massive medal count is all the more impressive considering the total’s the sum of several diverse breweries working together from across the state.  34 different breweries representing 16 Colorado towns and cities snagged medals.  They included very, very big breweries (e.g. Coors, Rock Bottom, C.B. & Potts), exceeding small breweries (e.g. BRU, Diebolt, Former Future, Wit’s End), veterans of craft beer (e.g. Oskar Blues, Left Hand, Avery), newcomers (e.g. Platt Park, The Post, Station 26, Coda), mountain brewers (e.g. Dostal Alley, Telluride Brewing, Bonfire), and front range brewers (a lot of them).  Colorado’s not the land of one or two hotshot breweries, it boasts a team of breweries all doing their part to bolster the state’s prestigious brewing reputation.     

Spotted at GABF

·        Coors’ craft division, AC Golden Brewing Company, earned the award for Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.  I sometimes wonder how event organizers determine a brewery’s size.  True, Coors is a large brewery.  Hell, it’s the largest single-site brewing facility in the whole damn world!  AC Golden, though, while owned by Coors, operates with near 100% autonomy, hardly ever answering to Coors’ big-wigs.  AC Golden’s equipment, likewise, is separate from Coor’s colossal, sequoia-wide kettles; the system on which AC Golden brews is actually on par with many mom-and-pop breweries around Denver.  Really, the only thing “large” about AC Golden is their wallet—Coors is footing their bills.  I suppose its financial magnitude puts it in the Large Brewing Company category. 

·        You like American-style brown ales?  Colorado’s the state for you!  We swept that category winning the bronze, silver, and gold!  From top to bottom, the victorious breweries were Upslope Brewing Company, Diebolt Brewing, and Telluride Brewing Co.  Unfortunately, Colorado’s category-sweeping achievement was overshadowed by California which dominated two categories: Barley-Wine Style Ale and Session Beer.

·        If you really want to get into some specific mathematics, according to the Brewers Association (BA):

“Top three states by ratio of medals to entries by state:
o    New Jersey: 19% with 16 entries and three medals
o    Alaska: 13% with 16 entries and two medals—tied with federal district Washington, D.C.: 13% with 8 entries and one medal
o   New Mexico: 10%  with 84 entries and eight medals”

You wouldn’t call these three states (four counting D.C.) the best of GABF due to their high percentage of wins but you might call them the most precise; instead of shot-gunning a bunch of entrants and hoping for a medal, instead of throwing the proverbial poo against the wall and seeing what sticks, these states streamlined the competition, sending only their most phenomenal beers.  They sent King Leonidas’ 300, they sent quality over quantity.  I give them kudos for cutting out the fluff.

Fat Head taps at GABF
·        Also according to the BA:

“Four breweries tied for most medals won, with three medals each:
o   Left Hand Brewing Co.”

That’s an unfair statement to Barley Brown’s and Devils Backbone, though, because they each netted four medals except each of their fourth medals came from a separate brewing facility.  Not all the medaling beers were born under the same roof but the same logo hung on each of the two buildings.  All were nurtured by the same company.  Ergo, two breweries tied for most medals won so congratulations to Barley Brown’s and Devils Backbone.  Colorado’s own Left Hand was right in the hunt with three silvers.

·        Longtime readers know I’m native to Indiana and, while the Hoosier State didn’t exactly mop the floor with the competition, Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewery won a silver and gold in the same category!  They do a Wood-and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer right!  One brewery claiming two-thirds of one category is seriously prodigious.  Did they load up on the category, hoping at least one of their beers would medal?  Was it a twist of fate they ended up with two awards?  I don’t know but Sun King earned their bragging rights with that one.

·        This year, I participated in PorchDrinking.com’s GABF Fantasy Draft.  Five points for gold, three for silver, and one for bronze plus an additional 20 points if any of our breweries were crowned in one of the seven “brewery or brewpub of the year” categories.  Take a look at my team in the chart below.  On paper, it looks like a can’t-lose line-up.  I lost anyway (technically, I tied for ninth out of 12 players).  It was rough.  I tried to be scientific with my picks, taking into account past wins for each brewery but, in the end, I would have done better on random mode because, as it turned out, there were a lot of out-of-nowhere winners at this year’s GABF—newcomers and breweries who haven’t won in ages decided to show up in 2014.  Regrettably, many of my fantasy draft competitors happened to have those longshots on their teams. 

I represented Denver off the Wagon for the draft 

·        Let’s all point and laugh at Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island because they didn’t win anything at the 2014 GABF.



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