Great American Beer Festival judging happens behind the scenes

Great American Beer Festival judging happens behind the scenes

Photo © Brewers Association

The Great American Beer Festival wrapped up on Saturday leaving nothing to do but reminisce about favorite one ounce pours and research discounted liver transplants.

On Saturday, the Brewers Association presented 286 medals to 254 breweries in 96 beer categories out of a pool of 7,227 entries. The total number of beers entered represented a 9% increase from 2015.

Uberbrew out of Billings, Mont. took home the most hardware amassing two golds, one silver and one bronze. The impressive showing also netted them Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.

Three breweries took home three medals each: Karl Strauss Brewing Co. in San Diego, Calif., Brown Truck Brewery in High Point, N.C. and Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon in North Olmsted, Ohio.

Of breweries identifying themselves as first-time GABF competition entrants, 41 won medals.

The top five most entered categories were American-Style IPA (312 entries), Imperial India Pale Ale (211), American-Style Strong Pale Ale (169), Coffee Beer (168) and Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (159).

In the American-Style IPA category Bodhizafa IPA from Georgetown Brewing Co. in Seattle, Wash. Won the gold.

California took home the most total medals with 68, Colorado was second with 38 and Oregon third with 21. Other states with double digit medal totals included North Carolina (17), Washington (14), Virginia (14), Illinois (13), Michigan (10) and Texas (10).

Some other superlatives...

Most popular category: American-Style IPA
The category has been the most entered since 2002

Most impressive economic stat: During the three days that GABF takes place, the festival accounts for 2% of the Denver GDP

Most impressive tourism stat: 1.6 million beer drinkers are visiting 10+ breweries a year more than four hours away from their home

Best Paired pairing: Bear Republic Tartare (Berliner Weisse) and buffalo crawfish steam bun with sour cabbage slaw by Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café in St. Louis

Most under-represented style: Oktoberfest
Despite the time of year, there seemed to be a dearth of Marzens

Beer most likely to replace coffee as my morning drink of choice: Morning Glow (vanilla coffee blonde ale), Swamp Head Brewery, Gainesville, Fla.

Hottest fruit/vegetable adjunct: Cucumber
Examples were everywhere from Oakshire’s Sun Made Cucumber Berliner Weisse to Strangeway’s O.T.I.S. (cucumber melon sour gin barrel-aged with juniper and rose hips).

Hottest craft beer area: Bellingham, Wash.
An event at Crafty Fox featured many incredible beers from this northwest Washington outpost. Aslan Brewing Co., Boudary Bay Brewery, Chuckanut Brewery, Kulshan Brewery and Wander Brewing all represented the City of Subdued Excitement.

Best sour discovery: Fair State Brewing Co.
“We like lacto” could be their slogan.

Worst thing I saw: That’s not a dump bucket!
Someone mistakenly thought a pitcher of beer was a dump bucket forcing the brewer to toss the entire thing.

Best prop: Eye patches
Odell gave out eye patches when you sampled a Jolly Russian (Russian imperial stout aged in rum barrels)

If you’re only going to have one pumpkin spice beer…: Pump Action, 4 Noses Brewing Co.

Best reason to celebrate the Christmas early: Hoppy Claus Holiday Ale, Hoppy Brewing Co.

Best Old Bay Seasoning impersonation: O’Bay, Waverly Brewing Co.

Most interesting flavor combo: Nodajito, NoDa Brewing Co.
The gold medal winner in the Herb and Spice Beer category, this Wit incorporated spearmint and key lime.

Best barrel-aged discovery:  Strangeways Brewing
Rum, gin, bourbon, red wine and white wine, Strangeways was pouring 100% barrel-aged beers.

Best use of a wine barrel: Nelson Brut, Mikkeller Brewing San Diego

Beer most likely to never be sold out of state: Butterfly Farts (citrus ale), Brenner Brewing Co.

Most creative session beer: Smoked Wheat Every Day, Worthy Brewing
Super smoky Grodziskie beer coming in at 4.5%

Favorite saison: Cetacea Saison with Szechuan Peppercorns, Yachats Brewing