Brewers Association Awards Wrong Brewery a GABF Medal

Fat Head's Brewing cleans up at 2016 GABF (Photo © 2016 Jason E. Kaplan)

Fat Head’s Brewing cleans up at 2016 GABF (Photo © 2016 Jason E. Kaplan)

In a surprise move, reminiscent of Steve Harvey crowning the wrong Miss Universe, the Brewers Association quickly rescinded the Great American Beer Festival award to Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon as the best Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year.

The award to Fat Head’s was apparently rescinded after BA members realized that Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – San Diego was actually a production brewery, not a brewpub. With the re-classification, Karl Strauss had scored more medal points to become best Mid-Size Brewing Co. According to a statement issued by the Brewers Association’s PR group just about one hour after the awards ceremony, Karl Strauss mis-identified its own San Diego location as a brewpub when registering.


The Brewers Association issued the following statement regarding the change:

“During competition registration, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. self-identified their San Diego location as a Mid-Size Brewpub. After the award ceremony, GABF competition staff realized that this was inaccurate: this location is, in fact, a Mid-Size Brewing Company. Karl Strauss, while it operates brewpubs, is classified as a production facility by GABF competition guidelines.

After reassigning Karl Strauss to the Mid-Size Brewing Company category, and recalculating the Brewery of the Year results, it resulted that Karl Strauss was the winner of the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year category. In addition, Boxing Bear Brewing Co. is the resulting winner of the Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year category.

No matter who is to blame, Karl Strauss for mis-identifying or the Brewers Association for letting it slip, it seems to me that Fat Head’s should be keeping its well-deserved award. Someone fucked up, but it was not the Fat Head’s crew, though I feel for Karl Strauss if this accident takes away a win. A mistake was made, but Fat Head’s was awarded the medal and should be able to keep it; after all, the mistakes that were made were not its fault. But that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

From Fat Head Brewery & Saloon’s main Facebook page, the below image was posted without any comment:


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Samurai Artist

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact:


  • Rob B
    Rob B
    Sun Oct 9, 2016 8:01 PM

    I’m with you on this one. As you said, two mistakes here – Strauss for checking the wrong box and the BA for not catching it. Leave it with Fathead’s and call it lesson learned.

    • Bob Klahn
      Bob Klahn
      Mon Oct 10, 2016 11:32 PM

      Let Hat Heads keep the medal & issue a second to Karl Strauss. Simply designate one East & the other West.
      Add a small secondary label to each, outlining the circumstances.
      A one time “adjustment”- only.
      FH did well enough at GABF-again- that they really don’t need this affirmation anyway.

      • Jim S.
        Jim S.
        Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:57 PM

        Well this really sucks and being from Ohio I would really like to see Fat Heads win. Karl Strauss screwed up, but the Math is the math, fair is fair. I disagree with “it seems to me that Fat Head’s should be keeping its well-deserved award.” It wasn’t deserved because they were not the Mid-sized brewing company that scored the most points.
        I agree with Bob’s last statement. FH continues to rock it.