The 2019 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) awards ceremony has just closed and as per usual provided some surprises for everyone. Oregon and Washington breweries got off to a slow start, it wasn’t until the last half of the show that a late surge kept it from becoming a disaster. Oregon brewers are coming home with 15 medals this year, the worst showing for the state in over a decade. Still, there is nothing to be sad about since the overall quality and amount of breweries will continue to spread out the winners pool.
40 States won medals this year and as usual were lead by California with 68 medals. Texas proved their meddle by beating out Oregon by one, with a total of 16 medals.
The Top 11 States to Win Medals:
68 medals California 40 medals Colorado 16 medals Texas 15 medals Ohio 15 medals Oregon 14 medals Washington 13 medals Virginia 12 medals North Carolina 10 medals Illinois 9 medals Florida 9 medals Indiana
Oregon GABF Misses:
The Brewers Association (BA) awarded 318 medals* to 283 breweries at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition. While some of the perennial award winners did pick up medals, there were some real surprises with who did not win. Pelican Brewing and pFriem Family Brewers picked up no awards at all, while 10 Barrel Brewing only nabbed two and Barley Browns one. Ground Breaker Brewing was also shut out in the Gluten-Free beer category, the first time that’s happened in seven years. It was also a rough year for Bend/Central Oregon breweries with Boneyard holding it down with a Gold for Diablo Roja, but, Sunriver Brewing and Goodlife Brewing getting shut out after doing so well the past two years. Still, that’s nothing to sniff at with the incredibly high level of competition at these awards.
One result that was not a surprise was Breakside Brewery winning the most medals of any Oregon brewery with a total of three, including a GOLD for ‘What Rough Beast’. Last year (2018) Breakside was shut out from winning any medals at the GABF. It’s still an incredible feat, because breweries simply dont rack up medals into double digits (or even high single digits) anymore.
This was perhaps Breakside Brewery’s best showing at the GABF since 2014 when they won three medals – including a Gold in the American-style IPA category. Like that huge year, Breakside somehow managed to win their 2nd medal of the night after just stepping off the stage for their 1st, then even more incredibly won their 3rd while actually accepting the 2nd. It was a great moment that brought the crowd to their feet and Breakside brewmaster Ben Edmunds to his knees.
Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded in 107 beer categories covering 174 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country. This was the 33rd edition of the most prestigious professional beer competition in the country, judges evaluated 9,497 entries from 2,295 breweries representing all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, along with 113 Pro-Am Competition and 70 Collaboration Competition entries. Judging took place over the course of three days, with awards presented at a ceremony held Saturday morning at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
Portland, Oregon’s Migration Brewing was a big winner this year capturing two bronze medals. One for their Mo-Haze-Ic in Hazy Pale Ale and another for their Cannon Ball Double Hoppy Red Ale. This brewing company has really come into their own since opening their Gresham brewing facility less than two years ago.
One of the biggest wins for Oregon came when the only one year-old Von Ebert Brewing won a Gold medal for their recent bottle release Obeisance. Proof that Von Ebert Brewing is one of the best new Portland breweries to open in years.
Gold – Von Ebert Brewing (Portland), Obeisance (Specialty Saison)
“This year’s GABF competition was the largest and most competitive to date,” said Chris Swersey, competition manager, Great American Beer Festival. “The beers and talent were as impressive as ever, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their achievements in brewing.”
We also cannot ignore our friends up north in Washington which was just one medal behind Oregon with 14 medals collected. Southwest Washington brewers Grains of Wrath and Fortside Brewing were amongst those winners.
Shout outs to our friends at Cloudburst Brewing who won two medals and Reuben’s Brews winning another.
GABF COMPETITION STATISTICS
33rd edition of the GABF competition
9,497 entries plus 113 Pro-Am and 70 Collaboration entries
2,295 breweries in the competition from all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
322 judges from 18 countries
Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 88
Category with the highest number of entries: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (348)
283 medal-winning breweries (including Pro-Am and Collaboration)
318 total medals awarded plus three (3) each for Pro-Am and Collaboration
401 first-time GABF entrants
37 first-time GABF winners
MOST ENTERED STYLE CATEGORIES
The winners of the top five most-entered categories were:
Category 64: Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale (348 entries)
GOLD: Old Irving Brewing Co., Beezer, Chicago, IL
SILVER: City Lights Brewing Co., Hazy IPA, Milwaukee, WI
BRONZE: Pond Farm Brewing Co., Devil’s Gulch, San Rafael, CA
Category 63: American-Style India Pale Ale (342 entries)
GOLD: Comrade Brewing Co., More Dodge Less RAM, Denver, CO
SILVER: Green Cheek Beer Co., Radiant Beauty, Orange, CA
BRONZE: Coronado Brewing Co. – Production Facility, Weekend Vibes IPA, San Diego, CA
Category 25: Fruited American-Style Sour Ale (215 entries)
GOLD: St. Elmo Brewing Co., Roxanne, Austin, TX
SILVER: Storm Peak Brewing Co., Hoochie Mama, Steamboat Springs, CO
Brewery Group of the Year – Sponsored by Live Oak Bank
Over 6,000,000 barrels produced in 2018 or multi-location breweries wishing to compete as a group
Kern River Brewing Co. – Kernville, CA; Brewmaster: KRBC Brew Team
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: IMBĪB Custom Brews – Reno, NV
Distemper, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer
Brewmaster: IMBĪB Custom Brews
Homebrewer: Lance Newlin
SILVER: Precarious Beer Project – Beer Hall – Williamsburg, VA
Leicht, Light Lager
Brewmaster: Greg Fleehart
Homebrewer: Joel Miller
BRONZE: New Belgium Brewing Co. – Fort Collins, CO
Chess with Checkers, Belgian- and French-Style Ale
Brewmaster: The Employee Owners of New Belgium
Homebrewer: Erich Purcell
Medals were also awarded in the second annual GABF Collaboration Competition, which recognizes the collaborative spirit of the professional craft brewing community.
*Out of a possible 321 medals in 107 beer style categories, 318 were awarded. Gold medals were not given in Category 1, American-Style Wheat Beer, or Category 21, Historical Beer, and a bronze medal was not awarded in Category 65, Emerging India Pale Ale.
The Brewers Association is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital/familial status. The BA complies with provisions of Executive Order 11246 and the rules, regulations, and relevant orders of the Secretary of Labor.
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.