EASTERN SHORE, MD—The 2011 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is in the books. After 30 years, the world’s largest beer judging and consumer beer festival continues to astound with its ever-expanding scope and growth.
Early fall each year on the beer calendar is marked by brewers celebrating their award-winning beers at GABF. The beer judging began in 1983 when the only three awards presented were under the title ‘Consumer Preference Poll’. The first two places were awarded to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company from Chico, California (Pale Ale and Porter, respectively) while Anchor Brewing Company from San Francisco, California took third place for its Porter.
Today, the GABF has grown into a judging and tasting festival has been held annually at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.
The Brewers Association, of nearby Boulder, organizes the massive undertaking that this year boasted nearly 4,000 judged beers, 250 awards in 83 beer style categories, 165 winning brewing organizations from 526 participating covering 35 states, 167 judges from 9 countries.
According to association, in 30 years, the event “has grown from 800 attendees to 49,000, and from a 5,000 square foot festival hall to one close to 300,000 square feet.”
The modern craft brewing industry is generally agreed to have its roots along the west coast from Washington and Oregon in the pacific northwest to California and Colorado. As such, a greater number of awards are won each year in these particular states.
Though, to be fair, in recent years as the industry has experienced double-digit percentage growth, the diversity of beers available in states not historically accustomed to such beers has grown and resulting awards can be found from the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions to parts of the Midwest and deep South. For example, Sun King from Indiana garnered the most awards of any brewery in the 2011 competition with eight total medals.
Dozens of award-winning breweries from the mid-Atlantic region have walked across the stage at GABF in the past ten years. However, curiously in the last two years, there was a drop in total number of awards to brewers in the mid-Atlantic states from New York to Virginia.
This, of course, is to take nothing away from those that did win this year. Some of the more notable brewery accomplishments this year include:
Starr Hill in Crozet, Virginia was the big winner from the mid-Atlantic region as they took home three awards, including one in the smoke beer category. They nabbed a silver for their Smoke Out and, in doing so, beat out the most awarded craft beer in GABF’s 30-year history, Alaskan Brewing’s Smoked Porter, which was awarded a bronze medal.
Tröegs Brewery of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (soon to relocate to Hershey) has a doppelbock named Troegenator that scored yet another gold medal. For those keeping score, that now makes four golds, two silvers, and a bronze between the GABF and WBC (World Beer Cup) since 2006. Mighty impressive for a wonderful beer.
Another gold for the region came from the Lehigh Valley’s Weyerbacher Brewery in the Specialty Honey category. For its sixteenth anniversary, the brewers whipped up a “Dark Braggot Anniversary Beer made with 1,440 pounds of honey per 40 bbl batch” and called it Sixteen. It is certainly a unique beer which may still be found in limited supply on retail shelves.
Other interesting bits of GABF news from mid-Atlantic breweries:
Following is a complete list of mid-Atlantic awards at GABF 2011. For a list of all award winners, follow this link over to the official website. Congratulations go out to all of this year’s winners and we look forward to more of the same in the coming year.
Blue Mountain Brewery of Afton, Virginia- brewer Taylor Smack
Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, New York- brewer Phil Leinhart
Devil’s Backbone of Roseland, Virginia- brewer Jason Oliver
Dogfish Head of Milton, Delaware- brewer Tim Hawn
Erie Brewing Company of Erie, Pennsylvania- brewer Shawn Strickland
Fegley’s Brew Works of Allentown, Pennsylvania- brewer Beau Baden
Flying Dog of Frederick, Maryland- brewer Matt Brophy
Gordon Biersch of Rockville, Maryland- brewer Kevin Blodger
Great Adirondack Brewing Company of Lake Placid, New York- brewer Paul Fryman
Iron Hill of Maple Shade, New Jersey- brewer Chris LaPierre
Iron Hill of Media, Pennsylvania- brewer Bob Barrar
Iron Hill of North Wales, Pennsylvania- brewer Vince Desrosiers
Ithaca Brewing Company of Ithaca, New York- brewer Jeff O’Neil (in collaboration with Flying Fish’s Casey Hughes in New Jersey, Captain Lawrence’s Scott Vaccaro in New York, Ommegang’s Phil Leinhart in New York, Southampton Publick House’s Phil Markowski in New York, and High Water Brewing’s Steve Altimari in northern California.)
Mad Fox Brewing Company of Falls Church, Virginia- brewer Bill Madden
Penn Brewery of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania- brewer Andy Rich
Rock Bottom of Bethesda, Maryland- brewer Geoff Lively
Rock Bottom of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania- brewer Brian McConnell
Starr Hill of Crozet, Virginia- brewer Mark Thompson
Stewart’s Brewing Company of Bear, Delaware- brewer Ric Hoffman
Tröegs of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania- brewer Andrew Dickson
Weyerbacher of Easton, Pennsylvania- brewer Chris Wilson
Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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