In its 30th year of competition (35th year of the festival), the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) awarded 286 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the U.S., plus three GABF Pro-Am medals to teams of amateur homebrewers paired with professionals.
In a ceremony on Oct. 8 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to winning breweries in 96 beer categories covering 161 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country. Depending on how worthy and true-to-style the entries were, gold, silver and bronze medals were or were not awarded in each category. Neither a gold nor a silver medal were awarded in the Pumpkin/Squash Beer category this year, for example.
Presented by the Brewers Association, the GABF is the premier U.S. beer festival and competition, and it’s a symbol of brewing excellence. Each year GABF represents the largest collection of U.S. beer ever served and it is the largest commercial beer competition in the world. This year’s Festival saw 780 breweries serving more than 3,800 beers to 60,000 attendees. The average number of competition beers entered in each category was 75 – up from 72 in 2015 – making the 2016 GABF competition the most competitive ever.
Winners were chosen from 7,227 competition entries (surpassing all previous participation records and almost 9 percent more than the 6,647 entries in 2015) from 1,752 breweries hailing from 50 states plus Washington, D.C. The competition also saw its biggest-ever panel of judges, with 264 beer experts from 12 countries, including the U.S.
Washington state breweries brought home 14 medals, including two from Bellingham.
In the Munich-Style Helles category, which had 84 entries, Chuckanut Brewery was awarded a gold medal for its Chuckanut Helles Lager, which is the second time Chuckanut Helles has been awarded gold at the GABF. “No matter how many medals we win, it’s always a thrill to hear our name announced and see our brewers go up on stage and fist bump Charlie Papazian!” Chuckanut co-owner Mari Kemper says.
Chuckanut Helles is clean, smooth and highly quaffable. Gentle malt flavors offer notes of biscuits, grains, nuts and subtle honey, while delicate hop flavors offer hints of herbs and flowers with a light but balanced bitterness.
In the highly competitive German-Style Sour Ale category, which had a whopping 141 entries this year, Kulshan Brewing’s Gose earned a silver medal. “The GABF was an incredible experience,” says Kulshan head brewer Abraham “Abe” Ebert. “Not only did we get to fist bump Charlie Papazian, but we were able to bond with our team and hang out with so many of our friends from Bellingham. The Festival is truly an experience like no other.”
Inspired by a 2015 Craft Brewers Conference wort acidification seminar led by brewers Sean Burke, Ben Edmunds and Ben Love, Ebert and his team set out to make a gose that was as close to what they thought it may have traditionally tasted like. “
Also in the German-Style Sour Ale category, Reuben’s Brews of Seattle received a gold medal for its Gose.
Melvin Brewing of Jackson, WY, which is currently building a brewery & taproom in Bellingham, won a gold medal for its fresh hop IPA.
As an aside, Wander Brewing’s Wild Warehouse, which won a gold medal at the 2015 GABF, was included in the recent Paste Magazine article, “10 beers you need to try at GABF.”
Some of our local breweries also represented our fine city at a special event on Oct. 7 at The Crafty Fox in Denver. Hosted by Denver’s own Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project and Melvin Brewing, and sponsored by Visit Bellingham, Skagit Valley Malting, and Tap Trail, attendees won prizes, learned about Bellingham’s growing craft beer scene, and got to taste some of Bellingham’s finest brews made by Aslan, Boundary Bay, Chuckanut, Kulshan, and Wander.
Also of note: Remember the “Bittersweet 16” IPA Challenge that was held at The Copper Hog, Elizabeth Station, McKay’s Taphouse and The Local Annex in March of this year? Among the 16 IPAs in the bracket that were blindly tasted by Bellingham beer drinkers, Bodhizafa IPA (by Georgetown Brewing of Seattle) was chosen as the winner. As it turned out, this IPA also won a gold medal in the American-Style IPA category at this year’s GABF, which was the most competitive category, no less, with 312 entries. As Aaron Matson of The Copper Hog pointed out, Bellingham beer drinkers know their hoppy beers!
Georgetown, by the way, also won a gold medal for its Gusto Crema in the Coffee Beer category, which was the fourth-most-competitive category (168 entries).
Congratulations to all of the winners!
View the full list of winners here.
2016 GOLD MEDAL WINNERS from WA:
Bodhizafa IPA, Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle (American-Style India Pale Ale)
Gusto Crema, Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle (Coffee Beer)
Hometown Blonde, RAM/Big Horn Brewery, Lakewood (English-Style Summer Ale)
Redfeather, Black Raven Brewing Co., Redmond (Extra Special Bitter)
Chuckanut Helles, Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham (Munich-Style Helles)
PSB Session IPL, Perry Street Brewing Co., Spokane (Session Beer)
Gose, Reuben’s Brews, Seattle (German-Style Sour Ale)
2016 SILVER MEDAL WINNERS from WA:
Barley Wine Ale, Dick’s Brewing Co., Centralia (Barley Wine-Style Ale)
Polaris Pilsner, Chainline Brewing Co., Kirkland (Bohemian-Style Pilsener)
Gose, Kulshan Brewing Co., Bellingham (German-Style Sour Ale)
2016 BRONZE MEDAL WINNERS from WA:
Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen, Fish Brewing Co., Olympia (American-Style Wheat Beer With Yeast)
Starway Stout, Barrel Mountain Brewing, Battle Ground (Export Stout)
Pi, Propolis Brewing, Port Townsend (Fruited Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer)
Grapefruit IPA, Ghostfish Brewing Company, Seattle (Gluten-Free Beer)