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. “