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San Diego Brewers Claim Medals at the Great American Beer Festival

An impressive showing at the world’s largest commercial beer competition


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This year's GABF was the largest ever, with more than 60,000 attendees. | Photo courtesy Brewers Association

Every year, I do a wrap-up of the Great American Beer Festival competition, which is held in October in Denver. And every year I provide the final tally on how many medals were won by San Diego brewers. This year, however, things got a little complicated. Depending on whom you ask, San Diego won between 12 and 15 medals this year. The first dozen of those medals are clear cut; they were won by independent breweries making beer in San Diego. Two additional medals were won by Ballast Point, which is a longtime San Diego brewery, but no longer an “independent” craft brewery (that’s why the San Diego Brewers Guild does not include them in their total). A medal was also won by Mother Earth Brewing Co., which is a San Diego-based independent brewery, but the winning beer was actually produced in Nampa, Idaho. (I’m sure, if you ask Idaho, they’re claiming this medal as well!)

Now, while I think some of these distinctions can be useful in certain discussions, my personal take on the winning tally is this: San Diego breweries won 15 medals.

This year’s competition and its results were particularly interesting in a number of ways. First, this was the largest GABF ever, with a record 2,217 breweries submitting a total of 7,923 entries—a 15% increase over last year. Second, the demographics of medal winners is widening noticeably, with an increasing number of medals coming from “up-and-coming” states like West Virginia (2 medals), Wyoming (5 medals), and Connecticut (4 medals). This, of course, is mostly due to the great proliferation of craft breweries throughout our country—the U.S. now has more than 5,300 breweries operating in all 50 states.

A total of 3,900 different beers were served at the festival, supplied by more than 800 breweries. | Photo courtesy Brewers Association

A total of 293 medals were awarded in 98 categories, which covered 161 different beer styles. The entries were judged by 276 beer experts hailing from 13 countries.

The San Diego winners this year collectively bucked what had recently been an emerging trend; in years past, we saw lots of our brand-new breweries taking home medals from their first or second competitions. This year, all the medals were won by well-established brewers who have been brewing as pros for quite some time (bronze-winner SouthNorte is a brand-new brewery but is headed by longtime Coronado brewer Ryan Brooks.)

As far as our medal total goes, it’s not as high as it has been in previous years, but—remember—the field of competitors has grown exponentially. If you look at San Diego’s haul comparatively, our stats still look quite impressive. For example, California took a total of 57 medals, which means San Diego accounted for more than a quarter of our entire state’s total (26.3% to be exact). The state of Oregon won 17 medals, which is only two more than the county of San Diego.

Pizza Port Ocean Beach brewers Matt "Diddy" Palmer (left), and Tom Finney won gold for their Guillaume session beer. | Photo by Joe Arguello

Here, ordered by medal category, is the listing of our San Diego winners. All in all, they account for 5 golds, 6 silvers, and 4 bronzes. There’s a good chance you can find many of these beers on tap at their respective breweries, and many are also likely to make an appearance at the upcoming San Diego Beer Week Guild Fest on Saturday, November 4, on Broadway Pier.

  1. Orange Blossom Common by Karl Strauss Brewing Co. Carlsbad – Gold medal (Honey Beer, 69 entries)
  2. Witty Moron by Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station – Gold medal (Other Belgian-Style Ale, 42 entries)

  3. Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter by Second Chance Beer Co. – Gold medal (Robust Porter, 97 entries)
  4. Guillaume by Pizza Port Ocean Beach – Gold medal (Session Beer, 40 entries)
  5. Manta Ray Imperial IPA by Ballast Point Brewing Co. – Gold medal (Imperial India Pale Ale, 221 entries)
  6. Legally Red by Second Chance Beer Co. – Silver medal (American-Style Amber/Red Ale, 90 entries)
  7. Herd Of Turtles by Bagby Beer Co. – Silver medal (Baltic-Style Porter, 48 entries)

  8. Back In The ESSA by Monkey Paw Brewing – Silver medal (English-Style Summer Ale, 41 entries)
  9. Z-Man Stout by Pizza Port Carlsbad – Silver medal (Export Stout, 48 entries)
  10. Hidden Gem by OB Brewery – Silver medal (German-Style Wheat Ale, 41 entries)

  11. Sour Wench Blackberry Ale by Ballast Point Brewing Co. – Silver medal (Fruited American-Style Sour Ale, 105 entries)
  12. Fresh As It Gets by Mother Earth Brew Co. – Nampa – Bronze medal (Fresh or Wet Hop Ale, 44 entries)
  13. Blonde by Culture Brewing Co. – Bronze medal (Golden or Blonde Ale, 126 entries)

  14. AleSmith Wee Heavy by AleSmith Brewing Co. – Bronze medal (Scotch Ale, 70 entries)

  15. Agavamente by SouthNorte Beer Co. – Bronze medal (Specialty Beer, 42 entries)

Be sure to raise a glass to all our winners!

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