Friday, October 10, 2008
GABF Medals: A Few States and Breweries Are Almost Sure Bets
During the last few weeks I have been plowing through the records of the Brewers Association covering the hundreds of medals that have been presented since 1987. With a huge assist from my son-in-law, Mike Wirth, we took the data and tried to visualize the history and growth of craft brewing through the eye of the professional judging panels. Looking at the pages of medal winners from the past does not give quite as clear a picture as the state map showing where the winners come from and the charts indicating the dominant beers and brewers.
This year's GABF sold out more than two weeks ago. Some 2,600 volunteers are helping serve 1,967 beers from 432 breweries on the floor of the Colorado Convention Center. Behind the scenes at the Marriott Hotel, 127 judges from 11 countries have been judging 2,961 beers from 477 breweries in 75 categories. Over the years these medals have become a yard stick for comparing one brewery to another.
In looking at the statistic from the previous judging competitions, clearly beer fans in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon and Pennsylvania enjoy some of the best beers in the land. The top medal winning brewers range from the very largest to some of the fastest growing craft brewers.
The top honored beer in the history of the history of the Great American Beer Festival is Alaskan Smoked Porter, with 15 medals. New Belgium Abbey Belgian Style Ale and Genesee Cream Ale have both captured 10 medals, while Samuel Adams Double Bock has received 9 medals.
Medals are not the end all and be all to finding a great beer, but the GABF competition has given beer fans a way of knowing about the quality of a beer before they spend their hard earned money. It has also given the marketing departments at brewers across the country something to talk about.