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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.


girl likes beer said...

A really cool map. I reposted it on my blog.

Rob Wade said...

really nice piece, i posted this on my blog

Unknown said...

Very nice, but!

Where is the correction for population per state? For breweries by population?

I would love to see the result of such a rework of your data. Drop me an email please, if you do so.

Thanks for the good work.

Anonymous said...

What software was used to produce the map?

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

I have a much better question:

Extrapolate the results compared with actual number of breweries in the states AND their distances from Denver. I'm willing to wager that the further from Denver a brewery is, the less chance they have of sending beers or representatives there. Some of the absolute best beers I've ever had were at brewpubs that are too small to even send beers to local or regional festivals, never mind a national festival.

I think the only way to overcome such a bias would be for the GABF to go to different cities every year--Philadelphia, Portland, Atlanta, Boston, Milwaukee, Miami, San Diego, etc. And as long as I'm dreaming, I'll take an inexhaustible firkin of real ale........

W Kraemer said...

Great map. I reposted it this Saturday to share with all my fellow map & beer fans! A fun topic, interesting data and a concise and quite aesthetically pleasing job presenting it.

Price said...

Poor Carolinas.

Anonymous said...

Budweiser? Coors? Old Milwaukee Light?

Obviously some pretty skewed results, if those crappy beers are rated among the best.

Map looks cool. Actual beers that were awarded medals--very bogus.

Anonymous said...

And of course you probably won't approve my comment since it runs against your advertising here, but seriously...what a disservice to the real beer drinkers.

Unknown said...

Can you post the raw data as well?

Phillip Holland said...

Alexander, I don't disagree with your assessment of the somewhat skewed results of having the beerfest all the way out here in Denver. I got to volunteer this year, and it was awesome. They told us that the primary reason it is in Denver is because Colorado is one of just a couple of states that let volunteers serve alcohol. And the people that put it on are based up in Boulder, so it's a natural pick for them. If you ever get a chance, it's a great time, but since it looks like you really enjoy your beer, come to the thursday night session before the drunks show up on the weekend. :)

Anonymous said...

Great idea. Would like to see a more detailed version with brewery locations and medal winners to plan some tours.

As some others have mentioned some of the beers that were awarded medals are pretty weak, but that probably has more to do with the date range.

I'm no expert, but I don't think the microbrew revolution really took off until '89 or so. Prior to that about the "best" domestic you could get at most bars was Michelob.

My first exposure to it was at the Tampa Bay Brewing Co. I also hit a bar in Indy around the time of the 500 (Ale Emporium?) that had a huge beer list for the time, but I think it was mostly imports. Both were circa '89. I was 19 at the time. ;-)

Alchemy Museum said...

When I lived in the US it seemed like the micro-brewery scene was just beginning to start up. The last while I was there I lived in VT and in Burlington there was a brewery called, I believe, Magic Hat which had some interesting beers.
Now I live in the Czech lands and the number of small brewing operations increases by the day.
The "Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic" by Evan Rail is a great resource.

Chiang Mai said...

The cost of beer jumped by a price tag far greater than the proposed beer tax. Don't put it on the back of moderate drinkers like me whose only 'sin' is to enjoy a beer.