After reading Tomm Carroll’s four columns for Food GPS, Parts (1, 2, 3, 4) (required reading for craft beer education) and the amazing catalog of amazing beers at this year’s edition of the Great American Beer Festival, I am more bullish on the state of American craft beer than ever. I have pored over the winners list to spotlight medal winning beers. For those of us lucky enough to be in Southern California, the bounty available to us is amazing.
The top three medal winning states were California, Colorado and Oregon. California regained the crown from lat year’s winner, Colorado. We are close enough for fresh distribution of most of the beers from these states and/or they are easy trips to sample their wares. And we are only a drive away from two of the highly regarded breweries at GABF this year, Pizza Port – San Clemente and Pizza Port – Carlsbad! Both venues won recognition for brewpub/brewer of the year. One reason may be the great names they give their creations – Good Grief Brown and Pseudo IPA – to name two.
So let’s dive into the beers to try. (Some of which you may have had in the past but may require a second look now that the beer judges have rated them as best in show)
Each year the number of categories increases to reflect a genuine growth in styles that would have been lumped into the “experimental” or “out of category” categories. For example, American Style India Black Ale, a clunky generic term for Cascadian Dark beers. And we have the bronze medal winner in stores, Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.
Travel to nearby San Marcos for the bronze medal winner in category 16. American style Sour ales. Red Poppy from The Lost Abbey. If you have jumped onto the sour bandwagon then you probably have sampled this powerful beer. And moving to the aged sour beer, Temptation from the famed Russian River brewery in Santa Rosa picked up silver.
A brewer that seems to be forgotten at times due to location in Upland is Dale Brothers. They also grabbed silver in the obscure English Style Summer Ale category for their Pacific Daylight Ale. I have seen their beers (at various times) in Whole Foods and with this medal, they may return to shelves more frequently.
There are always head scratching results and one of these was for California’s Firestone-Walker’s double in the American Style Pale Ale category. Their Mission Street brand brewed for Trader Joe’s took first and their Pale 31 came in second! This duo might make for an interesting blind taste test.
Another beer that can be found easily is from the Anderson Valley Brewing folks in Boonville. Brother David’s Dubbel snagged silver and is a really strong example of a solid Belgian Ale. AVBC is sometimes forgotten because they don’t do alot of special imperial IPA’s or extreme porters but they make what I call “table beer”. Good, everyday beer to have with dinner.
Lastly, big and hearty congratulations to the crew at Eagle Rock Brewery for bringing home the GOLD in one of the hardest categories, The Pro-Am competition. American Homebrew Association member Donny Hummel collaborated with the Eagle Rock crew to create Red Velvet a red ale that includes rye in the recipe.
Your homework is to make sure you have purchased tickets to any of the L.A. Beer Week events that may sell out in advance. Do you want great food and Dogfish Head beer? Do you want to to sample great beer at Union Station? Do you want ice cream in your beer? Then start clicking on links at the L.A. Beer Week page.
The beer of the week is Monstre Rouge. It is a collaboration between the Terrapin Brewing in Georgia and De Proef of Belgium. This is the latest transatlantic collaboration for De Proef and it is an extreme version of a Flanders Red ale. This style of ale is known for it’s tartness and fruity flavors and is an excellent sipping beer or paired with chocolate desserts.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.