California Brewers Mine Precious Medals at 2013 Great American Beer Festival

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Great American Beer Festival

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing co-owners Gabriel Gordon, Lena Perelman and brewmaster Julian Shrago receive congratulations by Brewers Association president Charlie Papazian upon being named Midsized Brewpub of the Year. (Photo thanks to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing)

It was a veritable California Gold (and other medals) Rush for the state’s breweries and brewpubs at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival, which concluded last Saturday in Denver, Colorado, with 52 medals collected statewide, out of 855 entries. This was more wins and entries than any other state. Also, California breweries entirely swept four categories in the competition: Session Beer, Imperial Red Ale, American-Style Black Ale and Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout.

In addition, the Golden State dominated the 2013 Brewery and Brewer of the Year Awards. The just over two-year-old Beachwood BBQ & Brewing of Long Beach won the coveted title of Midsize Brewpub of the Year, honoring brewmaster Julian Shrago and brewer Ian McCall. Beachwood’s medal tally included two Golds (Kilgore Stout and Foam Top), one
 Silver (Udder Love) and two Bronzes (System of a Stout and Barrel-Aged Full Malted Jacket).

And for an unprecedented fourth time, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. of Paso Robles in Central California earned the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year title with brewmaster Matt Brynildson at the helm. Additionally, Firestone, which previously won the award in 2003, 2007 and 2011, picked up five medals in this year’s competition: three Golds (Wookey Jack, Pivo and Taproom IPA) and one Silver (Union Jack). Firestone’s Golden troika tied for the most first-place medals won in the competition with Left Hand Brewing of Longmont, Colorado.

“Our five awards and being Midsize Brewpub and Midsize Brewpub Brewer of the Year is an honor that we share with our entire staff and, of course, our loyal customers, said Beachwood’s Shrago and co-owner Gabriel Gordon in a statement. “Thank you for all of your support throughout the years. Because of you, we continue to work hard every day to bring you the highest quality product possible.”

About Firestone’s awards, the brewery’s co-owner Adam Firestone said in a press release, “This a testament to how relentless our brewers are when it comes to quality.” Co-owner David Walker agreed, adding, “The amount of remarkable beers at GABF is staggering, so it’s really humbling and gratifying to earn this distinction. ‘Merlin’ [Matt Brynildson] and his team continue to amaze.”

Figueroa Mountain Brewing tied Beachwood’s five-medal win, although the quintet of awards was split between the brewery’s two locations. The original brewpub in Buellton won two Golds (Davy Brown Ale and Stagecoach Stout), while the newer Santa Barbara facility scored two Silvers (Oktoberfest and Stearns Stout) and a Bronze (Surfliner Lager).

Aside from Beachwood, the only other brewery in L.A. County to medal was Kinetic Brewing in Lancaster — at the far north end of L.A. County. Entering the competition for the first time in 2013, Kinetic collected two Bronzes (Torque and Potential Blonde) — a testament to the skill of former Drake’s brewer Alexandra Nowell, who joined owner and brewmaster Steve Kinsey as head brewer at Kinetic in April.

Another multiple winner in the Los Angeles-Orange County area was TAPS Fish House and Brewery. Brewmaster Victor Novak’s two Bronze medals (Bohemian Pilsener and Schwarzbier) for TAPS’ Brea and Corona locations, respectively.

Also, the hipster-preferred Pabst Brewing, which is now headquartered in West L.A. even though its beers are contract-brewed by Miller Brewing elsewhere, won three awards for other brands it owns — one Silver (Old Style) and two Bronzes (Special Export and Ranier). This is an anomaly, however, as Pabst it is not really a brewery and merely has offices in L.A.

All in all, Southern California (including San Diego) and Central California breweries medalled 38 times — 14 gold, 8 silver and 16 bronze.



Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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