The Great American Beer Festival is basically The Oscars of the brewing industry. Every year, breweries from all over the country converge on Denver for a weekend of sampling, judging, pretzel necklaces, and Duff Man costumes, probably. If you’ve ever been to Madison’s Great Taste of the Midwest, you’ve experienced GABF, just on a much smaller level.
The best part about GABF is that all the beers are tasted blind, so you’ll often find small breweries from weird places like Montana winning Small Brewing Company of the Year. This ensures that California, Oregon, and Michigan breweries don’t win every award due to regional biases. Also, one of the guys from Cloudburst Brewing out of Seattle (an excellent spot that brews some mean IPAs and is just off of Pike Place Market for when you need a break from that touristy hell hole) wore this t-shirt:
After looking over the winners from my current home state as well as all of the other places I’ve lived, I thought it might be fun to see which of the Big Ten’s many, many states had the best beer showing by medals won last weekend. With 102 categories and multiple sub-categories, there were many chances for the Midwest (and some of the East Coast and Great Plains) to represent for their home region.
I assumed that the B1G West would be able to do pretty well, considering it contains Chicago (and the rest of Illinois too, technically), Wisconsin, and a burgeoning Minnesota to combat Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all brewing heavyweights. So, let’s get to the standings and standout beers from BIG TEN COUNTRY!
WELL WHAT THE HELL, IOWA!?!?!
Another competition, another B1G East victory. This is getting pretty old, pretty fast. The two standouts were Ohio in the East and Minnesota in the West, with Illinois nipping at Minnesota’s heels. Some pretty clear underachievers include Pennsylvania, obviously Iowa, and disappointingly, Wisconsin. For those wondering, since Indiana has a team in each division, I just divided its total in half, King Solomon-style. Let’s take a look at some states of interest and break down their beer contributions to this great conference footprint.
There were zero breweries from Madison in Wisconsin’s four winners, but one brewery that we’ve already featured in our Brewery Focus Series, Third Space Brewing in Milwaukee, took home half of Wisconsin’s medals. A bronze for its imperial IPA, Unbridled Enthusiasm, and a silver for its rye ale, Unite The Clans.
The other two winners were a silver for Point Brewing’s Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale and the state’s only gold for White Legs Jalapeno Wheat from Tribute Brewing Company in Eagle River in the Chili Beer category. I did NOT know that was an official beer category at the GABF.
The State of Some Number of Lakes, I’m Sure, really carried the load for the B1G West at this year’s GABF. Twelve total medals, four golds, and only six of the medalists were from the brewing capital of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Steel Toe Brewing, in St. Louis Park, took home two medals including a gold for its export stout, Dissent. One of my favorite breweries in the state, Modist Brewing, nabbed a bronze for First Call, its coffee ale. It works well in the morning AND the evening, I’ve found.
Lakes and Legends in Minneapolis won the Field Beer category (which is a category I don’t even know how to describe) with its Cool for the Summer cucumber and mint saison.
Bent Paddle in Duluth also won a gold for its saison in the “Classic Saison” category, which seems pretty self-explanatory.
The other state that kept the B1G West within shouting distance of the East was Illinois. Chicago definitely carried the state overall, but Northwestern’s (formerly dry) hometown came through with a silver medal for Purple Line a Fruit Wheat Beer from Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. A place to keep in mind the next time (Oct. 27) the Badgers are playing football just outside the city limits of Chicago.
One of my local breweries when I lived in Chicago won big this year at GABF. Corridor Brewery and Provisions (the sister brewery to DryHop Brewing), a small farmhouse style brewery on Southport, took home a gold and a silver this year. The silver came in the highly competitive Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double India Pale Ale category.
Regional workhorse Revolution Brewing won a bronze for Straight Jacket in the Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer category.
The “great” state of Ohio won a B1G-best 14 medals at this year’s GABF. While that is certainly impressive, it has a long way to go before it challenges California’s 72 (!!!) medals won. A number of breweries I’ve never heard of, which is cool, did well for Ohio this year. Brink Brewing Co., in Cincinnati won two medals, including a gold for Moozie, its Sweet or Cream Stout. Ohio also took home the bronze in that category thanks to Columbus Brewing Co. Melk Stout.
God, they have to have their flag everywhere, don’t they? At least no one was spelling out their preposterously short-named state with their bodies.
Fat Head’s Brewery in Middleburg Heights, which is a really cool facility if you’re ever in the Cleveland area, won a bronze for Midnight Moonlight, its American-Style Black Ale. That is a style that I find particularly unappealing.
I once took a three-day tour through Michigan to visit breweries thanks to the geniuses at Dexter’s Pub, who rented a bus and set it up. It was freaking fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I was happy to see a few of the places we visited almost a decade ago still doing well. Michigan stalwarts like Bell’s and Founders (who won two) each took home some hardware, but I’m more excited about the breweries I’ve never been to that won.
The only gold medal that Michigan won was for The Mitten Brewing Company’s West Coast Swing Amber. They have good sampler paddles there too.
Wolverine State Brewing in Ann Arbor won two medals, a bronze for Raucher (smoke beer, but I didn’t need to tell any of you German speakers that) and a silver for NZ Pils (American-style pilsner). It could potentially be a fun place to check out before the game against Michigan.