Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
Last week saw this year’s Great American Beer Festival take place in Denver. Building off of momentum from last year’s GABF, local breweries performed extremely well again this year, with favorites like Devils Backbone, Port City, Flying Dog, Lost Rhino, and Three Brothers taking home honors. A full listing of local GABF winners can be found here thanks to the great Barley Blog, but let’s take a closer look and see what stands out.
Much like last year, the big take-away from this year’s GABF is that Devils Backbone is rapidly becoming a brewery to watch on the national scene. After taking home nine medals last year, the Lexington, Va., brewery won seven this year. Among those medals, Devils Backbone followed a win for Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year with a win for Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year (yes, I just wanted to type all of that).
Harrisonburg’s Three Brothers Brewing Company impressively won its first medal in the first year of the brewery’s existence, taking a bronze in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer category with their Rum Barrel Belgian Dubbel Style Ale. Port City Brewing Company of Alexandria won a total of four medals this year, with its flagship Optimal Wit winning the gold medal for best Belgian-Style Witbier. Two of Port City’s medals were won by special versions of its two Anniversary Ales, named One and Two. The Colossal One took the bronze for Aged Beer, while Colossal Two garnered a bronze in the Smoke Beer category.
There’s been a bit of consternation about breweries creating special versions of beers specifically to enter into GABF competition—that is, beers that aren’t available to consumers and are made only to try to win medals. I understand not liking the practice, but my personal opinion is that it isn’t the ‘Great American Beer Available at Your Local Restaurant/Bar/Retailer Festival’, so live and let live.
For regions like ours that are only now starting to make some noise on a national level, those extra GABF wins can be the difference between breweries expanding next year and five years from now, if at all. Not to mention that often times a GABF win can send a “one-off” recipe into wider production: rumor already has it that three of the Devils Backbone winners that are currently draft-only will be packaged for retail in 2014.
In any case, the 2013 GABF once again demonstrates just how great an era we’re entering for craft beer in Virginia, Maryland, and the District. Whether you spend this weekend at a retailer like Arrowine, or at festivals like this weekend’s NoVA Brewfest or Snallygaster in DC, make sure to grab some of our great local craft beers and toast to their success.
For a full list of 2013 GABF winners, click here. Until next time.
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