This year’s Great American Beer Festival, the biggest beer event in the country, proved to be another fruitful competition for Texas breweries.
Although the state’s brewers didn’t top 2014’s record of winning 16 gold, silver and bronze medals at GABF — or last year’s unprecedentedly high number of gold medals in particular — one local brewpub represented Texas’ potential as a craft beer powerhouse in a big way.
Held as always in Denver, the festival this weekend saw a record-shattering number of breweries participating in the competition. According to the Brewers Association, the organization that produces the fest each year, winners were selected from 7, 227 competition entries, a number nearly nine percent higher than the 6,647 entries last year and “surpassing all previous participation records.” A total of 1,752 breweries sent in their beers for judging.
All of that fierce competition didn’t matter for Austin’s the ABGB, however.
The brewpub on West Oltorf Street first learned at the awards ceremony on Saturday that it had grabbed a gold medal for the ABGB Industry Pilsner in the German Pilsner category. Not long afterward, the ABGB also nabbed a bronze medal for the Hell Yes Helles in the Munich-style Helles category.
Good things come in threes: the ABGB earned an even bigger honor at GABF later — the Large Brewpub of the Year Award. Receiving that prize was a first for the ABGB and for Texas brewers in general, too.
And getting it, on top of two medals, was far beyond anything that the ABGB’s brewers, Amos Lowe, Kim Mizner and Brian “Swifty” Peters, could have imagined.
“Winning either a pils or a helles medal would have made our year,” Peters said. “Winning both is a dream come true. Amos, Kim and I have been working towards this since we opened, and all of the hard work paid off with being awarded large brewpub of the year. You don’t allow yourself to ever think that you might win it. But now it’s ours and we did it with lagers! I can’t stop smiling.”
Lager beers are the ABGB’s specialty, as I noted in this recent profile I wrote about the brewpub in celebration of its three year anniversary. The ABGB’s brewers don’t just love making them — they are also very good at it.
“People bash lagers because they’re so subtle in flavor. Like the helles we have,” Peters said in the story. “They bash the beers because they can’t taste the flavors. But lagers are so precise and so clean.”
Texas breweries won a total of 12 awards at this year’s GABF, the 30th annual version of the festival. Though we’ve gotten less of a medal count than in the past two years, it’s worth remembering that competition was tougher than ever. On average, the Brewers Association noted, 75 beers were entered in each category, “making the 2016 Great American Beer Festival competition the most competitive ever.”
Here’s the list of winners:
- The ABGB’s Industry Pilsner — gold in German Pilsner category
- The ABGB’s Hell Yes Helles — bronze in Munich-style Helles
- Adelbert’s Brewery’s Flyin’ Monks — bronze in Belgian-style Dubbel or Quad
- Community Beer Co.’s Witbier — bronze in Belgian-style Witbier
- Grapevine Brewery’s Sir William English Brown Ale — silver in English-style Brown
- Independence Brewing’s Cucumber RedBud — bronze in Field Beer
- Nine Band Brewing’s Toad Choker Barleywine — bronze in Barleywine
- Panther Brewing and Clifton Ellis’ Just Rye’te — gold in pro-am competition
- Real Ale Brewing’s Real Heavy — gold in Scotch Ale
- Revolver Brewing’s Anodyne Wheat Wine — gold in Other Strong Beer
- Solid Rock Brewing’s Big Drought Stout — gold in Classic Irish Dry Stout