The Best Beers In California: 2014 California State Fair Winners

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Last week, the judging took place for the 19th annual California State Fair Craft Beer Competition in West Sacramento. This year, there were 859 beers entered in 25 categories of beer plus one for hard cider were entered. I judged two of the four days for this year’s competition, but family obligations kept me from being there for the final two days of judging.

This year’s California State Fair will also include a Brewer’s Festival, which will take place on July 19 from 3-6 PM at the Miller Lite Grandstands at Cal Expo in Sacramento, where you’ll have an opportunity to try many of the winning beers. Tickets are $15 in advance, or $20 the day of the event. Check out the Cal State Expo website for details.

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Below are all of the award winners. 1 is a Gold medal, 2 is Silver, 3 is Bronze, and 4 is an Honorable Mention.

Category 1: Light Lager (16 entries)

  1. Blue Eyed Blonde, Solvang Brewing (1D: Munich Helles)
  2. Helles Lager, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery (1D: Munich Helles)
  3. Buxom Blonde Pilsner, Loomis Basin Brewing (1C: Premium American Lager)

Category 2: Pilsner (22 entries)

  1. Czech Pilsner, Rubicon Brewing (2B: Bohemian Pilsener)
  2. Northern Pilsner, Sudwerk Brewing (2A: German Pilsner (Pils))
  3. Elemental Pilsner, Lightning Brewery (2A: German Pilsner (Pils))

Category 3: European Amber Lager (5 entries)

  1. Zen Amber Lager, Sudwerk Brewing (3B: Oktoberfest/Marzen)
  2. Ballast Point Oktoberfest, Ballast Point Brewing (3B: Oktoberfest/Marzen)
  3. Una Mas, Left Coast Brewing (3A: Vienna Lager)

Category 4: Dark Lager (5 entries)

  1. Terminal Island Black Lager, San Pedro Brewing (4C: Schwarzbier)
  2. Black Lager, Ol’ Republic Brewery (4C: Schwarzbier)
  3. Dunkel Bock, Ol’ Republic Brewery (4B: Munich Dunkel)

Category 5: Bock (13 entries)

  1. Doppel Down Doppelbock, Feather Falls Casino Brewing (5C: Doppelbock)
  2. Wild Bill Winter Bock, Feather Falls Casino Brewing (5B: Traditional Bock)
  3. Ultimator Dopplebock, Sudwerk Brewing (5C: Doppelbock)

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beer (69 entries)

  1. Bruin Blonde, San Pedro Brewing (6B: Blonde Ale)
  2. Castle Beach Kolsch, Santa Cruz Ale Works (6C: Kolsch)
  3. American, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (6A: Cream Ale)

Category 7: Amber Hybrid Beer (10 entries)

  1. California Common, Ol’ Republic Brewery (7B: California Common Beer)
  2. Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Brewery (7B: California Common Beer)
  3. Sticke Alt, Dust Bowl Brewing (7C: Dusseldorf Altbier)

Category 8: English Pale Ale (19 entries)

  1. DBA, Firestone Walker Brewing (8A: Standard/Ordinary Bitter)
  2. E.S.B., Ol’ Republic Brewery (8C: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale))
  3. What The Fuggle ESB, Anacapa Brewing (8C: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale))

Category 9: Scottish/Irish Ale (22 entries)

  1. Marauder, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (9E: Strong Scotch Ale)
  2. Maltopia, Hermitage Brewing (9B: Scottish Heavy 70/-)
  3. Clan Ross Scotch Ale, Legacy Brewing (9E: Strong Scotch Ale)

Category 10: American Ale (101 entries)

  1. Woodenhead Amber Ale, River City Brewing (10B: American Amber Ale)
  2. Hoppy Palm Pale Ale, Track 7 Brewing (10A: American Pale Ale)
  3. 1500, Drake’s Brewery (10A: American Pale Ale)

Category 11: English Brown Ale (14 entries)

  1. Ironwood Dark, Tied House Brewing (11C: Northern English Brown Ale)
  2. Barrel Harbor Brown Ale, Barrel Harbor Brewing (11C: Northern English Brown Ale)
  3. Downtown Brown, Lost Coast Brewery (11C: Northern English Brown Ale)

Category 12: Porter (32 entries)

  1. Brown Bear Porter, Feather Falls Casino Brewing (12A: Brown Porter)
  2. Black Robusto Porter, Drake’s Brewery (12B: Robust Porter)
  3. Party Foul Porter, Lazy Daze Brewery at Mary’s Pizza Shack (12B: Robust Porter)

Category 13: Stout (58 entries)

  1. Ale Of The 2 Tun, Hermitage Brewing (13D: Foreign Extra Stout)
  2. Imperial Stout, Mendocino Brewing (13F: Imperial Stout)
  3. Big Bear Black Stout, Bear Republic Brewing (13E: American Stout)

Category 14: India Pale Ale (178 entries)

  1. Panic IPA, Track 7 Brewing (14B: American IPA)
  2. Evil Twin, Heretic Brewing (14D: Other IPA)
  3. Kermit The Hop, Bison Organic Beer (14B: American IPA)
  4. Honorable Mention: Hop Rod Rye, Bear Republic Brewing (14D: Other IPA)

Category 15: German Wheat/Rye Beer (27 entries)

  1. Hefeweizen, Faultline Brewing (15A: Weizen/Weissbier)
  2. Riverbend Hefeweizen, American River Brewing (15A: Weizen/Weissbier)
  3. Windansea Wheat, Karl Strauss Brewing (15A: Weizen/Weissbier)

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale (46 entries)

  1. Rhinoceros, Telegraph Brewing (16E: Belgian Specialty Ale)
  2. Fullsuit Belgian Brown Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (16E: Belgian Specialty Ale)
  3. Silent Partner Saison, Telegraph Brewing (16C: Saison)

Category 17: Sour Ale (9 entries)

  1. Flander Red, Mraz Brewing (17B: Flanders Red Ale)
  2. Sour Farmhouse, Woodfour Brewing (17E: Gueuze)
  3. Cuvee, Boulder Creek Brewery (17B: Flanders Red Ale)

Category 18: Belgian Strong Ale (30 entries)

  1. Window Of Opportunity, Mraz Brewing (18C: Belgian Tripel)
  2. Axiom, Valiant Brewing (18E: Belgian Dark Strong Ale)
  3. Brother Thelonious, North Coast Brewing (18B: Belgian Dubbel)

Category 19: Strong Ale (30 entries)

  1. Old Diablo, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (19B: English Barleywine)
  2. Stentorian, Valiant Brewing (19B: English Barleywine)
  3. Old Stock, North Coast Brewing (19A: Old Ale)

Category 20: Fruit Beer (22 entries)

  1. Rosie”s Strawberry Wheat, Six Rivers Brewery (20A: Fruit Beer)
  2. Flatbed Blueberry Cream, Garage Brewing (20A: Fruit Beer)
  3. Tangerine Wheat, Lost Coast Brewery (20A: Fruit Beer)

Category 21: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer (16 entries)

  1. Gourdgeous, Hangar 24 Craft Brewery (21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)
  2. Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, Karl Strauss Brewing (21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)
  3. Mo’ Tcho Risin’, 21st Amendment Brewery (21A: Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)

Category 22: Smoke-Flavored/Wood-Aged Beer (30 entries)

  1. Barrel Aged Great Impression, Dust Bowl Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)
  2. Barrel-Aged Good Faith, Discretion Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)
  3. Jacked Again, Loomis Basin Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)
  4. Honorable Mention: Barrel Aged Vanilla Bean Wreck Alley Imperial Stout, Karl Strauss Brewing (22C: Wood-Aged Beer)

Category 23: Specialty Beer (30 entries)

  1. Campfire Stout, High Water Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)
  2. NightTime Ale, Lagunitas Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)
  3. 3 Best Friends, Sudwerk Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)
  4. Honorable Mention: Great Ape Nectar, Monkey Paw Brewing (23A: Specialty Beer)

Category 27: Standard Cider and Perry (8 entries)

  1. None awarded
  2. Pacific Coast Ciders, Hard Apple Cider, Cider Brothers (27A: Common Cider)
  3. None awarded

Category 28: Specialty Cider and Perry (4 entries)

  1. Blood Orange Tangerine, Common Cider Co. (28B: Fruit Cider)
  2. None awarded
  3. Hibiscus Saison, Common Cider Co. (28D: Other Specialty Cider or Perry)

Category 32: Chili Beer (12 entries)

  1. French Mexican War, Highway 1 Brewing (32A: Chili Beer)
  2. Imperial Dragon Kiss, Stumblefoot Brewing (32A: Chili Beer)
  3. Where There’s Smoke, Twisted Manzanita Ales (32A: Chili Beer)

Category 33: Session Beer (31 entries)

  1. Mosaic Session Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (33A: Session Beer)
  2. MCA Stout, 21st Amendment Brewery (33A: Session Beer)
  3. Easy Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing (33A: Session Beer)

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A few statistics: Karl Strauss, Ol’ Republic Brewery and Sudwerk Brewing won the most medals, four apiece. Feather Falls Casino Brewing won three, and 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewery, Dust Bowl Brewing, Firestone Walker Brewing, Hangar 24 Brewing, Loomis Basin Brewing, Lost Coast Brewery, Mraz Brewing, San Pedro Brewing, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, Telegraph Brewing and Track 7 Brewing all won two medals apiece.

BEST OF SHOW

  1. Panic IPA, Track 7 Brewing (14B: American IPA)
  2. California Common, Ol’ Republic Brewery (7B: California Common Beer)
  3. Bruin Blonde, San Pedro Brewing (6B: Blonde Ale)

Each brewery chose 6 of their entered beers which they felt were their best. After all judging was completed, the brewery whose six beers scored best was awarded the title “Brewery of the Year.” This year, that honor went to the Antioch brewpub Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, and their brewmaster Craig Cauwels. In addition, a panel of media chose their favorite from among the “best of show” beers to receive the “Best of Show — Media Choice,” which was awarded to Ol’ Republic Brewery’s E.S.B.

Congratulations to all the winners.

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Golden Road’s Area Codes

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Ah, the numerical beers. First there was Goose Island’s 312. After being acquired by ABI, they proceeded to file trademark applications for many other metropolitan area codes, leaving many to speculate that they’d start doing locally themed area code beers. When the overlooked the San Luis Obispo / Paso Robles area code, Firestone Walker snapped up, almost as a joke, and started producing 805. It may have started out as a humorous idea, but it’s become one of their best-selling beers in their home market. Golden Road, who’s down the road in Los Angeles, named one of their beers 329, not for an area code, but for the average number of days that L.A. gets sunshine each year.

So they threw down about the area code beers in a musical parody entitled (Beers with) Area Codes, a spoof of Ludacris’ Area Codes (feat. Nate Dogg). The video features co-founder Meg Gill, and some of her brewery team, as they call out Matt Brynildson by name, and humorously dis his 805. Golden Road’s brewer Jesse Houck (who used to brew at Drake’s and 21st Amendment) can also seen briefly in a cameo. At the end, they give a shout out to other area codes, which at first sound made up, but they do mention my 707, so maybe not. All in all, a pretty funny music video.

Great Divide Announces New Production Brewery

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This is great news. Brian Dunn of Great Divide Brewing in Denver, Colorado, has announced that they will be building a brand new production brewery on a five-acre site in the River North neighborhood. When completed, it will take capacity to around 100,000 barrels, and ultimately to a maximum of 250,000 when all is said and done. Last year, Great Divide made a little bit more than 37,000 barrels of beer. Phase One will start in a couple of months, which is to demolish the abandoned auto parts warehouse that currently sits on the land. Next, they’ll build a 70,000-square-foot warehouse to use for storage of kegs and packaged beer, a priority. That should be finished by the spring of 2015, qnd will also include a new canning line, meaning that Great Divide will begin canning their beers next year.

According to the Denver Post, “A tasting room and beer garden adjacent to the new production brewery – overlooking a planned city park, the South Platte River and the mountains beyond – is at least two and possibly three years down the road.” Once the brewery is operational, they’re repurpose the existing downtown brewery for smaller batch beers and special releases.

Congratulations to Brian and the brewery. I can’t wait to see the new brewery up and running.

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Brian Dunn, on the former car salvage yard that will house the new Great Divide brewery, tap room and beer garden (photo by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

R.I.P. Jack Joyce: 1942-2014

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He was the original Rogue. I just learned from Lisa Morrison that Rogue Ale & Spirits founder Jack Joyce passed away yesterday. He was 71. My thoughts go out to his family. Jack was a terrific voice in the beer community and he will be missed. I can still picture him sitting at the bar in San Francisco, beer in hand, chatting away. Drink a toast tonight to Jack’s memory, one of the true pioneers of craft beer.

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UPDATE: I just got the following from Rogue president Brett Joyce, and Jack’s son:

Yesterday the Rogue Nation and Family lost our co-founder, leader, friend, and father as Jack Joyce passed away at the age of 71.

Following a career as both a small town attorney and Nike executive, Jack and some friends founded Rogue in 1988 in Ashland, Oregon. From the outset, Jack set Rogue on a path of innovation, creativity, and rebellion. Rogue made hoppy, flavorful beers and was told that no one would drink them. Rogue made a wide range of beers and was told no one wanted variety. Rogue sold 22oz bottles of beer and was told no one would pay a premium for a single serve beer. Rogue opened multiple pubs and breweries and was told that it would be wise to follow a more efficient and logical business plan. Rogue took the road less, or perhaps never, travelled. Rogue was the first U.S. craft brewer to send beer to Japan. Rogue won 1,000 awards for product and packaging excellence. Rogue worried about getting better, not bigger. Rogue began distilling. Rogue began farming. Rogue remained dedicated to its small town roots and made sure to give back to its local communities. Rogue started a Nation. This was all vintage Jack.

He was the true Rogue and will be missed by us all.

Anchor Cans California Lager

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Anchor Brewing announced yesterday that they’ll be releasing their popular California Lager in cans as a part of ” two unique partnerships,” in which “a portion of proceeds from Anchor California Lager sales will support the National Parks Conservation Association and the California State Parks Foundation.” Putting the beer in cans, they believe, will “offer greater convenience and versatility for outdoor activities.”

From the press release:

“Parks are one of our most precious resources that everyone from coast-to-coast can enjoy,” said Keith Greggor, CEO of Anchor Brewing Company. “Anchor California Lager already has tremendous success supporting parks in our home state and we look forward to supporting the National Parks Conversation Association’s work protecting our national parks.”

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Anchor’s history, California’s first genuine lager, and our country’s state parks were born in the second half of the 19th Century. Today, California is home to 280 state parks and 26 of America’s 401 national parks. To celebrate that unique heritage, Anchor Brewing Company has partnered with the National Parks Conservation Association and the California State Parks Foundation to support their efforts to conserve and enrich the natural beauty and history of parks nationwide.

And here’s the background info on the beer:

Anchor Brewing Company’s roots go back to the Gold Rush, long before icehouses and modern refrigeration made traditional lagers a viable option. In 1876—thanks to an ice pond in the mountains and a belief that anything is possible in the Golden State—a little brewery named Boca created California’s first genuine lager. Anchor California Lager is a re-creation of this historic beer.

Crisp, clean, and refreshing, its rich golden color, distinctive aroma, lingering creamy head, balanced depth of flavor, and incredibly smooth finish are like no other lager today. Made in San Francisco with two-row California barley, Cluster hops (the premier hop in 19th-century California), and Anchor’s own lager yeast, Anchor California Lager is kräusened and lagered in the cellars of the brewery. This all-malt brew is a delicious celebration of California’s unique brewing heritage.

That should be a fun beer to take on a hike or camping, not to mention the beer helps what I consider to be a very worthy cause, our state and national parks.

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Beer Glassware Catalog 1892

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Here’s an interesting historical artifact. It’s a trade catalog for bars and restaurants from a company in New York, the L & M Goldsticker company, which published an “illustrated catalogue” of “bar room glassware and bottlers supplies” in 1892.

Here’s the cover of the 80-page catalog:

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And the back cover shows the brick and mortar store on Fulton Street in New York City.

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They carried a surprising array of beer glasses for the discerning bar, including some for specific types of beer, along with a number of other accessories and equipment. You can see the entire catalogue online at the Hagley Digital Archives. Below is a majority of the pages with beer glasses on them.

Pages 6 and 7:
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Page 12:
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Pages 14 and 15:
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Pages 16 and 17:
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Pages 22 and 23:
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Brussels Beer Challenge To Be Held In Leuven

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2014 will mark the third year for the Brussels Beer Challenge. In its inaugural year it was held in Brussels, in the second year it was in Liege. This year’s competition will be in Leuven, described as a “beautiful historic city with a rich cultural life, countless moments, excellent hotel and conference facilities, and blessed with a noble and ancient brewing tradition.”

From the press release:

During two days a tasting panel of 60 international renowned beer connoisseurs will taste 750 beers from all over the world. The participating beers are divided into categories based on origin, type and style and then evaluated. At the end of the two tasting days, the best beers, in each category, will be awarded a gold, silver or bronze award. This professional beer competition is a unique opportunity for all beer producers to compete with the best international and Belgian brewers.

Why organize this beer competition in Belgium?

Belgium is without a doubt the most unique beer country. Our country has a great expertise and an international reputation. It is only fitting that Belgium has his own professional beer contest. The mixed presence of both national and international specialists ensures that the awarded beers at the Brussels Beer Challenge can count on a huge media interest and international recognition. Dirk Vansina, alderman of tourism: “In the last weekend of October, when the professional beer tasters are judging the beers, the visitor can also enjoy beer in town. Tourism of Leuven is working on an interesting program in which she confirms her title of beer capital. The program will be confirmed later.”

I’m looking forward to going over and judging this fall in Leuven. Should be a great time.

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Here is a chart showing the gold medals awarded at last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge:
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And here is a chart showing the medals awarded to Belgian breweries at last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge:
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CCBA SoCal General Meeting Announced

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The California Craft Brewers Association will be holding a general members meeting in Southern California on May 19-20. The two-day event is open to all California Breweries, Breweries in Planning, Allied Trade Members and Distributor Members.

On Monday, May 19, Workshops and a Beer Garden BBQ will be held at Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, with the workshops taking place from 3-5 PM, followed by a BBQ from 5-7 PM.

On Tuesday, May 20, the CCBA General Meeting will be held from 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM at the Center for the Arts in Escondido, and will include a beer social.

Registration is required to attend, and can be done online through Eventbrite. CCBA Members will receive a discounted price for the general meeting of $30.00 (use promotional code: CCBAmember and enter promotional code under registration ticket type “CCBA Members – Gen’l Meeting) when you register.

More details about the meeting are available at the CCBA website.

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Beverage Industry’s State Of American Beer Report

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The Atlantic magazine had a good round-up of the State of American Beer, based on a report from the trade publication Beverage Industry. Beverage Industry’s March issue had a series of articles on different segments, including Craft brewers’ sales growth continues, Domestic beer case sales decline, Mexican beers dominate imported beer growth and Hard cider draws in consumers from outside the beer category. In addition, at the same time they released a separate report, the 2014 U.S. Beer Category Report.

You could spend the time to read through all of them (and I’d encourage you to do so) but to get an overview of the reports, The Atlantic’s coverage provides the highlights (and even does a better job with the charts). For example, here’s the top craft brands from 2013.

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And here’s case sales by brand in a piechart.

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And this last one, the percentage change in case sales, is amazing because is shows just how fast Lagunitas is growing, though Stone’s doing pretty well on the growth front, too.

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