GABF Winners 2015

Yesterday, the winners of the 34th Great American Beer Festival were announced. A record 6,647 beers were judged in 92 categories by 242 judges, of which I was again privileged to be one. Some more factoids on the results and the festival:

  • Category with the most entries: American-style IPA: 336 entries (279 last year; #1 since 2002)
  • Top 5 Categories: IPA (336 entries); Imperial IPA (208); Wood- & Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (179); Session IPA (161); and American Pale Ale (160)
  • Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 72 (61.2 last year)
  • 1,552 breweries in the competition from all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. (1,309 last year)
  • 38 first-time breweries won medals (52 last year)
  • 4 breweries tied for most medals won, with three apiece; Firestone Walker Brewing, Sun King Brewing, Port City Brewing, and Left Hand Brewing.
  • 750 breweries in the festival hall (710 last year)
  • Over 3,800 beers served at the festival (3,500 last year)
  • 60,000 attendees (49,000 last year)
  • New Categories This Year: Chili Pepper Beer, Session IPA and Mixed Culture Brett Beer.


Medals Won by State:

  1. California = 67 (46 last year)
  2. Colorado = 36 (39 last year)
  3. Oregon = 19 (22 last year)
  4. Texas = 15 (16 last year)
  5. Washington = 13 (9 last year)
  6. TIE:
    • Indiana = 10 (4 last year)
    • Ohio = 10 (5 last year)
  7. Virginia = 9 (7 last year)
  8. TIE:
    • North Carolina = 8 (6 last year)
    • Pennsylvania = 8 (12 last year)
    • Wisconsin = 8 (7 last year)
  9. Minnesota = 7 (6 last year)
  10. Michigan = 6 (6 last year)
  11. TIE:
    • Missouri = 5 (4 last year)
    • Nevada = 5 (3 last year)
    • New York = 5 (3 last year)
  12. TIE:
    • Arizona = 4 (1 last year)
    • Illinois = 4 (9 last year)
    • New Mexico = 4 (8 last year)


The 2015 Great American Beer Festival Winners

Category 1: American-Style Wheat Beer, 58 Entries
Gold: Super 77 Wheat, Wiley Roots Brewing Co., Greeley, CO
Silver: Whacked Out Wheat, Telluride Brewing Co., Telluride, CO
Bronze: Mogabi, Elevator Brewing Co. – Production Facility, Columbus, OH

Category 2: American-Style Wheat Beer With Yeast, 41 Entries
Gold: The Big O, O’so Brewing, Plover, WI
Silver: WeldWerks Hefeweizen, WeldWerks Brewing Co., Greeley, CO
Bronze: Boulder Bend Dunkelweizen, Fish Brewing Co., Olympia, WA

Category 3: American-Style Fruit Beer, 87 Entries
Gold: Chchchch-Cherry Bomb, Melvin Brewing, Jackson, WY
Silver: Rasplendent, Mazama Brewing Co., Corvallis, OR
Bronze: Apricot Blonde, Dry Dock Brewing Co. – Production Facility, Aurora, CO

Category 4: Fruit Wheat Beer, 69 Entries
Gold: Magnolia’s Peach, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery – Chandler, Chandler, AZ
Silver: You’re My Boy, Blue!, Brew Bus Brewing, Tampa, FL
Bronze: Purple Line, Smylie Brothers Brewing Co., Evanston, IL

Category 5: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer, 63 Entries
Gold: X-Reserve Ale 05-15 Peach and Ginger Saison, Saucony Creek Brewing, Kutztown, PA
Silver: Kumquat Saison, Smog City Brewing, Torrance, CA
Bronze: Cherry Busey, Sun King Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN

Category 6: Pumpkin Beer, 56 Entries
Gold: No Medal
Silver: Pumpkin Grinder, Mankato Brewery, Mankato, MN
Bronze: The Great Pumpkin Ale, Great Basin Brewing Co. – Sparks, Sparks, NV

Category 7: Field Beer, 52 Entries
Gold: Beets, Rhymes and Life, Fonta Flora Brewery, Morganton, NC
Silver: Window Seat Coconut Almond Porter, Baxter Brewing Co., Auburn, ME
Bronze: Coconut Porter, Broken Compass Brewing, Breckenridge, CO

Category 8: Chili Beer, 79 Entries
Gold: Fire Tiger, Lander Brewing Co., Lander, WY
Silver: Heir Apparent, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, Goochland, VA
Bronze: Ballast Point Pale Ale with Serrano, Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits – Scripps Ranch,
San Diego, CA

Category 9: Herb and Spice Beer, 142 Entries
Gold: Garden Party, Free State Brewing Co., Lawrence, KS
Silver: Allergeez, Panther Island Brewing Co., Fort Worth, TX
Bronze: Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Ale, Aftershock Brewing Co., Temecula, CA

Category 10: Chocolate Beer, 65 Entries
Gold: The Velvet Hog, TAPS Fish House & Brewery – Corona, Corona, CA
Silver: El Toro Coco Chocolate Stout, El Toro Brewing Co., Morgan Hill, CA
Bronze: Wonka Bar, Mispillion River Brewing, Milford, DE

Category 11: Coffee Beer, 149 Entries
Gold: Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, New English Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Silver: Mocha Machine, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach, CA
Bronze: Bacon and Eggs, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

Category 12: Specialty Beer, 59 Entries
Gold: Hog Cabin, Great South Bay Brewery, Bay Shore, NY
Silver: Hazelnut Brown Nectar, Rogue Ales, Newport, OR
Bronze: Pack Dog Peanut Butter Ale, Marley’s Brewery & Grille, Bloomsburg, PA

Category 13: Rye Beer, 84 Entries
Gold: Blitzkrieg Bock, Fat Head’s Brewery – Portland, Portland, OR
Silver: Concrete Dinosaur, Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City, MI
Bronze: Pt. Bonita Rustic Lager, Headlands Brewing Co., Mill Valley, CA

Category 14: Honey Beer, 52 Entries
Gold: Electric Stinger, The Tap Beer Co., Bloomington, IN
Silver: Honey Chamomile Wheat, Nexus Brewery, Albuquerque, NM
Bronze: Spring Fever, FiftyFifty Brewing Co., Truckee, CA

Category 15: Session Beer, 44 Entries
Gold: BJ’s LightSwitch Lager, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery – Temple, Temple, TX
Silver: MCA, 21st Amendment Brewery Cafe, San Francisco, CA
Bronze: Guillaume, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

Category 16: Session India Pale Ale, 161 Entries
Gold: The Coachman, Societe Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Silver: Size 4, Steel Toe Brewing, St. Louis Park, MN
Bronze: Nose Candy, Noble Ale Works, Anaheim, CA

Category 17: Other Strong Beer, 43 Entries
Gold: Ursa Minor, McCoy’s Public House, Kansas City, MO
Silver: Humboldt Brownie, Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, CA
Bronze: Take Back the Streets, Piece Brewery, Chicago, IL

Category 18: Experimental Beer, 85 Entries
Gold: Mystery Airship Imperial Chocolate Porter, New Helvetia Brewing Co., Sacramento, CA
Silver: Melt My Brain, Short’s Brewing Co., Elk Rapids, MI
Bronze: Ramjet, Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Denver, CO

Category 19: Fresh or Wet Hop Ale, 34 Entries
Gold: Acequia IPA, Bosque Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM
Silver: Fresh Hop Superpower IPA, Comrade Brewing Co., Denver, CO
Bronze: Melvin IPA, Melvin Brewing, Jackson, WY

Category 20: Historical Beer, 40 Entries
Gold: Black Eagle Gratzer, Platform Beer Co., Cleveland, OH
Silver: Dortmunder Adambier, Blue Pants Brewery, Madison, AL
Bronze: Snow Drop, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland, CO

Category 21: Gluten-Free Beer, 24 Entries
Gold: Watchstander Stout, Ghostfish Brewing Co., Seattle, WA
Silver: IPA No. 5, Ground Breaker Brewing, Portland, OR
Bronze: Ghostfish Grapefruit IPA, Ghostfish Brewing Co., Seattle, WA

Category 22: American-Belgo-Style Ale, 71 Entries
Gold: Le Freak, Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
Silver: Summer Saison, Blackberry Farm Brewery, Walland, TN
Bronze: Salad Days American Saison, Pale Fire Brewing Co., Harrisonburg, VA

Category 23: American-Style Sour Ale, 86 Entries
Gold: Savant Blanc, Perennial Artisan Ales, Saint Louis, MO
Silver: Ensorcelled, The Rare Barrel, Berkeley, CA
Bronze: Apropos of Nothing, The Rare Barrel, Berkeley, CA

Category 24: American-Style Brett Beer, 85 Entries
Gold: (512) Wild Bear, (512) Brewing Co., Austin, TX
Silver: Red Swingline IPA Primitif, Trinity Brewing, Colorado Springs, CO
Bronze: 2015 Golden Ale, New Glarus Brewing Co. – Hilltop, New Glarus, WI

Category 25: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer, 69 Entries
Gold: Wild Warehouse, Wander Brewing, Bellingham, WA
Silver: Palo Santo Aged Porter, Spellbound Brewing, Mount Holly, NJ
Bronze: Barrel Aged Brown Ale, Twin Peaks Brewery, Irving, TX

Category 26: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer, 179 Entries
Gold: Melange A Trois, Nebraska Brewing Co., La Vista, NE
Silver: Batch 666: Sympathy For The Devil, Sun King Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN
Bronze: Ska Face, SKA Brewing, Durango, CO

Category 27: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer, 128 Entries
Gold: Ctayt, AC Golden Brewing Co., Golden, CO
Silver: Sherry Ink, Rhinegeist Brewing, Cincinnati, OH
Bronze: Dosvidanya, DESTIHL – Champaign, Champaign, IL

Category 28: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer, 137 Entries
Gold: Veritas 015, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA
Silver: 24 Frames Per Second, Our Mutual Friend Malt & Brew, Denver, CO
Bronze: Sour Opal, Firestone Walker Barrelworks, Buellton, CA

Category 29: Aged Beer, 38 Entries
Gold: Big Deluxe, Ritual Brewing Co., Redlands, CA
Silver: Sasquatch 2014, 903 Brewers, Sherman, TX
Bronze: Old Diablo, Morgan Territory Brewing, Tracy, CA

Category 30: Kellerbier or Zwickelbier, 45 Entries
Gold: STS Pils, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA
Silver: TAPS Kellerbier, TAPS Fish House & Brewery – Brea, Brea, CA
Bronze: Fargo Original, Fargo Brewing Co., Fargo, ND

Category 31: Smoke Beer, 57 Entries
Gold: Smoked Märzen, 49th State Brewing Co., Denali National Park, AK
Silver: S.S.A., Titletown Brewing Co., Green Bay, WI
Bronze: Smokie Robbins, Lager Heads Brewing Co., Medina, OH

Category 32: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener, 51 Entries
Gold: Rocket 100, The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Austin, TX
Silver: Mexican Logger, SKA Brewing, Durango, CO
Bronze: Amend This!, TAPS Fish House & Brewery – Brea, Brea, CA

Category 33: German-Style Pilsener, 100 Entries
Gold: Pivo, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
Silver: Pilsner, pFriem Family Brewers, Hood River, OR
Bronze: Pilsner, Dry Dock Brewing Co., Aurora, CO

Category 34: Bohemian-Style Pilsener, 62 Entries
Gold: Shower Beer, Champion Brewing Co., Charlottesville, VA
Silver: Bohemian Pilsner, von Trapp Brewing, Stowe, VT
Bronze: Peacemaker Pilsner, Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co., Dillon, CO

Category 35: Munich-Style Helles, 55 Entries
Gold: Bucket Seat Blonde, Garage Brewing Co. & Pizzeria, Temecula, CA
Silver: Long Goodbye, Ahnapee Brewery, Algoma, WI
Bronze: Goldencold Lager, Susquehanna Brewing Co., Pittston, PA

Category 36: Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest, 48 Entries
Gold: Oktoberfest, Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern, Fort Collins, CO
Silver: Longboard Island Lager, Craft Brew Alliance – Kona Brewery, Kailua Kona, HI
Bronze: Helles Lager, Lucky Envelope Brewing, Seattle, WA

Category 37: American-Style Lager or Light Lager, 55 Entries
Gold: Coors Banquet, Coors Brewing Co., Golden, CO
Silver: Lone Tree Mexican Lager, Lone Tree Brewing Co., Lone Tree, CO
Bronze: Southern Girl Lager, Sycamore Brewing, Charlotte, NC

Category 38: American-Style Cream Ale, 56 Entries
Gold: Rainier Lager, Pabst Brewing Co., Los Angeles, CA
Silver: Olympia, Pabst Brewing Co., Los Angeles, CA
Bronze: Nuff, Dale Bros Brewery, Upland, CA

Category 39: Vienna-Style Lager, 46 Entries
Gold: Vienna Lager, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Outpost, Lexington, VA
Silver: Oktoberfest, Stoudts Brewing Co., Adamstown, PA
Bronze: Firebrick, August Schell Brewing Co., New Ulm, MN

Category 40: German-Style Märzen, 65 Entries
Gold: Oktoberfest, Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth, TX
Silver: Antonius 1742 Oktoberfest, Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN
Bronze: Duck-Rabbit Märzen, Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, NC

Category 41: American-Style Amber Lager, 48 Entries
Gold: Auburn Lager, Mad Anthony Brewing Co., Fort Wayne, IN
Silver: Karbachtoberfest, Karbach Brewing Co., Houston, TX
Bronze: St. Florian’s Brewery California Common, St. Florian’s Brewery, Windsor, CA

Category 42: European-Style Dark/Münchner Dunkel, 34 Entries
Gold: Gigi, Exile Brewing, Des Moines, IA
Silver: Fearless Youth, Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland, CO
Bronze: Chuckanut Dunkel, Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham, WA

Category 43: American-Style Dark Lager, 21 Entries
Gold: Lagerithm, Bottle Logic Brewing, Anaheim, CA
Silver: Lighter Than I Look, Figueroa Mountain Brewing – Arroyo Grande, Arroyo Grande, CA
Bronze: Black Diamond, Bend Brewing Co., Bend, OR

Category 44: German-Style Schwarzbier, 37 Entries
Gold: Lobo Negro, Pedernales Brewing Co., Fredericksburg, TX
Silver: Black Knight, Fat Head’s Brewery – N. Olmstead, North Olmsted, OH
Bronze: Eastside, Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI

Category 45: Bock, 38 Entries
Gold: Break Line Bock, Rip Current Brewery, San Marcos, CA
Silver: Rock Out with Maibock Out, Hailstorm Brewing Co., Tinley Park, IL
Bronze: A Cart Ride to Mexico, Red Eye Brewing Co., Wausau, WI

Category 46: German-Style Doppelbock or Eisbock, 25 Entries
Gold: The Regulator, Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Fort Worth, TX
Silver: Procrastinator Doppelbock, Fitger’s Brewhouse, Duluth, MN
Bronze: Hot for Teacher Ms. Doppelbock, Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN

Category 47: Baltic-Style Porter, 35 Entries
Gold: Cobaltic Porter, Bottle Logic Brewing, Anaheim, CA
Silver: Double Porter, Bemidji Brewing Co., Bemidji, MN
Bronze: Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter, Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, NC

Category 48: Golden or Blonde Ale, 107 Entries
Gold: Sunlight Cream Ale, Sun King Brewing Co., Indianapolis, IN
Silver: Boxcar Blonde Ale, Heroes Restaurant and Brewery, Riverside, CA
Bronze: Alpine Gold, Tied House Cafe & Brewery – Mt. View, Mountain View, CA

Category 49: German-Style Kölsch, 111 Entries
Gold: Chuckanut Kolsch Style, Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham, WA
Silver: Colorado Kölsch, Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango, CO
Bronze: Friar Chuck, Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins, CO

Category 50: English-Style Summer Ale, 38 Entries
Gold: Beaverton Blonde, Golden Valley Brewery and Pub, McMinnville, OR
Silver: Cream Ale, Newburgh Brewing Co., Newburgh, NY
Bronze: Lonely Blonde, Fulton Beer, Minneapolis, MN

Category 51: Classic English-Style Pale Ale, 46 Entries
Gold: Mr. Kite’s Pale Ale, Social Kitchen & Brewery, San Francisco, CA
Silver: India Pale Ale, Arcadia Brewing Co., Kalamazoo, MI
Bronze: PBW Pale Ale, Paducah Beer Werks, Paducah, KY

Category 52: English-Style India Pale Ale, 42 Entries
Gold: Shanghai’d IPA, Old Town Brewing, Portland, OR
Silver: Monumental IPA, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA
Bronze: Hammersmith IPA, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA

Category 53: International-Style Pale Ale, 75 Entries
Gold: Mai Tai P.A., Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill, Monterey, CA
Silver: Rain Delay IPA, JAFB Wooster Brewery, Wooster, OH
Bronze: San Diego-Style IPA, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – La Jolla, La Jolla, CA

Category 54: American-Style Pale Ale, 160 Entries
Gold: Monterey St. Pale Ale, Central Coast Brewing Co., San Luis Obispo, CA
Silver: Hoppy Palm, Track 7 Brewing Co. – Natomas, Sacramento, CA
Bronze: Featherweight Pale Ale, Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden, CO

Category 55: American-Style Strong Pale Ale, 134 Entries
Gold: Ratchet Strap IPA, Barley Brown’s Beer, Baker City, OR
Silver: Via Chicago, CODA Brewing Co., Aurora, CO
Bronze: 3C India Pale Ale, Triple C Brewing, Charlotte, NC

Category 56: American-Style India Pale Ale, 336 Entries
Gold: Revolver IPA, BNS Brewing & Distilling Co., Santee, CA
Silver: Pernicious IPA, Wicked Weed Brewing – Candler, Candler, NC
Bronze: White Rajah, The Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse, Strongsville, OH

Category 57: Imperial India Pale Ale, 208 Entries
Gold: Hop JuJu Imperial IPA, Fat Head’s Brewery, Middleburg Heights, OH
Silver: Eazy Duz It IIPA, Laurelwood Public House and Brewery, Portland, OR
Bronze: Teahupo’o, Breakwater Brewing Co., Oceanside, CA

Category 58: American-Style Amber/Red Ale, 94 Entries
Gold: Immersion Amber Ale, Two Beers Brewing Co., Seattle, WA
Silver: Proletariat Red, Lompoc Brewing – The 5th Quadrant, Portland, OR
Bronze: Sharkbite Red, Pizza Port Bressi Ranch, Carlsbad, CA

Category 59: Double Red Ale, 71 Entries
Gold: Bone Head Imperial Red, Fat Head’s Brewery, Middleburg Heights, OH
Silver: Toaster Pastry, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Leandro, CA
Bronze: GRAMBO, Pizza Port Solana Beach, Solana Beach, CA

Category 60: Imperial Red Ale, 35 Entries
Gold: reDANKulous, Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI
Silver: Wreak Havoc, Bootstrap Brewing Co., Niwot, CO
Bronze: Imperial Red Ale, Marble Brewery, Albuquerque, NM

Category 61: English-Style Mild Ale, 40 Entries
Gold: Mild, Brothers Craft Brewing, Harrisonburg, VA
Silver: Summer Porter, Fort Point Beer Co., San Francisco, CA
Bronze: Mamoot, Logboat Brewing Co., Columbia, MO

Category 62: Ordinary or Special Bitter, 43 Entries
Gold: DBA (Double Barrel Ale), Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA
Silver: Spitfire Best Bitter, Flyers Restaurant and Brewery, Oak Harbor, WA
Bronze: Sawtooth Ale, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

Category 63: Extra Special Bitter, 67 Entries
Gold: The Guilty Party, Gibb’s Hundred Brewing Co., Greensboro, NC
Silver: 14° ESB, Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Duluth, MN
Bronze: Red Fish, Flying Fish Brewing Co., Somerdale, NJ

Category 64: Scottish-Style Ale, 52 Entries
Gold: Copper John Scotch Ale, Madison River Brewing Co., Belgrade, MT
Silver: Cold Smoke, KettleHouse Brewing Co., Missoula, MT
Bronze: Barrio Rojo, Barrio Brewing Co., Tucson, AZ

Category 65: Irish-Style Red Ale, 70 Entries
Gold: TAPS Irish Red, TAPS Fish House & Brewery – Corona, Corona, CA
Silver: Johnny Blood Red, Titletown Brewing Co., Green Bay, WI
Bronze: Hooligan’s Irish Red Ale, Montana Brewing Co., Billings, MT

Category 66: English-Style Brown Ale, 72 Entries
Gold: Red Hydrant Ale, Big Dog’s Brewing Co., Las Vegas, NV
Silver: No Name, Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co., Glenwood Springs, CO
Bronze: Rogue River Brown, Rockford Brewing Co. – Rockford, Michigan, Rockford, MI

Category 67: American-Style Brown Ale, 85 Entries
Gold: 1623 Brown Ale, 7th Settlement Brewery, Dover, NH
Silver: Rapture Fusion Brown Ale, Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin, TX
Bronze: Restraint, Institution Ale Co., Camarillo, CA

Category 68: American-Style Black Ale, 54 Entries
Gold: Midnight Moonlight, Fat Head’s Brewery – N. Olmstead, North Olmsted, OH
Silver: Singularity, Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – Costa Mesa, Costa Mesa, CA
Bronze: King Ink, Denver Beer Co. – Canworks, Denver, CO

Category 69: German-Style Sour Ale, 111 Entries
Gold: Gose, Reuben’s Brews Taproom, Seattle, WA
Silver: Volkssekt, Bend Brewing Co., Bend, OR
Bronze: Cucumber Crush, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, OR

Category 70: German-Style Altbier, 49 Entries
Gold: Copper Alt, Zipline Brewing Co., Lincoln, NE
Silver: Generation Alt, Flix Brewhouse – Indy, Carmel, IN
Bronze: Altbier, Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co., Lafayette, CO

Category 71: South German-Style Hefeweizen, 95 Entries
Gold: Weißbier, Prost Brewing, Denver, CO
Silver: Wild Wapiti Wheat, Elk Mountain Brewing Co., Parker, CO
Bronze: Windansea Wheat, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego, CA

Category 72: German-Style Wheat Ale, 35 Entries
Gold: Saint Arnold Weedwacker, Saint Arnold Brewing Co., Houston, TX
Silver: Weizenbock, Kansas City Bier Co., Kansas City, MO
Bronze: Monkey Business, New Bohemia Brewing Co., Santa Cruz, CA

Category 73: Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale, 47 Entries
Gold: Bear Hair, Logboat Brewing Co., Columbia, MO
Silver: Bleek Worden, Prison City Brewing, Auburn, NY
Bronze: Belgian Style Pale Ale, Aardwolf Brewing Co., Jacksonville, FL

Category 74: Belgian-Style Witbier, 82 Entries
Gold: Allagash White, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME
Silver: White Rascal, Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO
Bronze: Optimal Wit, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Category 75: French- and Belgian-Style Saison, 132 Entries
Gold: Siren’s Lure, Fair Winds Brewing Co., Lorton, VA
Silver: Daily Wages, Brasserie Saint James, Reno, NV
Bronze: Saison, URBN St. Brewing Co., El Cajon, CA

Category 76: Belgian- and French-Style Ale, 47 Entries
Gold: Vintage Monks, Adelbert’s Brewery, Austin, TX
Silver: Grisette, Sly Fox Brewing Co., Pottstown, PA
Bronze: Petite Classique, The Commons Brewery, Portland, OR

Category 77: Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale, 78 Entries
Gold: Turbulent Consequence, Peche, Block 15, Corvallis, OR
Silver: Feral One, Firestone Walker Barrelworks, Buellton, CA
Bronze: Viejo Rojo, Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. – Truckee, Truckee, CA

Category 78: Belgian-Style Dubbel or Quadruple, 60 Entries
Gold: Sanitarium, Bier Brewery and Taproom, Indianapolis, IN
Silver: Dubbel Entendre, River’s Edge Brewing Co., Milford, MI
Bronze: Qualified, Taxman Brewing Co., Bargersville, IN

Category 79: Belgian-Style Tripel, 52 Entries
Gold: Wild West Tripel, Chicago Brewing Co. – NV, Las Vegas, NV
Silver: Allagash Tripel, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME
Bronze: Millennium Trippel, Church Brew Works – Lawrenceville Brewery, Pittsburgh, PA

Category 80: Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale, 65 Entries
Gold: Van Dammit, Jailbreak Brewing Co., Laurel, MD
Silver: The Cannibal, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA
Bronze: Quad Damn It, Chicago Brewing Co. – NV, Las Vegas, NV

Category 81: Other Belgian-Style Ale, 45 Entries
Gold: Spangalang Table Beer, Spangalang Brewery, Denver, CO
Silver: Summer Rye Ale, Mayflower Brewing Co., Plymouth, MA
Bronze: Witty Moron, Stone Brewing World Bistro, Liberty Station, San Diego, CA

Category 82: Brown Porter, 57 Entries
Gold: Disaster at Meux, Lion Bridge Brewing Co., Cedar Rapids, IA
Silver: Peter Brown Tribute Ale, Bear Republic Brewing Co. – Factory 5, Cloverdale, CA
Bronze: Black Jack Porter, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO

Category 83: Robust Porter, 102 Entries
Gold: Recalcitrant Dockhand, Black Star Co-op, Austin, TX
Silver: Porter, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA
Bronze: Night Watchman, City Star Brewing, Berthoud, CO

Category 84: Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout, 36 Entries
Gold: Stearns Stout, Figueroa Mountain Brewing – Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
Silver: Dragoon’s Dry Irish Stout, Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant, Novato, CA
Bronze: Dry Stout, Reuben’s Brews, Seattle, WA

Category 85: Export Stout, 39 Entries
Gold: Fade to Black, Volume 1, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont, CO
Silver: Black Rock Stout, Crossroads Brewing Co., Athens, NY
Bronze: Z-man Stout, Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA

Category 86: American-Style Stout, 39 Entries
Gold: Disorder Stout, Barley Brown’s Brewpub, Baker City, OR
Silver: Black Cliffs, Boise Brewing, Boise, ID
Bronze: P2P, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, OR

Category 87: Sweet Stout or Cream Stout, 75 Entries
Gold: West O CocO, West O Beer, West Okoboji, IA
Silver: Chocolate Milk Stout, Boxing Bear Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM
Bronze: The Husstler, Huss Brewing, Tempe, AZ

Category 88: Oatmeal Stout, 73 Entries
Gold: R & R Oatmeal Stout, Beaver Street Brewery, Flagstaff, AZ
Silver: Scripps Pier Stout, South Park Brewing – CA, San Diego, CA
Bronze: Scaredy Cat, Vintage Brewing Co., Madison, WI

Category 89: Imperial Stout, 80 Entries
Gold: Double Negative, Grimm Artisanal Ales, Brooklyn, NY
Silver: Russian Imperial Stout, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – Lancaster, Lancaster, PA
Bronze: The Miller’s Toll, Raleigh Brewing Co., Raleigh, NC

Category 90: Scotch Ale, 55 Entries
Gold: MacPelican’s Wee Heavy Ale, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR
Silver: Black Lagoon Scottish Strong, Rip Current Brewery, San Marcos, CA
Bronze: Real Heavy, Real Ale Brewing Co., Blanco, TX

Category 91: Old Ale or Strong Ale, 39 Entries
Gold: Old Scrooge, Silver City Brewery, Bremerton, WA
Silver: Innsmouth Olde Ale, Narragansett Brewing Co., Providence, RI
Bronze: MASSIVE! 2013, Gigantic Brewing Co., Portland, OR

Category 92: Barley Wine-Style Ale, 56 Entries
Gold: Fat Hog, Ritual Brewing Co., Redlands, CA
Silver: Statik, Brewery Rickoli, Wheat Ridge, CO
Bronze: Old Skook, Three Magnets Brewing, Olympia, WA

2015 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition, 91 Entries
Gold: Muscat Love, Great South Bay Brewery; Bay Shore, NY
Brewmaster: Great South Bay Brewery Team, AHA Member: Brian Giebel

Silver: Atahsaisa, Odd13 Brewing; Lafayette, CO
Brewmaster: Ryan Scott and Brandon Boldt, AHA Member: Mike Froehlich

Bronze: Citra IPA, FATE Brewing; Boulder, CO
Brewmaster: FATE Brewing Company Team, AHA Member: Ryan Lotter

The 2015 Great American Beer Festival Brewery & Brewer of the Year Awards

Very Small Brewing Company of the Year
Rip Current Brewery; San Marcos, CA
Brewer: Paul Sangster and Guy Shobe

Small Brewing Company of the Year
Port City Brewing; Alexandria, VA
Brewer: Port City Brewing Team

Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year
Firestone Walker Brewing; Paso Robles, CA
Brewer: Matt Brynildson & the Firestone Walker Brewing Team

Large Brewing Company of the Year
Pabst Brewing; Los Angeles, CA
Brewer: Gregory Deuhs

Small Brewpub of the Year
Melvin Brewing; Jackson, WY
Brewer: Kirk McHale and Jeremy Tofte

Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year
TAPS Fish House & Brewery; Corona, CA
Brewer: TAPS Fish House & Brewery Team

Large Brewpub of the Year
Titletown Brewing; Green Bay, WI
Brewer: David Oldenburg

Anheuser-Busch InBev Acquires L.A.’s Golden Road

golden-road ABI
This morning, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced they were acquiring Golden Road Brewing, located in Los Angeles. The Wall Street Journal confirmed “Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed,” and that the “acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter.”

From the press release:

“The energy and passion of the beer community is what drew me into this industry and with Golden Road we wanted to help develop the craft beer market in L.A.,” said Meg Gill, ‎president and co-founder at Golden Road Brewing. “Our team worked hard to build Golden Road from the ground up and we are proud of the growth we’ve achieved in such a short time. California is an exciting and competitive market for beer and I see endless opportunities in partnering with Anheuser-Busch and their incredible distribution network to bring our beers to more people.”

As the largest craft brewery in Los Angeles County, Golden Road expects to sell approximately 45,000 barrels of beer in 2015 and can be found in more than 4,000 retail locations. With a brewery focused on draft and can production, a pub in Los Angeles and a new tasting room downtown. Additionally a new tasting room, opening in 2015, second production brewery and pub in Anaheim will be operational by the fourth quarter of 2016. Its core brands – Point the Way IPA, Wolf Among Weeds IPA, Golden Road Hefeweizen and 329 Days of Sun Lager – represent 95 percent of volume. Along with the core beers, Golden Road brewers are constantly experimenting with the freshest ingredients through a collection of rotating, seasonal and limited-edition brews, most notably the Custom IPA Series, a line-up of diverse, hop-forward IPAs.

“Golden Road’s commitment to making great beer, their pioneering spirit and the passionate beer culture built within the company is what appealed to us,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, Anheuser-Busch. “Their focus on giving back to the community and impact on the Los Angeles craft market in four short years makes Golden Road a strong addition to our craft portfolio.”

Golden Road Brewing will join Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing and Elysian Brewing as part of Anheuser-Busch’s High End Business Unit’s portfolio. Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Golden Road Brewing is expected to close by the end of the fourth quarter of 2015. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Meg and me at the opening Gala for SF Beer Week in 2011.

Several major news outlets have picked up the story, including the L.A. Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


And here, co-founder Meg Gill talks about the deal in a video.

Dan Gordon To Re-Open Original Gordon Biersch Brewpub

You probably saw the news last week that CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries was closing the Original Gordon Biersch Brewpub in Palo Alto. It turns out that was only half of the story, the half from CraftWorks who was looking at an underperforming location with no sense of its history. Much more interesting is the other half of the story, in which a partnership will be re-opening the brewpub in February of 2016 under the name “DG’s GB,” for “Dan Gordon’s Gordon Biersch.” The group includes Gordon Biersch co-founder Dan Gordon, Oliver Gordon — Dan’s son — along with one of Gordon Biersch’s earliest employees from the very beginning (in fact employee #2 after Dan and Dean on the founding team) Steve Sinchek and his wife Lisa Sinchek. Sinchek also owns and operates two successful restaurants in the area, and they’ll be extensively renovating the 27-year old brewpub, licensing the GB name from CraftWorks. DG’s GB will be unique to the brewpub chain and the plan is to offer a one-of-a-kind experience in Palo Alto where it all began.

The Palo Alto Gordon Biersch brewpub when it opened in 1988.

Dan gave me a call at home yesterday during halftime to get me up to speed on the rest of the story, that while the Palo Alto Gordon Biersch is closed now, it won’t be forever, and the grand re-opening should be in just five months, give or take, from now. They’re basically going to gut the inside, installing a new bar on the left-hand wall of the inside, with hightop tables and communal dining. The new menu will be farm to table, with locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. There will still be Dan’s signature garlic fries, of course, but I’m more excited about a new menu item they’ll be introducing: fresh-baked Bavarian pretzels that will be made in a special oven outside.

An early press shot of Dan and Dean taken at the San Jose brewpub circa 1990.

Brewer Tom Davis, who used to brew at Palo Alto in the early days, will use the smaller brewpub brewery as both a training brewery and for R&D, to create small batch experimental and seasonal beers that will be unique to DG’s GB. They’ll offer twelve beers, brewing four rotating ones there exclusively for the Palo Alto brewpub, with the rest of the lineup produced at the San Jose production brewery, which has been making their beer since it opened in 1997.

The brewers from the production brewery will take turns on the smaller brewhouse, and will be given an opportunity to come with their own experimental recipes. Each one of these will be a one-off, and the series will be known as “Tank 21,” since there are twenty tanks at the production brewery. If one proves popular enough, it may show up later as a new package in wider distribution.

But by far this is my favorite old shot from Palo Alto.
Dan: “Gee, opening a brewery restaurant… Do you think that’s a good idea?”
Dean: “I guess we’ll know if we’re still around in 10 years.”

27 years later, I guess we know.

The Monthly Session: Should It Continue Or Should We Let It Go?

Way back in early 2007, Stan Hieronymus had an idea, one he’d borrowed from the wine bloggers, who at the time were further along in both numbers and longevity. That idea was Beer Blogging Friday, the monthly Session that takes place on the first Friday of each month. The plan was simple. Beer bloggers from around the world would get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic each month, on the first Friday. Each time, a different beer blogger would host the Session, having chosen a topic and then afterwards would create a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. Over time, I had hoped that we’d collectively have created a record with lots of useful information about various topics on the subject of beer. And for a while, it worked great.


Around 2008, Stan went on an 18-month around-the-world trip with his wife and daughter, and I took over keeping track of the Session, and put up a page here listing all of the topics with links along with instructions on how to host and participate. When he got back, it was simple enough for me to keep the archive going and between the two of us keep recruiting hosts. It’s now been 104 months in a row, a little more than eight years, and somebody has stepped up each month volunteering to be the host and keep it going. There have been a few months when it looked like nobody was going to host, but so far something always seemed to work out. In the early days, we were booked out months ahead with hosts, which was great, and made things a lot easier to manage. Lately, however, it’s been hard finding hosts and fewer and fewer people have been stepping up. For the last year or so, we’ve limped along, and we’ve been able to keep going only by the skin of our teeth. There have been more than a few months when someone stepped up just in the nick of time and offered to host.

But I fear we may have hit a wall. With just two weeks to go before Session #104 is scheduled to take place, we have no host and no prospects for one, or so it seems. I could start asking previous hosts to step up — and perhaps I should — but that also seems a little contrary to the spirit of it being organic, something that just chugs along all by itself. I could also start begging and cajoling bloggers who have never hosted, but then again I don’t want anyone to feel obligated. It’s supposed to be fun, otherwise it won’t work. Which brings me to the elephant in the ether.


Should we keep the monthly Session going, or put it out to pasture, and declare it past its prime and no longer of any enduring interest? Certainly beer blogging has changed in the eight years since we started the Session. When I asked Stan yesterday — since it’s really his baby — he wondered if we should “take the philosophical approach, that the Session has run its course,” noting that “it lasted longer than the similar wine project” that inspired it.

We originally looked at it as an opportunity to promote one’s own blog, but more importantly to take part in a larger discussion and build cohesion or community or something vaguely positive among our fellow bloggers. I can’t speak for everybody, but that was at least my hope. None of us thought about it in terms of boosting traffic, but it certainly feels like that’s become part of the equation. There are so many ways to engage with readers, one another and just people in general nowadays, with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and who knows what else that blogging itself no longer seems as relevant as it once did as a medium. And indeed, it does seem like there are lots of beer blogs that have been abandoned or are no longer maintained.

According to the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, as of August of 2015, there were 677 beer blogs in North America, 365 more internationally, 133 considered industry blogs, and another 71 they consider to be press beer blogs. That’s a total of 1,246 beer blogs. I feel like that’s number is getting smaller, that there actually fewer beer blogs then there used to be, although I have no evidence to support that whatsoever.


I do know that when I started the Bay Area Beer Bloggers in 2008 there were a little over fifty beer blogs here in Northern California but today’s list on our dedicated website includes less than half that number, and a quick perusal shows me a couple of those are now fairly dormant, bringing the total ratio to around 2/5, meaning three out of every five beer blogs in the Bay Area are no longer posting regularly, or at all, seven years after we started BABB. And that’s the trend I’ve seen around the country, if not the world.

Although to be fair, 1,246 is still a pretty big number. With only 104 Sessions under our belt, and ignoring the fact that a few people have hosted twice, there’s still theoretically 1,142 beer bloggers who have not yet hosted The Session.

So the question I have for the beer collective hive mind is should we continue to do the monthly Session, Beer Blogging Friday? Please vote below, whether you’ve hosted, participated or never even heard of it before now, whether you think it should continue, or whether we should move on to other pursuits. Maybe there’s something else, similar, or whatever, that could replace it, or perhaps we should just go our separate ways altogether. Please vote “No” or “Yes” below:

And if you voted “Yes,” are you willing to put your time where your mouth is? Or something like that. If you’ve never hosted before, would you be willing to? (If you don’t know what hosting entails, The Session page has a description of what’s involved.) If you have hosted before, would you be willing to again? Answer that $1,000,000 question below. If you are willing to host and chose either the first or second answer, please add your e-mail address in the field marked “other” before clicking on the “VOTE” button and it will send it to me. I’ll then reach out and see when you might be willing to host. Right now every month is open from Friday, October 1, 2015 and on. If you already know when you’d be willing to host, just drop me a note directly at “Jay(.)Brooks(@)gmail(.)com.”

Gordon Biersch Closes Original Palo Alto Brewpub

When Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch opened the first brewpub in downtown Palo Alto in 1988, it was one of the few to focus on lagers, and one of the few to focus on fine dining, or at least a step up from the usual pub fare found at most brewpubs at the time. In 1999, two years after opening a production brewery in San Jose, the brewpubs were sold to a restaurant group which today is known as CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and includes the Rock Bottom brewpubs as well as Gordon Biersch. Dean Biersch retired and went on to open the HopMonk Taverns in Sonoma County while Dan Gordon continues to run the production brewery in San Jose.

Today, September 16, CraftWorks announced that they had closed the brewpub on Emerson Street in Palo Alto, as of the close of business on Tuesday, September 15, and apparently “apologizing for short notice.” Unfortunately, there’s no additional information, or indeed any mention at all, about the closure on their Facebook page, website or on the parent company’s corporate website, which hasn’t updated their press releases since 2011.

The Gordon Biersch brewpub on Emerson Street in Palo Alto.

NOTE: It turns out this was just half of the story. Read the other half, Dan Gordon To Re-Open Original Gordon Biersch Brewpub.

Taco Bell Introduces Beer

Taco Bell announced today the opening of their first Taco Bell Cantina in Wicker Park, Chicago. The new restaurant had a soft opening today, with a grand opening scheduled for September 22. A second one will open in San Francisco later this month. One aspect about the new concept, known as “urban” restaurants, that stands out is they will serve beer, along with wine, rum, vodka and tequila.

From the press release:

“These new urban restaurants are a critical part of our growth strategy in markets where people experience our brand differently,” said Brian Niccol, chief executive officer, Taco Bell Corp. “Today’s consumers are living in more urban settings and our new restaurants cater to their lifestyle in adapting our traditional restaurant concept to fit their modern needs.”

The Taco Bell Urban Concept incorporates five consumer trends that balance relevancy and brand authenticity:

  1. Urbanization: The Taco Bell Urban Restaurant Concept reflects the Millennial trend of seeking more urban environments to live, work and play. These restaurants are ideally suited to fit in with pedestrian areas without drive-thrus.
  2. Digitization: Every point of the customer’s ordering journey is optimized through technology, including digital menu boards, TV monitors and Taco Bell mobile ordering and payment app pick up.
  3. Localization: Taco Bell incorporated the local architecture of the neighborhoods each restaurant serves.
    • The Wicker Park restaurant’s brick walls and prismatic glass were restored to help preserve the 100-year-old building. The location also features a mural designed by local artist, Revise CMW, which serves as a nod to the neighborhood’s history as an artistic hub.
    • The San Francisco restaurant, located near AT&T Park, features a patio and mobile pick-up window to cater to the quick pace, tech savvy and vibrant community.
  4. Green: The new urban locations will be more energy efficient with systems including LED lighting, use of reclaimed elements where possible and recycling.
  5. Transparency: An open kitchen design and food served in open face baskets gives customers a look inside Taco Bell’s quality ingredients.

Taco Bell Cantina restaurants will be the first and only Taco Bell restaurants to serve alcohol to customers who are of legal drinking age. The San Francisco restaurant will serve beer and wine only, while Wicker Park will serve beer, wine, sangria and twisted Freezes. Cantina restaurants will also feature a new tapas-style menu of shareable appetizers – including nachos and rolled tacos – during designated hours each evening, in addition to the full standard Taco Bell Menu.


According to the Chicago Tribune:

The menu features three 16-ounce frozen drinks that look straight out of the Kwik-E-Mart; spike your cherry-red Cantina Punch, electric-yellow Cantina Margarita or Ninja-Turtle-green Mountain Dew Baja Blast with your choice of Captain Morgan rum ($6.19), Ketel One vodka ($6.69) or Don Julio tequila ($7.19).

You’ll also find Steelhead wine ($4) in individual-size twist-off bottles, and two taps pouring Dos Equis ($4) and Fat Tire ($4.50).

Toast to the fact you’re drinking in a Taco Bell over a new menu of what the brand is calling Shareables — essentially, appetizer baskets. Choose from regular or chili-cheese nachos, quesadilla triangles, mini taquitos (called “rolled tacos”) and, surprisingly, chicken tenders, which are actually the best of the bunch.

The new T-Bell also comes with exposed brick, an open kitchen and a fancy new name: Taco Bell Cantina.

But give up your dreams of a drink after closing time at your local bar. Taco Bell Cantina will serve wine, beer and liquor until only 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and midnight Friday and Saturday. 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave.


Expect to see Alcohol Justice and the prohibitionists going apoplectic over this news.

MillerCoors To Close North Carolina Brewery

Thanks to declines in sales volume, MillerCoors announced today that they will be closing their brewery in Eden, North Carolina, winding it down over the next year with plans to finally close in September of next year.

According to MillerCoors’ website:

Opened in 1978, the Eden facility was the first brewery to produce Miller Genuine Draft back in 1986. Today, it’s a state-of-the-art operation with more than 500 employees and an annual brewing capacity of 9 million barrels. The small, friendly community of Eden lies near Greensboro.

Here’s the press release:

“Today we made the difficult decision to close our brewery in Eden, N.C., in order to optimize our brewery footprint and streamline operations for greater efficiency across our remaining seven breweries,” said Chief Integrated Supply Chain Officer Fernando Palacios.

The decision to close the Eden Brewery was due to significant overlap in distribution between Eden and the Shenandoah, Va., brewery, which is approximately 200 miles away. Eden has been a strong performer over the years. However, Shenandoah is better suited geographically in relation to Northeast markets and is also the newest brewery in MillerCoors network.

The Eden brewery employs approximately 520 employees. In 2014, Eden produced 7.1 million barrels of beer, which were shipped to 280 independently-owned distributors. Brands include Blue Moon seasonals, Coors Light, Miller Lite and Miller High Life. Over the next 12 months, products currently produced in Eden will be transitioned to other breweries, including Shenandoah, Va.; Trenton, Ohio; Fort Worth, Texas; Albany, Ga.; and Milwaukee, Wis.

Since the creation of MillerCoors seven years ago, volume has declined by nearly 10 million barrels. This volume loss is due to a variety of factors, including economic challenges, an explosion of choice and fragmentation within the beer business, and a dramatic change in the way consumers engage with brands. As a result of declining volume, MillerCoors breweries are operating at an increasingly inefficient capacity. While MillerCoors is taking steps to strengthen its overall portfolio to drive long-term growth in volume and share, continued volume declines are expected each of the next few years.

“We take great pride in supporting the communities where we live and work,” Palacios said. “We’ve been proud to be part of the Eden community since we shipped our first products in 1978. We will work with community leaders to make sure we continue to support the community while we are brewing beer in Eden.”

The Milwaukee Business Journal added:

Blue Moon seasonal products will be moving to the Milwaukee brewery, which already produces seasonal varieties for Leinenkugel, said Marty Maloney, a spokesman for MillerCoors. Maloney said each brewery receiving work from Eden will evaluate its own hiring needs, but the shift could add jobs or at least support the existing jobs in Milwaukee.

But decreasing sales — volume has declined by almost 10 million barrels since 2008 and the company expects the trend to continue for the next few years — mean MillerCoors’ breweries are operating inefficiently, and future closures or reductions could be in the big brewer’s future.

The entrance to the MillerCoors plant in Eden, North Carolina, as close as you can get on Google Maps Street View.

MillerCoors Acquires Majority Stake In Saint Archer

saint-archer millercoors
Not quite as big news as yesterday, but certainly continuing a trend. This Morning, MillerCoors announced that Saint Archer Brewing of San Diego, California will be joining their craft division, Tenth and Blake, as they acquire a majority interest in the small brewery.

Here’s the press release:

Tenth and Blake, the craft and import division of MillerCoors, announced today an agreement to acquire a majority interest in Saint Archer Brewing Company.

Founded in San Diego in 2013 by a talented group of entrepreneurs, artists, skateboarders and surfers, Saint Archer brews an award-winning range of ales including Blonde Ale, IPA, White Ale and Pale Ale. Saint Archer expects to sell 35,000 barrels of beer in 2015, up more than 100 percent over 2014, making it one of the fastest-growing breweries in California. Tenth and Blake plans to support its continued growth under the ongoing leadership of Josh Landan, Saint Archer co-founder and president.

“We have always wanted to get great beer into more people’s hands,” said Landan. “We were fortunate that brewers big and small were interested in partnering with us, but Tenth and Blake was the clear choice. Tenth and Blake shares our passion for putting great beer first. Joining Tenth and Blake allows us to keep doing what we love right here in San Diego, but now with more resources to innovate and grow. With Tenth and Blake’s help, we hope to one day be a national brand.”

Saint Archer’s management and their team will continue to brew, package, ship, and sell Saint Archer’s outstanding portfolio of high-quality brands. Saint Archer will be run as a separate business unit of Tenth and Blake.

“We’re really excited about our partnership with Saint Archer,” said Scott Whitley, president and CEO of Tenth and Blake. “Saint Archer is consistent with our strategy of building our high-end portfolio while driving topline growth. Josh and his team represent everything we look for in a partner. Saint Archer brews award-winning ales across a variety of styles that are complementary to our current portfolio—including some outstanding IPAs. We’re excited at the prospect of working together to support the continued success of Saint Archer.”

Saint Archer picked up two gold medals at the 2014 San Diego International Beer Festival and a gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

Saint Archer joins other leading crafts in the Tenth and Blake portfolio, including Blue Moon Brewing Company, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Crispin Cider Company and a minority equity stake in Terrapin Beer Company.

The transaction is expected to complete in October 2015. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.


Inaugural California Craft Beer Summit This Weekend

This weekend, beginning Friday September 11, the California Craft Beer Association is holding the first-of-its-kind Craft beer Summit, a two-day event in Sacramento celebrating the rise of beer in the Golden State. It should be an amazing event that if you’re a beer lover you won’t want to miss, and will include many different experiences, ending with the the largest Beer Festival ever held in California!

It’s being hailed as the California version of the “Great American Beer Festival,” and with 150 breweries pouring their beer — as many as 400 different beers (including several brewed just for the event) — it’s an apt description. The CCBA is describing the event as “the showcase event for craft beer – a premier California craft beer festival. People from all over the state (and country) can come to Sacramento to see (and taste) our thriving craft beer scene. Our beers are coveted across the nation, so here is your opportunity to try all of them!”

But it’s also much more than just a beer festival. The summit will bring together retailers, wholesalers, brewery owners, beer enthusiasts and home-brewers for an educational, hands-on experience where they will be able to see, touch, smell and taste beer. There will be Educational Seminars both days, beginning at 9:00 AM, cooking and homebrewing demonstrations, panel discussions, talks by industry pioneers and insiders (including yours truly), an Expo and much more. You can find out more about the event here, and tickets are also available online.

Still not convinced? Here’s 8 Things You Don’t Want to Miss at the California Craft Beer Summit and Brewers Showcase Beer Festival posted by the CCBA.


Heineken To Acquire 50% Stake In Lagunitas

lagunitas-circle heineken-white
Well this was certainly unexpected. I knew that ABI had met with Lagunitas founder Tony Magee but had been rebuffed. But today, Lagunitas Brewing announced that Heineken was acquiring a 50% stake in the Petaluma brewery. Apparently “Lagunitas will continue to be led by Tony Magee … and the company will continue to operate as an independent entity.” The deal is structured as a joint venture and is with the global Heineken rather than Heineken USA.

Here’s the Heineken press release and as it was posted on Lagunitas:

Heineken N.V. today has announced the acquisition of a 50% shareholding in the Lagunitas Brewing Company, the fifth largest craft brewer in the United States by volume. Lagunitas owns a stable of award-winning brands, including Lagunitas IPA. Lagunitas IPA is the largest India Pale Ale brand in the United States and has become a benchmark for the category. The transaction will provide HEINEKEN with the opportunity to build a strong foothold in the dynamic craft brewing category on a global scale, whilst it provides Lagunitas with a global opportunity to present its beers to new consumers in a category that is showing exciting international growth opportunities.

Founded in California in 1993, Lagunitas is estimated to sell c. 1 million hectolitres of beer in 2015 from its two world-class breweries in Petaluma, California, and Chicago, Illinois. A third brewery is currently under construction in Azusa, California. The brewer has a strong track record of growth, with 2012 – 2014 revenue CAGR at 58%. Its other leading brands include A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, Daytime, Pils, Sucks, Hop Stoopid and Maximus. Lagunitas has a nationwide presence in the United States and the brewer has expanded into a number of other markets including the UK, Canada, Sweden and Japan, offering strong potential for continued growth outside the United States.

In the United States, craft beer continues to outperform the overall beer market, and now represents 11% of total volumes. Within the craft segment, IPA is the fastest growing category.

Lagunitas will continue to be led by Tony Magee, its founder and Executive Chairman, alongside the existing management team and the company will continue to operate as an independent entity.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to complete in the 4th quarter of 2015. Financial terms are not disclosed.


For more background, and offering a more personal insight, Tony Magee posted his thoughts about the deal on his Tumblr:

The Future will not be like the Past


So….. this morning you may have heard the exciting news that we announced a powerful joint venture with Heineken to export the exciting vibe of American craft beer globally. If you did, then you know the reason for my previous ten blog entries. What you might not know is how the thinking came about that brought us to this opportunity or how it is that this new relationship will work. If you’re interested, dear reader, please read on.

Our time in Craft Brewing didn’t begin on Craft’s first day, that day came thirty years before we started. Initially in SanFrancisco on 8th Street and then 20 years later around California and the Pacific Northwest. However, from the first day the world of Craft resembled the river in the proverb by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus which says that ‘You can never step in the same river twice; It won’t be the same river and you won’t be the same person’.

The nature of Craft has been on a never-ending curve towards something that it never imagined for itself. In total in the U.S.A. Craft Beer still represents only 9% of all the beer enjoyed. That’s less than one-in-ten. Yet, in places like San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest it approaches and even exceeds 50% of the world of beer. This past February, for one week, our IPA 12-packs were the #1 beer package in the whole of the Bay Area. Number 2 was a big brewer’s 30-packs and #3 was another big brewer’s 24-pack. That kind of thing was not even dreamt about just 5 years earlier. I believe that the West Coast scene is a forecast for the rest of the country and even the rest of the world. It’ll take time, but it is entirely possible. So it is that we have worked hard and grown with that opportunity and we have been driven by a spirit of adventure.

A blog post here a few episodes back was called ‘On Finishing a Poem’ and in it I thought through the nature of the terminal point of a creative adventure. How do you know when you have put the right amount of the right stuff into a thing? Well, you only know when you know, and sometimes it takes a baseball bat to the forehead to notice. For me it was the ill-fated trade-mark dispute back in April. After the dust settled, which took a while, I looked at Lagunitas and realized that we had already infused it with a lot of the right stuff and that it didn’t need to be endlessly recreated for it to have a good time interacting with beer-lovers across the country. By that time we were already looking towards Lagunitas#3 in Azusa with a view towards another brewery after that. We already had ideas of new flavors and we had ideas about new ways to make more connections with more people. The domestic future was a living thing in our minds. In other words, we were already working out an exciting path of worthy challenges within the 50 states, but there is the whole world to think about too…

About the same time we launched Lagunitas in Ireland and I met people there who were big fans of U.S. Craft flavors, some of whom were themselves newly minted brewers, and I realized that the whole damn world of humans may well want to enjoy these same flavors. When I got back home I thought long and hard about how to aim at that truth, how can we get there, to the whole world? I thought about going it alone and working our way through the weeds to that future reality. But I thought also about all of the ‘deals’ going on inside of Craft these days. Private Equity money, Budweiser and now Miller/Coors buying our peers. Family Offices investing. People with big money from the get-go coming in alongside all of the rest of us inspired amateurs.

Here’s my thinking on things, if it matters. I’ve watched for the last few years as some good brewers have made their own decisions about their own futures and the futures of their people and brands. I’ve watched and felt strongly that it was a problematic thing. I’ve watched and tried to learn what it was that was happening. Craft Brewing, the thing itself and the environment it lives in, is freakin’ complicated enough. The entrance of giant piles of Private Equity money and Mega Brewers is disturbing. Not because any of you here will be corrupted by it all, but because the distribution and retail tiers and the merely-craft-aware peeps out there can be corrupted. Beer is an old biz in the US and it used to be very orderly. Craft disrupted that and now the old order wants to find a way back to the past. It won’t work, but it’s going to try.

Amid all of this uncertainty, and being 55 years old going on 80, I had to think long and hard about how to steer our ship into these new waters. There are basically five categories of options that range from indifference all the way to going head-first over the transom and selling the business to someone else to steer the ship instead.

I wrote about the five structural creatures that constitute the zoology of ‘Optionality’ in another blog post and that post ended with the question, ‘is there a sixth way?’. Our new Joint Venture with Heineken is that ’sixth way’. It represents a mutual respect society, a meeting of equals, a partnership of peers. The graduation of American Craft Brewing along with the people who brew it onto the world stage.

Selling one’s business entirely is one thing. This is not that. Selling a stake to a PE fund that will need to re-sell it in a few years is another thing. This is not that. ESOPs are cool but they do not pave a road to bigger opportunities for the people and the brand. This is not that either. What we have created in this relationship is a wide staircase to the sky for all of our people and for our brand as well as for the home-grown vibe of American Craft brewing.

Some might say I’ve changed my mind. Well, I have. But the world around us has changed too and if learning leads to new insight, that’s the best kind of change imaginable. The hard part is discovering truly positive change within the possible avenues forward.

I have also thought about all of the inspired new breweries coming to the scene and that the landscape may well become uncomfortable someday soon. I worried that Craft was beginning to compete with other Craft, a thing that hadn’t happened in the past when everyone looked to the far horizon for opportunities. But that’s not a terrible thing, it’s just nature doing its Darwinian thing. And there is the reality that I’m not really even middle-aged anymore unless I expect to live to be 110, which I don’t. I thought about how all of the people who have made their bets alongside mine would do if I wasn’t here. Maybe everything would be fine, and maybe not. Some of them are my age while others are just beginning their very own working lives right now with Lagunitas.

If I was going to do anything at all it would have to provide big opportunities for those same people and not just be safe-harbor for me and my shareholder partners. It would have to provide something that we could not readily build for ourselves. Historically, the history of breweries shows them to be two or three-generation endeavors, but I only have one of those for myself. I think that a lot of Craft Brewery owners might well be thinking the same thing. After all, no one gets out of here alive. I thought long and hard about how I wanted to spend the next ten of the dwindling count of years remaining on the clock and I decided that I did not want to spend it worrying about what would happen in the fifty states alone. I decided that I wanted to build a ‘sky-hook’. I wanted to see if anyone else saw what I saw in the rest of the global market for great tasting beer.

There’s a pertinent Friedrich Nietzsche parable about a ‘madman’ who comes into a town square holding a lighted lantern declaring to the town that he has important news. He tells his story and the people laugh and berate him in disbelief, throwing stones to drive him off. Finally he gives up saying, ‘I have come too soon’’. He drops the lantern, the light goes out, and he departs.

I wondered if my idea of globalization for American Craft too had also come soon. I thought about who might see what I saw and if the time was right to reach out to that other brewer. I thought about who that other brewer might be and the list was very short. The list of truly global beer brands is a short one. It certainly would not include the ‘bankers’ who own the great Anheuser-Busch now, nor would it be the South Africans who control the other two large brewers in the US who are themselves essentially ‘bankers’. The global brewing scene is a very consolidated one. Consolidation has been the modus operandi for the last 40 years, so there really are very few global brewers, and at that maybe only one actually global beer brand! In my mind only one Brewer stood out as truly global, family-owned and still brewers first; Heineken. We talked with a few others but there was really only one relationship that seemed acceptable.

When we, the Madman in the Parable, came into the square with our lantern, holding up the light of our ideas, we was stunned to see that that one particular brewer understood what we were talking about. They welcomed a dialogue about these crazy ideas of order. They saw what we saw- a global beer business in a state of change, and they wanted to work together to explore this brave new world. We had indeed NOT come too soon.

In them we met a global brewer who uses no adjuncts in their flagship beer; malt only. We met a brewer that is still controlled by its founder’s great-granddaughter. We met a brewer whose CEO/Chairman understood the details of the brewing process. We met people who thoroughly understood the revolutionary aspects of what beer-lovers have wrought in the America. We met people who laughed easily along with us at our own history and our predilections. After all, they are from Amsterdam, if you get my drift. More to the point, we met a company that saw and understood that we could only work together if we could continue as we are, steering our own ship here and abroad, being ourselves and exporting exactly that to communities all over the world, beginning with Mexico…! They wanted what it is that we wanted.

What grew from these conversations was an opportunity like none other to-date: An open door to a planet filled with beer-lovers and a conduit to meet them in our own way. One beer writer commented to me that he was struggling with the ‘having our cake and eating it too’ quality of this relationship, but that’s exactly what we have achieved. It’s come about because we lucked out and found a space where our desires were in sync with the other’s needs. We wanted what they wanted.

Things that are born grow, and mature and become. That process of becoming is endless and all of craft rolled together is itself a thing becoming. It is not one thing, rather whatever you see of it today represents only one point on a curve. Breweries that were born decades ago are at one locus on that curve, ones that were born a few months ago are at a different point on that curve, but all are becoming, endlessly.

So it is for Lagunitas, and this new adventure represents no more or less of an inflection point on that curve than did moving the brewery to Petaluma in 1994, or switching our flagship from Pale Ale to IPA in 1995, or borrowing $52 million to build Chicago or promoting the talented Jeremy Marshall to full Brewmaster status in 2013.

This is not the end of anything at all at Lagunitas, except maybe it is the end of the beginning, meaning that we are now standing at the threshold of an historic opportunity to export the excitement and vibe of American-born Craft Brewing and meet beer-lovers all over the Planet Earth, our true homeland. This could one day even be seen as a crucial victory for American Craft Brewing.

By the way, in the official press release I say that we’ll be available from Mongolia to the far-flung ‘Isles of Langerhans’. Those lovely sounding islets are actually some tiny structures inside your pancreas and I stole that from the Firesign Theater. Everything comes from somewhere, and Lagunitas comes from the U.S.of A. ….available everywhere soon! Cheers, to the ongoing victory of American Craft brewing….!

Tony Magee and longtime honcho Ron Lindenbusch at the brewery’s 10th anniversary party in 2004.