The Best Beers In California: 2013 California State Fair Winners

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Last week, the judging took place for the 18th annual California State Fair Craft Beer Competition in West Sacramento. This year’s entries came from 83 of the state’s breweries, with roughly 700 beers judged.

From the press release:

Some 40 beer experts from all over the state judged the various panels with blind tastings of the entries considering beers by style and classification. The judging panels were selected by Head Judge Tom Dalldorf, publisher of Celebrator Beer News, a national beer magazine.

The Best of Show tasting panel consisted of five of our top judges who were confronted with an unprecedented 47 entries all gold medal winners in previous rounds of judging. After a lengthy judging session, the panel agreed on giving Best of Show honors to a stunning Vienna Lager called Una Mas from Left Coast Brewing Company in San Clemente, Calif. A new award, Best of Show Session Beer (under 5% alcohol) was awarded to a wood-aged saison called Ocho Barril from Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

Beer enthusiasts can taste the award winning beers from the State Fair’s Craft Brew Competition on Saturday, July 20, from 3 pm–6 pm at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento, Calif.

Full disclosure, I was privileged to be one of the dozens of judges who tasted all of the beers over three days, and even was on the panel of five that tasted all 47 of the winners of each category to pick the “best of show,” this year’s choice for the best beer in California. It was a very hard decision, as there were some unbelievably great beers on the table, in a breathtaking variety of styles. Best of show judging is harder than regular judging, because you’re not comparing like styles against one another. Instead, your looking for intangible qualities that make one beer stand out over another, made doubly difficult because every beer was already an award winner. But we persevered, and after a few hours emerged with a unanimous decision.

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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 — Dortmunder/Premium American

  1. Auburn Export Lager, Auburn Ale House (Auburn)
  2. Local Lager, Tahoe Mountain Brewing (Tahoe City)
  3. Dead Canary, Ol’ Republic Brewing (Nevada City)

Category 1: Light Lager — Munich Helles

  1. Blue Eyed Blonde, Solvang Brewing (Solvang)
  2. Helles Lager, Hangar 24 Brewing (Redlands)
  3. Lager, Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch (Davis)

Category 2: Pilsner — German Pils

  1. Brainfood, Monkey Paw Brewing (San Diego)
  2. Longshoreman Lager, San Pedro Brewing (San Pedro)
  3. Pivo Pils, Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles)
  4. Honorable Mention: Port Town Pilsner, Port Town Brewing (Los Angeles)

Category 2: Pilsner — Bohemian/Classic American Pils

  1. Summerfest, Sierra Nevada Brewing (Chico)
  2. None awarded
  3. Gold Country Pilsner, Auburn Ale House (Auburn)

Category 3: Amber Lager

  1. Una Mas, Left Coast Brewing (San Clemente)
  2. Marzen, Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch (Davis)
  3. Sullydunkel, 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco)

Category 4: Dark Lager

  1. Tatoo Black Lager, San Pedro Brewing (San Clemente)
  2. Bavarian Black Lager, Ol’ Republic Brewing (Nevada City)
  3. California Black Beer, Dale Bros. Brewery (Upland)

Category 5: Bock

  1. Welke Bock, San Pedro Brewing (San Pedro)
  2. Mai Bock, Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch (Davis)
  3. Doppelbock, Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch (Davis)

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beer — Cream Ale

  1. American Cream Ale, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (Antioch)
  2. None awarded
  3. None awarded

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beer — Blonde Ale

  1. Common Sense, Berryessa Brewing (Winters)
  2. 805, Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles)
  3. California Blonde, Eel River Brewing (Fortuna)

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beer — Kolsch

  1. Kalifornia Kolsch, Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery (San Francisco)
  2. Kolsch, Faultline Brewing (Sunnyvale)
  3. Bruin Blonde, San Pedro Brewing (San Pedro)
  4. Mission Blonde, Mission Brewery (San Diego)

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beer — American Wheat/Rye

  1. Lucille’s Hefeweizen, Bayhawk Ales (Irvine)
  2. Gramarye, Heretic Brewing (Fairfield)
  3. None awarded

Category 7: Amber Hybrid

  1. Alt-bier Ale, Hangar 24 Brewing (Redlands)
  2. California Amber Lager, Ol’ Republic Brewing (Nevada City)
  3. Anaheim 1889, Anaheim Brewing (Anaheim)

Category 8: English Pale Ale — Standard/Ordinary Bitter

  1. Freewheel Bitter, Freewheel Brewing (Redwood City)
  2. Freewheel Pale Ale, Freewheel Brewing (Redwood City)
  3. None awarded

Category 8: English Pale Ale — Special/Best/Premium Bitter

  1. Bonnie Lee’s Best Bitter, Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery (San Francisco)
  2. None awarded
  3. Freewheel Special Bitter, Freewheel Brewing (Redwood City)

Category 8: English Pale Ale — Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale)

  1. Drake’s Amber, Drake’s Brewing (San Leandro)
  2. Blue Bell Bitter, Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery (San Francisco)
  3. SBC Bitter, Solvang Brewing (Solvang)

Category 9: Scottish/Irish Ale — Scottish Heavy 70/-

  1. None awarded
  2. Maltopia, Hermitage Brewing (San Jose)
  3. None awarded

Category 9: Scottish/Irish Ale — Irish Red Ale

  1. Conner’s Pride, Old Hangtown Beer Works (Placerville)
  2. Rimpau Red, Main Street Brewery/Lamppost Pizza (Corona)
  3. Red Trolly Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (San Diego)

Category 10: American Ale — American Pale Ale

  1. Grand Am, Bear Republic Brewing (Healdsburg)
  2. Pintail Pale Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (San Diego)
  3. American River Pale Ale, Auburn Ale House (Auburn)

Category 10: American Ale — American Amber Ale

  1. Mission Amber, Mission Brewery (San Diego)
  2. Rubicon Amber, Rubicon Brewing (Sacramento)
  3. Danske, Solvang Brewing (Solvang)

Category 10: American Ale — American Brown Ale

  1. Coloma Brown, American River Brewing (Rancho Cordova)
  2. Roasted American, 21st Amendment Brewery (San Francisco)
  3. Farmer’s Flannel Maple Brown, Anacapo Brewing (Ventura)

Category 11: English Brown Ale

  1. Ironwood Dark, Tied House Brewing (Mt. View)
  2. Downtown Brown, Lost Coast Brewing (Eureka)
  3. Whippersnapper, Berryessa Brewing (Winters)

Category 12: Porter — Brown Porter

  1. None awarded
  2. None awarded
  3. Double Nut Brown, Mammoth Brewing (Mammoth)
  4. Honorable Mention: Devil’s Peak Porter, Tahoe Mountain Brewing (Tahoe City)

Category 12: Porter — Robust Porter

  1. Oil Piers Porter, Surf Brewery (Ventura)
  2. None awarded
  3. Black Robusto Porter, Drake’s Brewing (San Leandro)

Category 12: Porter — Baltic Porter

  1. Badland’s Baltic Porter, Dale Bros. Brewery (Upland)
  2. Recession Ale, Loomis Basin Brewing (Loomis)
  3. None awarded

Category 13: Stout — Dry Stout

  1. Organic Chocolate Stout, Bison Brewing (Berkeley)
  2. Dragoons Dry Irish Stout, Moylan’s Brewing (Novato)
  3. Black Hawk Stout, Mendocino Brewing (Ukiah)

Category 13: Stout — Sweet Stout

  1. None awarded
  2. None awarded
  3. Black Jack Sweet Stout, Feather Falls Casino & Brewery (Oroville)

Category 13: Stout — Oatmeal Stout

  1. Oatmeal Stout, Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch (Davis)
  2. Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Anderson Valley Brewing (Boonville)
  3. None awarded
  4. Honorable Mention: Shanghai Stout, Auburn Ale House (Auburn)

Category 13: Stout — Foreign Export Stout

  1. Homeland Stout, New Helvetia Brewing (Sacramento)
  2. Crude, Belmont Brewing (Long Beach)
  3. None awarded

Category 13: Stout — American Stout

  1. None awarded
  2. Export Stout, Ol’ Republic Brewing (Nevada City)
  3. Roxanne Red, Main Street Brewery/Lamppost Pizza (Corona)

Category 13: Stout — Russian Imperial Stout

  1. Sunken City Imperial Stout, San Pedro Brewing (San Pedro)
  2. Imperial Stout, Mendocino Brewing (Ukiah)
  3. Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial Stout, Moylan’s Brewing (Novato)
  4. Honorable Mention: Parabola, Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles)

Category 14: India Pale Ale — English IPA

  1. English IPA, Ol’ Republic Brewing (Nevada City)
  2. Organic IPA, Eel River Brewing (Fortuna)
  3. White Hawk IPA, Mendocino Brewing (Ukiah)

Category 14: India Pale Ale — American IPA

  1. Union Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles)
  2. Torpedo, Sierra Nevada Brewing (Chico)
  3. Hop Daddy IPA, Main Street Brewery/Lamppost Pizza (Corona)

Category 14: India Pale Ale — Imperial IPA

  1. Double Up, Oggi’s Pizza & Brewery (Del Mar)
  2. Evil Cousin, Heretic Brewing (Fairfield)
  3. Denogginizer, Drake’s Brewing (San Leandro)

Category 14: India Pale Ale — Other IPA

  1. Evil Twin, Heretic Brewing (Fairfield)
  2. Our Dark Secret, Moylan’s Brewing (Novato)
  3. Boardwalk Black IPA, Karl Strauss Brewing (San Diego)

Category 15: German Wheat/Rye Beer

  1. Thunderweizen Ale, Lightning Brewery (Poway)
  2. Dancing Trees Hefeweizen, Feather Falls Casino & Brewery (Oroville)
  3. Orgasmica 4-grain Hefeweizen, Pizza Orgasmica (San Rafael)
  4. Honorable Mention: Windandsea Wheat, Karl Strauss Brewing (San Diego)

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale — Wit Beer

  1. Wit’s End, Ritual Brewing (Redlands)
  2. Wahoo Wheat Beer, Ballast Point Brewing (San Diego)
  3. None awarded

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale — Belgian Pale Ale

  1. Summer Honey Citrus, Monkey Paw Brewing (San Diego)
  2. None awarded
  3. None awarded

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale — Belgian Pale Ale

  1. Le Merle, North Coast Brewing (Fort Bragg)
  2. First Conversation, Discretion Brewing (Soquel)
  3. Saison, Berryessa Brewing (Winters)
  4. Honorable Mention: Fields Ablaze, Valiant Brewing (Orange)

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale — Biere de Garde

  1. None awarded
  2. Farmer’s Daughter, 21st Amendment Brewing (San Francisco)
  3. None awarded

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale — Belgian Specialty Ale

  1. Solace, Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles)
  2. None awarded
  3. None awarded

Category 16: Belgian and French Ale — Flavored Saison

  1. Saison Savoureuse, Tahoe Mountain Brewing (Tahoe City)
  2. None awarded
  3. None awarded

Category 17: Sour Ale

  1. 24th Anniversary Flanders-style Ale, Karl Strauss Brewing (San Diego)
  2. Saison Tart, Green Flash Brewing (San Diego)
  3. Le Petit Diablotin, High Water Brewing (San Leandro)

Category 18: Belgian Strong Ale

  1. Axiom, Valiant Brewing (Orange)
  2. Dipsea Triple, Marin Brewing (Larkspur)
  3. Rio d’Oro, High Water Brewing (San Leandro)

Category 19: Strong Ale — Old Ale

  1. Good Faith, Discretion Brewing (Soquel)
  2. Triple Exultation, Eel River Brewing (Fortuna)
  3. Old Stock, North Coast Brewing (Fort Bragg)

Category 19: Strong Ale — English Barleywine

  1. Old Diablo, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery (Antioch)
  2. Barrel of Monkeys, Devil’s Canyon Brewing (Belmont)
  3. None awarded

Category 19: Strong Ale — American Barleywine

  1. Imperial Barleywine, Mendocino Brewing (Ukiah)
  2. Fat Hog, Ritual Brewing (Redlands)
  3. Beacon St. Barleywine, San Pedro Brewing (San Pedro)

Category 20: Fruit Beer

  1. Blueberry Ale, Marin Brewing (Larkspur)
  2. Golden Eagle Wheat, Loomis Basin Brewing (Loomis)
  3. Strawberry Wheat, Six Rivers Brewing (McKinleyville)

Category 21: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer — Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer

  1. Platypus Venom Imperial Stout Star Anise, Marin Brewing (Larkspur)
  2. Blue Bridge Coffee Stout, Coronado Brewing (San Diego)
  3. Organic Honey Basil, Bison Brewing (Berkeley)

Category 21: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer — Christmas/Winter Specialty Spiced Beer

  1. Stumpkin, Old Hangtown Beer Works (Placerville)
  2. Hoppy Holidaze, Marin Brewing (Larkspur)
  3. Movetta a Trois, Karl Strauss Brewing (San Diego)

Category 22: Smoke-Flavored/Wood-Aged Beer

  1. Ocho Barril, Half Moon Bay Brewing (Half Moon Bay)
  2. Bourbon Barrel-aged Island Pale Ale, Island Brewing (Carpinteria)
  3. Pugacheu’s Cobra, Hangar 24 Brewing (Redlands)
  4. Honorable Mention: Sucaba, Firestone Walker Brewing (Paso Robles)

Category 23: Specialty Beer

  1. IPA 395, Mammoth Brewing (Mammoth)
  2. Barrel-aged Kriek, Island Brewing (Carpenteria)
  3. 4th Anniversary Ale, Hangar 24 Brewing (Redlands)
  4. Honorable Mention: Campfire Stout, High Water Brewing (San Leandro)

A few statistics: Firestone Walker, Karl Strauss and San Pedro Brewing won the most medals, six apiece. Ol’ Republic Brewing and Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch each won five. And Auburn Ale House, Heretic Brewing, Marin Brewing and Mendocino Brewing each won four medals. Eleven more breweries won three medals each.

BEST OF SHOW

  1. Una Mas, Left Coast Brewing (San Clemente)

BEST OF SHOW SESSION BEER

  1. Ocho Barril, Half Moon Bay Brewing (Half Moon Bay)

Congratulations to all the winners.

Comments

  1. Dipitie says

    Just curious – noticed a few categories when gold and silver medals weren’t awarded but the bronze was. Does that mean the quality didn’t warrant a higher medal?

  2. says

    39% with NO AWARD? Only one went with no award at GABF.
    That makes no sense to me with all of the great beers being brewed in California.

    Do not accept. Epic fail.

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