286 Medals Awarded to 254 Brewers
In its 30th year, the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition — the 35th anniversary of the festival and 30th edition of the GABF competition — awarded 286 medals to some of the best commercial breweries in the United States, plus three GABF Pro-Am medals to teams of amateur homebrewers paired with professionals. Presented by the Brewers Association, GABF is the largest commercial beer competition in the world and a symbol of brewing excellence. This year’s event featured 780 breweries in the festival hall, 3,800+ beers served at the festival and 60,000 attendees.
Overview: Great American Beer Festival Competition
In a ceremony at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to winning breweries in 96 beer categories covering 161 different beer styles (including all subcategories), establishing the best examples of each style in the country. Neither a gold nor a silver medal were awarded in the Pumpkin/Squash Beer category.
Winners were chosen from 7,227 competition entries (nearly 9 percent more than the 6,647 entries in 2015 and surpassing all previous participation records) from 1,752 breweries hailing from 50 states plus Washington, D.C.
The competition also saw its biggest-ever panel of judges, with 264 beer experts from 12 countries, including the U.S., and 170 competition volunteers. The panel also evaluated 88 Pro-Am entries, which were judged in three rounds over four days.
2016 Brewery and Brewer of the Year Awards
Very Small Brewing Company and Very Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group (BSG)
Brown Truck Brewery, High Point, N.C.
Team Brown Truck
Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by O-I
Überbrew, Billings, Mont.
Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year Sponsored by MicroStar Logistics
Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – San Diego, San Diego, CA
Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Beer Institute
Pabst Brewing Co., Los Angeles, Calif.
Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.
ZwanzigZ Brewing, Columbus, Ind.
Mike Rybinski and Trent Fleener
Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year
Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group (BSG)
Boxing Bear Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM
Justin Hamilton and Dylan Davis
Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Country Malt Group
The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Austin, Texas
Amos Swifty Kim
Overall Competition Highlights
- Most medals won:
- Four (4) medals were won by Überbrew, Billings, Mont. (2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
- Three (3) medals were won by each of the following breweries:
o Karl Strauss Brewing Co. – San Diego, San Diego, Calif. (2 golds, 1 bronze)
o Brown Truck Brewery, High Point, N.C. (1 gold, 2 silver)
o Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, North Olmsted, Ohio (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
- Top three states by ratio of medals to entries by state:
- Wyoming (.111) with 45 entries and 5 medals
- Hawaii (.107) with 28 entries and 3 medals
- Virginia (.07) with 200 entries and 14 medals
- First-time GABF competition entrants (self-identified during the registration process) numbered 464. Of those first-time entering breweries, 41 won medals.
Since 2002, the most-entered category has been American-Style India Pale Ale (IPA), which saw 312 entries in 2016 compared to 336 entries in 2015.The top five entered categories were:
- American-Style India Pale Ale (312 entries)
- Imperial India Pale Ale (211 entries)
- American-Style Strong Pale Ale (169 entries)
- Coffee Beer (168 entries)
- Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (159 entries)
In 2015, the top-five entered style categories included Session India Pale Ale and American-Style Pale Ale, which did not make the top five this year. New in the top five in 2016 compared to last year are American-Style Strong Pale Ale and Coffee Beer.
The average number of competition beers entered in each category was 75—up from 72 in 2015— making the 2016 Great American Beer Festival competition the most competitive ever.
The winners in the most-entered (that is, the most competitive) categories were:
American-Style India Pale Ale (312 entries)
Gold: Bodhizafa IPA, Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle, Wash.
Silver: Super Cali IPA, Riip Beer Co., Huntington Beach, Calif.
Bronze: Breaking Bud, Knee Deep Brewing Co., Auburn, Calif
Imperial India Pale Ale (211 entries)
Gold: Humulus Insani, Überbrew, Billings, Mont.
Silver: Nobility, Noble Ale Works, Anaheim, Calif.
Bronze: Hop JuJu Imperial IPA, Fat Head’s Brewery, Middleburg Heights, Ohio
American-Style Strong Pale Ale (169 entries)
Gold: Good Green, Highland Park Brewery, Los Angeles, Calif.
Silver: Rippin, Sunriver Brewing, Sunriver, Ore.
Bronze: HFS, Alpine Beer Co., San Diego, Calif.
Coffee Beer (168 entries)
Gold: Gusto Crema, Georgetown Brewing Co., Seattle Wash.
Silver: Dusk ‘til Dawn – SC, Pizza Port San Clemente, San Clemente, Calif.
Bronze: Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, New English Brewing Co., San Diego, Calif.
Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (159 entries)
Gold: Silent Warrior, TAPS Fish House and Brewery – Corona, Corona, Calif.
Silver: Mélange À Trois, Nebraska Brewing Co. – Papillion, Papillion, Neb.
Bronze: 15th Anniversary Ale, Island Brewing Co., Carpinteria, Calif.
- This year’s GABF competition saw seven new style categories:
o Pumpkin /Squash Beer (category 6)
o Four new historical beer categories were added: Finnish Sahti, Swedish Gotlandsricke, and Pale and Dark Breslau Schoeps (categories 21e, 21f, 21g, 21h)
o German Leichtbier (category 36c)
o Specialty Saison (category 79)
2016 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Competition
Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., The Country Malt Group, Yakima Chief-Hopunion and White Labs
Gold, silver and bronze medals were also awarded in the GABF Pro-Am competition, which pairs amateur brewers with professional brewers, who scale up the award-winning homebrew recipes. The medal winners, including the winning professional brewers and American Homebrewers Association (AHA) member homebrewers are:
Gold: Just Rye’te, Panther Island Brewing Co., Fort Worth, Texas
Panther Island Brewing and AHA member Clifton Ellis
Silver: Vernal Equinox, Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet, Va.
Starr Hill Brewing Team and AHA member Gary Layton
Bronze: The Kolsch Experiment, Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, Laramie, Wyo.
Jesse Brown and AHA member Shawn Miller