Winners from the 2017 edition of the Great American Beer Festival were announced earlier this morning. Held annually by brewing-industry trade organization, the Brewers Association, in Denver, Colorado, this year’s GABF saw nearly 8,000 beers entered by more than 2,000 breweries in 98 style categories. 293 were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals after being evaluated by 276 judges. GABF is the country’s largest and most prestigious professional brewing competition. San Diego County breweries have historically fared incredibly well. This year saw another strong showing with the region’s brewers racking up double-digit awards.
Eleven local brewing companies brought home 14 medals this time around, including five golds in the Robust Porter (Second Chance Beer Co.) Honey Beer (Karl Strauss Brewing Company‘s Carlsbad brewpub), Imperial India Pale Ale (Ballast Point Brewing) Other Specialty Belgian Ale (Stone Brewing World Brewing & Gardens – Liberty Station) and Session Beer (Pizza Port‘s Ocean Beach brewpub) categories. That went along with six silver medals and three bronzes.
Notable is the fact only one individual brewing facility in the county won more than one medal, Carmel Mountain Ranch’s Second Chance with a gold and a silver. Newly launched SouthNorte Brewing Company garnered a bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category for a beer called AgaveMente that hasn’t even been released to the public yet. And Monkey Paw Brewing, which Coronado acquired earlier this year, earned a silver medal in the English-style Summer Ale category. Also, Vista-based Mother Earth Brew Co. medaled in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category for Fresh As It Gets, a beer brewed at its Nampa, Idaho production facility.
Adding to the unofficial medal count was Belching Beaver Brewery, which for the second time in its history won top honors at the Alpha King Competition. Held in conjunction with GABF each year, this friendly competition crowns the brewing company that submits the hoppiest offering amid a stacked field of IPAs. Belching Beaver previously won Alpha King in 2014. On top of that, Chula Vista Brewery owners Timothy and Dalia Parker received the Samuel Adams Brewing and Business Experienceship, following in the footsteps of Ramona-based ChuckAlek Independent Brewers, who earned the same opportunity in 2014.
The following is a complete list of the winners from brewing facilities located within San Diego County…
From the Beer Writer: Last year, San Diego’s longest tenured Post-Prohibition-Era brewing operation, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, earned big-time bragging rights, being named the Mid-Sized Brewing Company of the Year at the most prestigious brewing competition in the country, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Held annually in Denver, Colorado, the competition garners thousands of entries from breweries in all 50 states (so many that, this year, each brewing location is limited to a maximum of four competition beers). Those ales and lagers are evaluated by high-caliber industry professionals and certified judges to ensure reliable results, lending deserved credibility that ups the value of GABF medals. Karl Strauss’s champion designation came as a result of winning four medals in 2016, including a gold in one of the most hotly-contested style categories—American-Style Sour Ale. That went to Karl Strauss Queen of Tarts, a stallion in Uncle Karl’s sour stable that has been refined over the years and comes on strong with assertive tartness given luxurious body and layering care of heavy oaken toastiness. Next weekend, Karl Strauss will attempt to repeat at this year’s edition of GABF (check our site next Saturday for a list of local award winners) and this beer will surely be among its entries, but it doesn’t need precious metal to register as a winner on the palate. Head to the company’s tasting room or any of its five local restaurants for a taste of certified gold.
From the Brewer: “Queen of Tarts is our dark sour ale with lightly roasted malts, dark fruit flavors and a nice, tart finish. We age it in American oak barrels with Michigan tart cherries for six months. It’s always been a favorite around the brewery, and we were stoked that the GABF judges loved it as much as we do. We feel very fortunate to have had such a great showing at GABF last year and to be recognized for beers across a wide variety of styles, especially to take home the gold in such a highly-competitive category as [American-Style Sour Ale]. It really shows the versatility of our team of brewers.”—Paul Segura, Brewmaster, Karl Strauss Brewing Company
One of the reasons San Diego brewers enjoy the camaraderie and success they do is the 1997 establishment of the San Diego Brewers Guild (SDBG). Back then, there were far fewer brewing companies in San Diego County, but visionaries from some of those veteran operations realized that strength in numbers would be key for development and promotion of the local industry. This year, the SDBG will celebrate its 20th year of collective success. In doing so, it will gather its longest-tenured while drawing off the innovation of all of its 100-plus members.
Later this month, Coronado Brewing Company will host a collaboration brew day during which brewers from SDBG member breweries will be invited to participate in the brewing of a special beer to commemorate the big two-zero. The recipe for that beer, a fittingly San Diego-style India pale ale (IPA), was developed by brewers at Coronado, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, San Diego Brewing Company, AleSmith Brewing Company and San Marcos Brewery and Grill.
The beer will come in around 7% alcohol-by-volume and be double-dry-hopped with Idaho 7, Motueka and Vic Secret hops. Additional hops will be donated by Fallbrook’s Star B Ranch and Hop Farm. Yeast was donated by Miramar-based White Labs while remaining ingredients were provided by BSG CraftBrewing. Additionally, El Cajon’s Taylor Guitars is partnering to provide old ebony fret boards from its African mill. That reclaimed wood will be fashioned into tap handles branded with the SDBG logo for this celebratory IPA.
Kegs from the 60-barrel batch will debut during San Diego Beer Week, which will take place from November 3 to 12. Coronado will also take the lead getting the beer out via its distribution partner, Crest Beverage. The beer will be available at retail accounts throughout the county, and make its official debut on November 3 during Guild Fest’s VIP Brewer Takeover at the Port Pavilion on downtown’s Broadway Pier. Proceeds from the beer will be donated to the Guild by Coronado once the beer sells through.
While Coronado is the hub this time around, the SDBG hopes to create collaboration beers on an annual basis and rotate the brewery at which they are produced each time. To get everyone involved during this inaugural brew, SDBG members were asked to submit suggested names for the beer, a short-list of which will be voted on by the membership this month.
September is stocked with a plethora of craft-beer events celebrating just about every type of beer out there. From ales infused with farm-fresh hops to tart tantalizers and, of course, Oktoberfest and other Germanic lagers, there’s something for nearly any taste. Take a gander at these featured events then peruse many more on our events page.
September 2-4 | Second Anniversary: It’s three phases of two years at Second Chance Beer Company, starting with releases of multiple high-profile collaboration beers, brewery tours and a thematically appropriate flea market on Saturday, a Sunday beer brunch and an industry day on Monday featuring a corn-hole tournament that’s open to the public. | Second Chance Beer Company, 15378 Avenue of Science, #222, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Times Vary
September 16-18 | San Diego Wet Hop Beer Weekend: Before most San Diegans had ever heard the term “wet hops”, O’Brien’s Pub was devoting a weekend-long festival to once-a-year harvest-time beers given huge aromatic character from freshly picked, whole-cone hops. This is a prime opportunity to taste what the county’s brewers can do with these green gems. | O’Brien’s Pub, 4646 Convoy Street, Kearny mesa, Times Vary
September 16 | Peter Reeves Memorial Sour Fest: Each year, Churchill’s Pub & Grille pays its respects to a lost friend and fan by gathering special, rare and outstanding beers running the gamut of sour styles from kettled creations on up to aged, blended gueuzes. An acidic, funky feast for the senses, it never fails to deliver. Stock up on antacids and make a day of it. | Churchill’s Pub & Grille, 887 West San Marcos Boulevard, San Marcos, 11 a.m.
September 22 | San Diego Brewers Guild Golf Tournament: Whether you can drive the ball like Tiger Woods (before his recent travails) or just like puttering around, a day on the greens is always an enjoyable one when you spend it with local brewers enjoying sunshine, competition and the liquid fruits of their labor, all while supporting the good work they do. | Rancho Bernardo Inn, 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, Rancho Bernardo; Check In: 10 a.m., Shotgun Start: 12 p.m.
September 23 | Oktoberfest: Numerous local breweries celebrate Germany’s annual and epic folk festival, but for no other is it more natural than Karl Strauss Brewing Company. Recipes of a master brewer from Germany form their bedrock. Those brews plus venerable fall seasonal Oktoberfest and small-batch, specially brewed, German-style beers will flow like wasser. | Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach, 2 p.m.
There are movers and shakers in the local beer-brewing and beer-drinking subculture. Then there is Derek Gallanosa, a BMOC among both factions who, while coming up in the industry with Karl Strauss Brewing before leaving to open and head brewing operations at Rancho Bernardo’s Abnormal Beer Company, maintained his recreational fanatic status via beer trading, tourism and bottle shares. On top of that, he has spent the past three years as an instructor in San Diego State University’s Business of Craft Beer certificate program. Few are the craft-inclined in San Diego who don’t know of him, making his announcement earlier this week that he’ll be moving away to pursue a new brewery project all the more surprising. We sat down to ask him about it and found out the opportunity he’s pursuing is as exciting as it is bittersweet.
What is most exciting about taking on a new endeavor?
Starting fresh with a new lineup of beers and new customers. It’s going to be a learning process just like any new chapter of your life but I feel I have the experiences to succeed in most situations.
What are you able to share about your next chapter?
The name of the brewery will be released in the near future but it will be somewhere in Northern California. I will be a partner in the business, and we will have a big focus on direct-to-customer sales with a lot of can and bottle releases. Just like Abnormal, I will continue to innovate, learn and grow as a brewer. There is no “brewmaster” here, just someone who wants to spend a lifetime knowing more than he did the day before.
Will you continue to collaborate as you did at Abnormal?
The collaborations will continue and will be a part of our marketing strategy. There is so much knowledge to share and so much to gain through collaborating with other breweries. I am excited to continue the friendships I have gained during my time at Abnormal and hope to expand my network with even more like-minded craftsmen.
What is your transition plan?
I am confident Abnormal will continue on without any change in quality. We have a talented team in place and I will spend the next month unloading everything I have learned in the past two-and-a-half years running the brewery. We are a dynamic company and will always try to push the limits our creativity, so my job is to set them up for success as they continue to be a big player in the craft-beer scene.
Do you think the brewing style will remain the same at Abnormal?
Abnormal has always been about keeping a few core beers [perpetually] on tap while having a bunch of specialty one-offs fill up the rest of the in house tap list. I see that still being the case moving forward, same core beers and a few other specialties that cater to the demand of our customers.
Who will be taking over brewing at Abnormal?
The new head brewer for Abnormal will be Nyle Molina as of October 1. The knowledge and experience he has gained from previously working at Green Flash Brewing and Funky Buddha Brewery was the reason we brought him into the Abnormal family. In the few weeks he has been here, he has shown great work ethic and a passion to produce quality products. With that being said, we are now looking for a new brewer to fill his role so send those résumés to email@example.com.
What is the hardest part about leaving Abnormal?
All the people that I work with that have been so supportive of the beer coming out of the brewery, the fact that I have an awesome restaurant I can order lunch from every day, the beer dinners, the camaraderie of the San Diego brewing scene, the drinking community that I love to geek out with, and all that beer I’m leaving in oak barrels for the next guy will be things I will miss. But the most important thing I will miss by moving away are the friends and family that I love who have supported me along my personal and professional journeys.
Any parting words for the San Diego beer community?
Thank you to all the fans of our beer from San Diego and beyond. A lot of people ask me what it’s like to live a dream. I’ve been responding with, “I don’t know,” because right now I feel like I have been living beyond a dream. It’s too much to comprehend. The people who choose to spend their hard-earned money on our beer or take the time, money and effort to listen to me lecture in my Marketing Craft Beer class at SDSU are the ones whose hands I would love to shake in the next month. So once again, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!