In 1982, the inaugural Great American Beer Festival showcased 47 beers from 24 breweries. The lucky 800 attendees had a fair shot at trying every beer in the room. Thirty years later, even the most hardened liver shudders in fear of how the festival has grown. With 466 breweries pouring 2,400 beers under one roof, it's difficult to even scratch the surface. But that didn't stop us, and 49,000 other attendees, from trying.
In addition to the veritable river of fermented gold running through the Denver convention center, the festival has developed a strong culinary focus -- and Bay Area chefs have been heavily featured. Sonoma's Sean Paxton, aka The Homebrew Chef, led attendees of the Beer and Food seminar pavilion in an interactive pairing challenge. Paxton cooked up beer-infused dishes and challenged brewers to scour the festival hall for the perfect pairings. A Farm to Table Pavilion, organized by Monk's Kettle's
Chef Adam Dulye, paired dishes from a dozen chefs with beers from across the country. Dulye had the most dishes represented in the hall, which included malt-crusted lamb sirloin and a dish of roasted sweetbreads with honey, onions, and a bacon-sherry vinaigrette.
Despite the gluttonous festival carousing, the heart of the event is the beer judging competition. As our largest and most revered professional beer competition, GABF medals represent instant brewer bragging rights. In a very strong showing, Bay Area brewers managed to medal in 10 of the competition's 83 categories. If you're looking to track down quality local beers, here's a great starting point:
Category: Rye Beer
Gold Medal: Three Flowers IPA, Marin Brewing Co.
Category: Indigenous Beer
Gold Medal: Hqt (Egyptian ale with dates, honey, and herbs), 21st Amendment Brewing Co.
Category: Baltic-Style Porter
Bronze Medal: Puddy Porter, Triple Rock Brewery
Category: Golden or Blond Ale
Bronze Medal: Kent Lake Kolsch, Iron Springs Pub and Brewery
Category: English-Style India Pale Ale
Silver Medal: Organic IPA, Napa Smith Brewery
Category: American-Style Amber/Red Ale
Gold Medal: Amber Waves, 21st Amendment Brewing Co.
Category: Ordinary or Special Bitter
Silver: New Speedway Bitter, Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery
Bronze: Bonnie Lee's Best Bitter, Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery
Category: American-Style Black Ale
Bronze Medal: Black Racer, Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Category: Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale
Bronze: The Twelve, Black Diamond Brewing Co.
Category: Brown Porter
Silver: FireHouse Porter, FireHouse Grill and Brewery
While technically not in the Bay Area, we'd be remiss not to include our Northerly neighbors Fifty Fifty Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing, and Anderson Valley Brewing, who each took home a medal. Additionally, two Southern California breweries won awards for beers that were brewed in hommage to San Francisco beer spots: Pizza Port Carlsbad's "547 Haight" Toronado 20th Anniversary Imperial Red Ale and The Bruery's "The Wanderer" City Beer Store 5th Anniversary brew.
With all these locally available, award-winning beers, you've got some drinking to do. Time to pound the pavement/liver.