The Great American Beer Festival stumbled over the distinction between a brewpub and a brewery on Saturday. During its midday awards ceremony, San Diego's oldest brewery, Karl Strauss Brewing, was awarded the title Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year, with its brewing team — Team Karl — designated Mid-Size Brewpub Brewer of the Year.
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Karl Strauss currently operates 9 brewpubs, and has plans for a 10th. However, the three medals that helped win Strauss the honor weren't made in the brewpubs — rather at its production facility in Bay Ho. Five hours after the ceremony ended, the Brewers Association, which organized the festival, issued a press release acknowledging the mistake and amending the results.
The press release read: “During competition registration, Karl Strauss Brewing Co.’s San Diego location was identified as a Mid-Size Brewpub. After the award ceremony, GABF competition staff realized that this was inaccurate: this location is, in fact, a Mid-Size Brewing Company. Karl Strauss, while it operates brewpubs, is classified as a production facility by GABF competition guidelines."
Karl Strauss was instead awarded the distinction Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year. While this was still great news for Karl Strauss, it was not for Fat Head's Brewery & Saloon out of North Olmsted, Ohio, near Cleveland. Fat Head's had spent most of the afternoon basking in the accomplishment of being named Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year. Once Karl Strauss was moved into the Brewery category, Fat Head's was relegated to second place.
Ironically, Fat Head's also operates a brewery plus brewpubs. Its North Olmstead location is a brewpub, which won three medals. Meanwhile its Middlebury brewery won two. As a brand it earned five medals, including a gold and two silvers. Fat Head's social media accounts responded humorously to the mix-up, posting a meme of comedian Steve Harvey, who mistakenly announced the wrong winner while emceeing a beauty pageant last year.
A representative of the Brewers Association notes, "Brewpubs and production facilities have different business models that the Brewers Association recognizes across our categories of membership."
A brewhouse falls into the a brewpub category if "beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar," with a minimum of 25% of its sales on site. If more than 75% of the beer is distributed outside the licensed site, it's a brewery.
The Brewers Association press release continued: "All of us with the Great American Beer Festival and the Brewers Association deeply regret this error."
Amid the confusion, a new Mid-Sized Brewpub champion was announced — Boxing Bear Brewing Co. out of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Back in San Diego, a rep of Karl Strauss says, "We’ll gladly accept however they choose to classify us! At the end of the day it’s an honor to win medals at such a prestigious competition...let alone 4 medals in one year."
The fourth medal went to Karl Strauss's La Jolla brewpub. That bronze medal did not factor toward either the brewery win, or the mistaken brewpub victory.