Brewery vs brewpub snafu at beer competition

Karl Strauss remains a winner but bumps down Fat Head

Team Karl accepts the not quite right brewer of the year award at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.
  • Team Karl accepts the not quite right brewer of the year award at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival.

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.

Karl Strauss Brewing Company

5985 Santa Fe Street, Pacific Beach

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.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader