The annual Great American Beer festival took place in Denver over the weekend (October 6–8). While San Diego breweries didn't show off the gaudy gold medal counts or champion breweries of recent years past, local breweries remained highly competitive with 14 of the 293 medals awarded.
San Diego area breweries claimed 5 golds, 6 silvers, and 3 bronze medals in 2017. While local beer companies won 19 and 18 medals in 2015 and 2016, respectively, the 14 medal haul matches the 2013 and 2014 showings.
However, this year saw a significant increase in competition. According to the Brewers Association, the craft-beer trade organization that stages the event, 2217 brewers competed in this year's contest, up 24 percent from 1783 last year. That increased the number of entries from 7301 to 7923 beers, which means fewer than four out of every hundred beers vying for medals received one.
Particularly competitive were the hoppy ale categories for which San Diego is best known, including 408 entries for the American-Style India Pale Ale category alone. While San Diego was shut out in that style, it did top the second-most competitive category: Imperial India Pale Ale, more commonly known as double IPA. Out of 221 entries, gold went to a beer called Manta Ray, made by Ballast Point Brewing Co. Ballast Point also took silver for Sour Wench blackberry ale, in the American-style fruited sour category.
San Diego's other big winners were Second Chance Beer Company and the Pizza Port chain of brewpubs. Second Chance's Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter won gold for the second year running in the robust porter category, while its Legally Red claimed silver among American-style red ales.
Pizza Port's Ocean Beach brewpub nabbed a gold for its session beer, Guillaume, while its Carlsbad location won silver in Export Stouts with its Z-Man Stout. Since 1994, Pizza Port brewpubs have amassed 93 medals overall, 32 of them gold.
Rounding out the gold medals were San Diego beer company veterans Stone Brewing and Karl Strauss Brewing. Stone's Liberty Station brewery won "Other Belgian Style" category with Witty Moron, while Karl's Carlsbad brewpub claimed the top honey beer with its Orange Blossom Common.
First-time wins included newcomer OB Brewery, with a silver medal for its Hidden Gem German wheat beer, and a bronze for Culture Brewing, for its Blonde ale. SouthNorte Beer Co., which officially launched in September, doesn't yet have its own brewing location. Nevertheless, its bronze medalist Agavamente placed in specialty beer category, having been brewed at Coronado Brewing's Bay Park facility. And while Vista company Mother Earth Brew Co. earned a bronze in the wet-hop ale category with Fresh as it Gets, that beer was actually brewed at its Nampa, Idaho, brewery.
Here is the list of San Diego winners. For a full list, see the Brewers Association website.
Gold medal winners
Ballast Point Brewing Company — Manta Ray — Imperial India Pale Ale
Karl Strauss Brewing Co. Carlsbad – Orange Blossom Common — Honey Beer
Pizza Port Ocean Beach — Guillaume — Session Beer
Second Chance Beer Co. — Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter — Robust Porter
Stone Brewing Liberty Station — Witty Moron — Other Belgian-Style Ale
Silver medal winners
Ballast Point Brewing Company — Sour Wench — American-style fruited sour
Bagby Beer Co. — Herd Of Turtles — Baltic-Style Porter
Monkey Paw Brewing — Back In The ESSA — English-Style Summer Ale
OB Brewery — Hidden Gem — German-Style Wheat Ale
Pizza Port Carlsbad — Z-Man Stout – Export Stout
Second Chance Beer Co. — Legally Red — American-Style Amber/Red Ale
Bronze medal winners
AleSmith Brewing Co. — AleSmith Wee Heavy — Scotch Ale
Culture Brewing Co. — Blonde — Golden or Blonde Ale
SouthNorte Beer Co. — Agavamente — Specialty Beer