NorCal Brewers Score Big at the Great American Beer Festival

Brian Yaeger
Social Kitchen brewmaster Rich Higgins, manning the SF Brewers Guild booth in Denver.
​As the 51-week wait for next year's 30th Great American Beer Festival begins, let's look back at the last few days in Denver, where 462 breweries converged inside the Colorado Convention Center, and even more of the 1,625 American breweries from 47 states competed for honors in 79 categories of beer. Yeah, it was a doozy.

For the first time, the SF Brewers Guild sponsored a booth. At various times it was manned by Social's Rich Higgins, Thirsty Bear's Ron Silberstein and Brenden Dobel, and probably more ― we were busy scurrying around the floor sopping up some of the most coveted, hardest-to-find, and tastiest beers. Like what, you ask?

The best was probably Canadian Breakfast Stout from Founder's Brewing in Michigan. While some Imperial Stouts are aged in bourbon barrels, the Founder's brewmasters age their regular oatmeal-chocolate-coffee Breakfast Stout in maple syrup barrels. There was also the rarified Kiwi Lambic from Upland in Indiana and Final Push from Florida's Cigar City, which is their infamous Marshall Zhukov Russian Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels, but with the addition of Kopi Luwak coffee, said to be the world's most expensive. That's right: GABF wasn't no tubing down a lazy river sucking down a case of Milwaukee's Best kinda beerfest.

In the end, of the nearly 240 beers that earned gold, silver, or bronze medals, we counted 54 we know to be available locally, proving that NorCal is possibly the best place in America to enjoy phenomenal beer. Of those 240, 18 medals were earned by NorCal brewers, one more than last year despite increasingly stiff competition spread out over expanded geographic diversity.

Special shout-out to the two silver medalists from San Francisco: 21st Amendment's Hop Crisis (in one of the most competitive categories with 97 entries, Imperial India Pale Ale) and Shmaltz's He'Brew Rye IPA on Rye (duking it out among 77 entries in the Wood- and Barrel-aged Strong Beer category). And from across the bay, Triple Rock garnered three pieces of hardware.

If you're interested, scroll down for a complete list of NorCal winners, with categories and number of contestants:

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Mad River Brewing Company, Blue Lake, Calif.

Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer (91 entries)
Bronze: Super Chili Pepper Madness, Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, Calif.

Rye Beer (32 entries)
Bronze: Roggenbier, Bear Republic Brewing Co., Healdsburg

Other Strong Beer (48 entries)
Gold: Sierra 30 Jack and Ken's Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, Calif.

Experimental Beer (43 entries)
Silver: Estate Homegrown Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA

American-Belgo-Style Ale (47 entries)
Gold: Ryevalry, Bear Republic Factory Five, Cloverdale, Calif.
Bronze: Pete's Support Belgian IPA, FireHouse Grill & Brewery, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (77 entries)
Silver: HE'BREW RIPA on RYE, Shmaltz Brewing Co., San Francisco, CA

Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer (54 entries)
Silver: Temptation, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa

American-Style or International-Style Pilsener (27 entries)
Bronze: Gold Country Pilsner, Auburn Alehouse, Auburn, Calif.

German-Style Pilsener (48 entries)
Gold: Trumer Pils, Trumer Brauerei, Berkeley; San Antonio, Tex.

32 German-Style Märzen (41 entries)
Silver: Oh! Fest!, Schooner's Grille & Brewery, Antioch, Calif.

Baltic-Style Porter (21 entries)
Silver: Collaborative Evil -- Triple Rock, Triple Rock Brewery, Berkeley

Golden or Blonde Ale (55 entries)
Silver: Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, Calif.

American-Style Pale Ale (109 entries)
Bronze: Puddle Jumper Pale Ale, Third Street Aleworks, Santa Rosa

American-Style Strong Pale Ale (84 entries)
Bronze: 7-Fity, Triple Rock Brewery, Berkeley

Imperial India Pale Ale (97 entries)
Silver: Hop Crisis!, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco

American-Style Amber/Red Ale (83 entries)
Bronze: Red Rock, Triple Rock Brewery, Berkeley

Category: 68 Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale (54 entries)
Silver: Brother David's Double, Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Boonville, Calif.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow Brian Yaeger at @yaeger.
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