Another Great American Beer Festival is upon us, and it is that time of year where we talk hardware. The awards that are presented this weekend go a long way for both the industry at large and the individual craft breweries. Receiving a medal from the Denver, Colorado event is special and doesn’t get thrown around lightly, which is why it stands today as a great measure of success. But what are we to expect from the Virginia contingency? Here is our short breakdown.
What is the GABF?
If you don’t know by now, today starts the Great American Beer Festival, GABF, out in Denver. Every year 60,000 people try hundreds and hundreds of beers all weekend, along with special events and demonstrations. The culmination for the breweries and brewers is the award ceremony where both their individual beers and breweries as a whole are judged. You can win a medal in any of 96 categories this year (up from 92 last year), with some of the categories having sub-categories, bringing the total gold, silver, and bronze medals to just over 300* (some medals may not be awarded if there is not beer that lives up to the category itself). There are also 7 special awards for best breweries & brewpubs based on size.
How has Virginia done in the past at the GABF?
Short answer is, since 2008, it is one of the best states east of the Mississippi, and somewhere around 10th-12th overall. It is real tough to catch up with states like California, Colorado, Oregon, etc., as they have more experience and pure numbers that we can’t compete 1:1 with, but our 7 year medal average is around 9 per year, evenly distributed between gold, silver, and bronze. Some would argue that we are winning more awards because there are more categories than past years and that the number of breweries in the state have exploded recently. Well both are true, but their are also a TON of new breweries popping up all over the country and who are participating in this event. I will say that I think that the quality and quantity of Virginia Breweries is increasing at a faster rate than most and closing the gap quicker to the ‘mainstays’.
So how is Virginia going to do this year?
Well if the numbers from the past few years indicate, who knows. 2012& 2013 were our best years (26 total medals) while the last 2 years we have ‘only’ received 16. In talking with local brewers, there is a lot that goes into entering beer in this completion, and it is pretty expensive. Some breweries pool their resources together to ship kegs out to the event so they can enter several categories and have enough for the general public as well. And in addition to that, outside of about 2 dozen Virginia breweries, some pick and choose which GABF’s to attend, which makes the predictions a little harder.
With all of that being said, Virginia is probably good for around 10 medals this year, and there will be some names that you know, and some that you will be hearing for the first time. Stay tuned as we will have a wrap up next week after the event is over.