The OC beer-scape has grown and improved quite a bit over the last year, and this past weekend's Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver was only a testament to what we already knew: OC beer rules. Although the usual award-winners like TAPS Fish House & Brewery and The Bruery didn't place, other OC favorites, both new and old, left the Academy Awards of craft beer with some pretty impressive hardware. Here's the list of which OC breweries brought home awards. Hats off to all.
Bottle Logic Brewing -- Lagerithm (Gold) The first pleasant, but by no means shocking, surprise was Bottle Logic's gold medal for Lagerithm in the American-Style Dark Lager category. They were one of 52 first-time GABF winning entrants at this year's national competition. Bottle Logic has spent the last year blowing the lid off of the OC craft scene and these guys have yet to celebrate their first anniversary. The beer, a malty sensation of a brew, is an honest depiction of the style and could not be easier to drink. Bottle Logic has a habit of showcasing many oftentimes forgotten styles of beer--dark lager, pilsner, Berliner Weisse--and here's hoping they keep with the trend.
Tustin Brewing Company -- Jon Flanders (Bronze) This was a huge win for Jerrod Larsen of Tustin Brewing Co. With the exception of an assistant brewer from time to time, Larsen runs the brewhouse at Tustin all on his own. The judges at GABF awarded him with a bronze medal for Jon Flanders in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale section. The work put into making any pale ale or IPA is incomparable to the time and strategy involved in concocting a presentable sour beer, such as Larsen's Jon Flanders flanders red ale. The yeast can turn on you, and there is a lot more skill required to find the right balance between sweet, tart and funky.
Bootlegger's Brewery- Rocco Red Ale (Bronze) and Galaxian (Bronze) While these guys have been around the block in terms of OC craft beer, this was their first win, or should I say, first two wins, at GABF. The Fullerton brewery received two bronze medals for both their Rocco Red Ale in the American-Style Amber/Red Ale category and Galaxian in the Barley Wine category. There were 140 entries for the Amber/Red Ale category, making it one of the most competitive divisions next to American-Style Pale Ale and Herb and Spice Beer. For our very own Bootlegger's to place in such a dense category is quite the honor indeed. And we mustn't forget the value of a win in a Barley Wine section. This style tends to intimidate most breweries because it's not the friendliest of styles to have on a draft list. Way to take a plunge and win big, boys.
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Beachwood BBQ & Brewing -- Mocha Machine (Gold), Un Atout (Silver), Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year Award Last, but certainly not least, we congratulate Beachwood BBQ & Brewing on their epic two medal win in addition to one of the highest honors given at GABF: Best Brewpub of the Year. Last year, Beachwood won best Mid-Sized Brewpub of the Year and this year, with an increased size in production, took home the award for best Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year. Good job, brewers Julian Shrago and Ian McCall.
As you may recall, brewers around Orange County and the country experimented heavily with throwing coffee in their beer. Well, amid the 116 entries for the Coffee Beer category, Mocha Machine won gold. Also, their latest saison won silver in the French and Belgian-Style Saison category.
And remember: all of this OC beer was up against over 5,500 different beers from around the country. Over 3,000 breweries entered and in Orange County's small craft beer pool, we certainly won big. Can't wait to see what next year brings.