This weekend, more than 2,400 brewers landed in Denver, Col. for the 37th annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Brewers from 49 states and Washington, D.C. turned out for the event, entering close to 8,500 beers into competition.
GABF awarded 312 medals to 280 breweries, but one category garnered the lion’s share of attention: New England-style IPAs. A new category this year, Juicy or Hazy IPA — along with Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double IPA and Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale — comprised 706 contest entries. Juicy or Hazy IPA alone saw 414 entries, more than any other beer style at the competition.
This became the talk of the town (read: all over beer Twitter) for several reasons. First off, no breweries from New England placed in any of the “Juicy or Hazy” categories.
NEIPA. Not really from New England. And has nothing to do with IPA.
— agoodbeerblog, Esq-ish., LLM, MM, BLT🌎 (@agoodbeerblog) September 23, 2018
Instead, Chicago brewers dominated the category: Alarmist Brewing won gold for its Le Jus in the Juicy or Hazy IPA category; Eris Brewery and Cider House’s Foiken Haze won bronze in the same category; and Corridor Brewery & Provisions won silver for its DDH Double IPA.
For some brewers and consumers, this is encouraging. NEIPAs do not have to come from New England, and great beer can be made in any market.
Good lord – if this year’s #GABF awards say anything – it’s that in 2018 you can get world class beer in every big city, little town, and haven in the country.
— Good Beer Hunting (@goodbeerhunting) September 22, 2018
Others believe this calls into question the medals’ authenticity — and geographic partiality. Not one gold, silver, or bronze medal was awarded to a brewer from the sub-style’s origin, New England. For a style that’s so new, the fact that its pioneers had no representation at the country’s largest beer competition raises a lot of eyebrows.
Additionally, GABF is always held in Denver, which some believe provides favorable conditions for breweries on the West Coast or in other Colorado-adjacent markets. It is expensive and difficult for small producers to send beer across the country — an issue, one would imagine, that is particularly tricky with the volatile NEIPA. As such, many Northeastern brewers, including NEIPA icons such as Trillium or Tree House, do not attend GABF, nor enter their beers into competition.
— Jason Notte (@Notteham) September 24, 2018
The festival is also less relevant for small upstarts that focus on their native cities, rather than distributing far and wide across state lines.
NEIPAs weren’t the only point of contention at GABF. Craft beer’s us-versus-them narrative underscored several moments, such as when someone allegedly donned a “F*ck AB InBev” tee. Concerned attendees also tweeted about Wicked Weed’s suspicious award placement at its booth on the festival floor.
— PorchDrinking.com (@PorchDrinkingCO) September 20, 2018
There was also general upset around 10 Barrel Brewing, a Bend, Ore.-based brewery also owned by ABI, being one of the most medaled breweries at the competition. Meanwhile, ABI’s Funky Buddha garnered more consumer interest on the festival floor.
— Chris Furnari (@BrewboundFurn) September 22, 2018
Below are some highlights of GABF 2018 winners, per the Brewers Association:
Winners in the Juicy or Hazy Categories
- Juicy or Hazy IPA (391 entries)
Gold: Alarmist Brewing – Le Jus, Chicago, Ill.
Silver: Kros Strain Brewing Co., Fairy Nectar London Double Dry-Hopped – La Vista, Neb.
Bronze: Eris Brewery and Cider House, Foiken Haze – Chicago, Ill.
- Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale (132 entries)
Gold: Tin Roof Brewing Co., Voodoo – Baton Rouge, La.
Silver: Kings Brewing Co., Sippin on Dank – Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Bronze: Fiction Beer Co., Madame Psychosis – Denver, Col.
- Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double IPA (150 entries)
Gold: Black Market Brewing Co., New England Style Double IPA – Temecula, Calif.
Silver: Corridor Brewery & Provisions, DDH Double IPA – Chicago, Ill.
Bronze: Alvarado Street Brewery, Contains No Juice – Salinas, Calif.
Winners in the Most-Entered Style Categories, Other than Juicy or Hazy IPA
- American-Style India Pale Ale (311 entries)
Gold: Root Down Brewing Co. – Bine, Phoenixville, Pa.
Silver: Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Portsmouth, Not an IPA (P.S. it’s an IPA) – Portsmouth, N.H.
Bronze: Green Cheek Beer Co. – West Coast IPA is Dead! – Orange, Calif.
- Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout (177 entries)
Gold: Against the Grain Brewery, 70K Amburana – Louisville, Ky.
Silver: Kane Brewing, A Night to End All Dawns – Ocean, N.J.
Bronze: FiftyFifty Brewing Co., Eclipse – Truckee, Calif.
- American-Style Pale Ale (170 entries)
Gold: Ocean Beach Brewery – B.Right On Pale Ale – San Diego, Calif.
Silver: Ventura Coast Brewing Co. – Neighborhood – Ventura, Calif.
Bronze: Maplewood Brewing Co. – Charlatan – Chicago, Ill.
- Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer (162 entries)
Gold: Drake’s Brewing Co. – Santa’s Brass – San Leandro, Calif.
Silver: The Wrecking Bar Brewpub, Willett Barrel-Aged Ye Old Sprinklerhead Barleywine – Atlanta, Ga.
Bronze: Revolution Brewing, Straight Jacket – Chicago, Ill.
Most Medaled Breweries
- 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, Ore. – 3 medals
Gold – Baywindow, category 77: Berliner-Style Weisse
Gold – Passionate Envy, category 4: Fruit Wheat Beer
Silver – P2P, category 96: American-Style Stout
- Alesong Brewing and Blending, Eugene, OR – 3 medals
Silver – Terroir Pinot Noir, category 19: Experimental Beer
Silver – Terroir Pinot Gris, category 25: Brett Beer
Bronze – Touch of Brett Mandarina, category 25: Brett Beer
- Lewis & Clark Brewing Co., Helena, MT – 3 medals
Gold – Miner’s Gold, category 2 American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
Silver – Pompey’s Pilsner, category 42 Bohemian-Style Pilsener
Bronze – Prickly Pear, category 55 Classic English-Style Pale Ale
The full list of 2018 winners is available here.