DENVER — The largest commercial craft beer competition in the world handed out awards over the weekend, and one Los Angeles County brewery again proved itself among the nation's best.
At the 28th annual Great American Beer Festival, held Oct. 2-4 in Denver, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing won two medals and was named the Best Large Brewpub and Best Large Brewpub Brewer of the year, placing it among an elite number of new craft breweries churning out world-class brews. Beachwood was one of 268 breweries (out of 1,309 who competed) that won awards and one of only 34 to earn multiple medals in what was the largest competition year ever for the Brewers Association–run fest.
Last year, with 10 beers submitted for judging, the 3-year-old Long Beach brewpub brought home five medals and the title of Best Midsize Brewpub of the Year. This year, in order to accommodate growing demand from the country's more than 3,000 breweries, GABF limited the number of competition entries per brewer to five. Still, judges had more than 5,500 beers to sift through to determine a winner.
In the coffee beer category, Beachwood won a gold medal for Mocha Machine, its coffee stout made with custom-roasted beans from Orange County's Portola Coffee Lab. Brewmaster Julian Shrago and assistant brewer Ian McCall also were awarded a silver medal in the French or Belgian-Style Saison category for a new summer beer, Un Atout.
Beachwood was the only L.A. brewery able to defend its previous titles amid the stiff competition. Last year, Lancaster's Kinetic Brewing scored two medals under head brewer Alexandra Nowell, who is now with the new Three Weavers Brewing (which poured its first batches for attendees from a sponsored tent on the GABF floor but did not have beer ready in time to enter the competition). This year, Kinetic was in attendance but did not place. Fifteen other L.A. breweries competed this year: El Segundo, Golden Road, Smog City, The LAB, Ladyface, Alosta, King Harbor, Brewery at Abigaile, L.A. Aleworks, MacLeod Ale, Monkish, Ohana, Strand, Timeless Pints and Wolf Creek.
In Orange County, Fullerton's Bootleggers Brewing won two medals (a bronze in amber ales for Rocco Red and a bronze in barleywine-style ale for Galaxian); Tustin Brewing Company won a bronze in the Belgian-style lambic category for Jon Flanders; and first-timer Bottle Logic Brewing from Anaheim scored a gold medal in the American-style dark beer category for its black lager, Lagerithm.
As more and more breweries vie for the few medals available each year (the festival saw a nearly 20 percent increase in entries from 2013), it's become even harder for local breweries to stand out at GABF's competition. Medals may be an indicator of a beer's quality as compared with other brewed-according-to-style entries from around the country, but it doesn't mean non-medaling beer isn't worth drinking.
L.A. Beer Week — along with those that poured for eager attendees on the GABF floor — proved that for a growing beer community, Los Angeles beer remains nothing to scoff at. A mix of world-class and locally awesome breweries make the Southland one of the most interesting places in craft beer today, so drink up with confidence — and if you haven't already, get down to Long Beach for some Beachwood!