The defining moment of the 2018 Great American Beer Festival was a taunt.
Cloudburst Brewing of Seattle won a bronze medal for its wheat beer. As he stepped up onstage to collect his medal from festival founder Charlie Papazian, brewer-owner Steve Luke, who worked for Elysian when it was sold to Anheuser-Busch, revealed a T-shirt that said “Fuck AB-InBev.”
The breakfast-drunk crowd inside the Colorado Convention Center yelped in approval.
The timing was unfortunate for Luke.
Just as he peeled back his flannel to reveal the homebrew haterade, 10 Barrel Brewing of Bend was awarded gold for its fruit wheat beer.
Now, Cloudburst makes great beer. And Steve Luke seems like a cool dude. I’ve drunk beer with him — actually, I’ve judged a competition with him. But I can’t endorse his taunting of the craft breweries owned by Anheuser Busch.
To paraphrase legendary publican Don Younger, is it about the beer or is it about the beer?
Because AB-InBev’s craft brands continue to make great beer, as the results of this double-blind competition demonstrate. 10 Barrel, which won its gold as Luke was picking up his bronze, was allowed to enter only three beers in the nation’s largest beer competition, which had 8,496 entries total.
Out of three entries, 10 Barrel won two gold and one silver. That’s pretty insane.
And it wasn’t the only Bud brand to take home some hardware: Los Angeles’ own Golden Road won gold for its English brown ale.
Golden Road’s medal was one of two for Los Angeles proper, along with another large operation, the Artisanal Brewers Collective project 6th & La Brea, which took silver for Scotch ale.
Those were highlights at an event where California again proved itself king of craft beer, winning 72 medals out of the 306 presented. The Los Angeles area had 11 of those. For perspective, the entire state of Colorado had 32 medals while Oregon had 22 and Washington had 17.
The L.A.-area breweries that won span the Southland, and the stylistic gamut:
Riip of Huntington Beach took silver for American black ale.
Truthworthy of Burbank won bronze for barley wine.
Smog City of Torrance won bronze for its kumquat saison.
Beachwood of Long Beach won gold for its Belgian-style lambic and silver for its cream stout.
Pocock of Santa Clarita won silver for its Irish stout.
The Westlake Village location of Figueroa Mountain won bronze for its Oktoberfest.
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Kings of Rancho Cucamonga won silver for its hazy IPA while No Clue of Rancho Cucamonga won gold for its Belgian Honey Blonde.
Bravery of Lancaster won silver for its imperial stout.
Claremont Craft Ales won gold for its imperial red ale.
Congratulations to all the winners, as medaling at the Great American Beer Festival is always a major accomplishment. But I’ll give a special shoutout to the brewers who make great beer while being quietly resented by their peers. Because for me — and I hope for you — it’s about what’s in the glass, not about the corporate structure of the people behind it.