Last weekend, Austin Beer Garden Brewery (The ABGB) received a major accolade at the Great American Beer Festival awards, with Texas' first honor for best large brewpub and large brewpub brewer. Along with the honor at the GABF in Denver, The ABGB took home two medals for beer to contribute to a total of 11 festival medals for Texas breweries.
This wasn't the best showing for Texas breweries in terms of a medal count at GABF, the most prestigious competition for American beer. In 2015, Texas brewers took 15 medals, and the gold-medal count of nine was second only to California. There were 16 wins for Texas in 2014.
That doesn’t mean the ever-growing number of breweries in the state are entering bad beer. It is becoming extremely competitive, with 264 judges evaluating 7,227 entries from 1,752 U.S. breweries, according to the Brewers Association, which administers the festival and the awards.
Two huge overall wins gave the state’s brewing community bragging rights. The ABGB and brewers Brian “Swifty” Peters, Amos Lowe, and Kim Mizner were the first Texas brewery to be named best among hundreds of breweries that fall in the large brewpub category.
“The brewers really believe that [Austin] can be a great town for lagers and they’ve worked really had to make that happen,” said Mark Jensen, a partner in The ABGB. “This award and the medals [for pilsner and helles] kind of reminded us that we’re on the right path.”
The 3-year-old brewery won a gold medal for its Industry beer in the German-style pilsner category, something that came as no surprise to other professional brewers in the state who make regular stops at The ABGB for the lagers. The Hell Yes won a bronze for Munich-style helles against 87 other competitors.
The other big win for Texas was the gold medal pro-am award, an honor given to a homebrewer and commercial brewery collaborating on a beer. Panther Island Brewing Co. of Fort Worth and Clifton Ellis, a member of the American Homebrewers Association, made an American pale ale with rye to wow the judges.
Revolver Brewing Co. of Granbury landed a gleaming gold medal in the other strong beer category for its Anodyne Wheat Wine, a satisfying style not many brewers have embraced. Real Ale Brewing Co.'s Real Heavy made a repeat medal performance with a gold in the Scotch ale category. The brewery in Blanco received a bronze for the same brew in 2015. Another Austin-area brewery, Spicewood's Solid Rock Brewing, won gold for Irish-style stout with one of its original mainstays, Big Drought Stout.
Texas’ one silver medal went to the Grapevine Craft Brewery in the English-style brown ale category for Sir Williams Brown Ale. The brewery recently announced it would curtail its distribution around the state, so those who want it will have to hit the taproom.
A bronze medal went to Austin’s Independence Brewing Co. in the field beer category for Redbud with Cucumber, a vegetable-augmented tart gose. Dallas’ Community Beer Co. received a bronze for its Belgian-style witbier. Allen-based Nine Band Brewing won bronze in the barleywine category for Toad Choaker. Austin's Adelbert’s Brewery saw its beer lauded with bronze for the Belgian-style quadrupel ale Flyin’ Monks.