What a coup for Texas beer.
It’s harder than ever to win a medal at the Great American Beer Festival — this year, a whopping 7,923 beers competed in 98 categories — but the brewers at the ABGB have now done it again in a very big way.
Two of the South Austin brewpub’s pilsners took home gold medals, one for a second time, and even more significantly, the ABGB was also awarded the Large Brewpub of the Year nod for the second year running. The lightning-strikes-twice win was unexpected but also very welcome for the ABGB team.
"Best day ever," Brian ‘Swifty’ Peters, one of the head brewers and co-founders of the brewpub, told me. "We put the hard work in and it feels really good to be rewarded. By winning back-to-back brewpub of the year awards, the ABGB is now recognized around the country as one of the premier breweries."
But the ABGB wasn’t the only big winner from Texas. As Peters put it, "Texas crushed it" — with a total of 21 medals for the state, the most earned at the fest in the past 10 years. Last year, Texas brewers raked in 10 medals; 2014 had previously been the year of most wins, at 16. The state did so well this year that it was third only to Colorado and California, two of the country’s biggest beer juggernauts.
Other winners from the Austin area include Austin Beerworks for the Super Awesome Helles Lager, Oasis, Texas Brewing for the Luchesa Lager and Pinthouse Pizza for the Bearded Seal Dry Irish Stout. Lazarus Brewing, at less than a year old, took home a gold for Amandus Belgian Strong Golden Ale.
Another Texas brewery that impressed was Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewing, one of the state’s oldest and now the one to have earned the most GABF medals of any other Texas brewery. After winning three of them this year — including for the fall seasonal Pumpkinator — Saint Arnold secured the title Midsize Brewing Company of the Year.
What’s remarkable about the ABGB’s wins, in particular, is that they establish the brewpub as a pilsner powerhouse. The ABGB’s gold medals this year were for the Rocket 100 Pilsner and the Velvet Revolution Czech-stye Pilsner; the brewpub also took top honors in 2016 for its Industry Pilsner and an initial gold for Rocket 100 in 2015.
That crisp, easy-drinking beer style, as well as lagers in general, is clearly a specialty for the ABGB’s three brewers. Because lagers are generally subtle in flavor, they reveal mistakes in the beer more easily than other styles do. But if done well, the beers are "so precise and so clean," Peters said last year about the brewpub’s lager love affair.
Of course, all of this year’s GABF winners from Texas deserve recognition for their hard work — especially given that it hasn’t been the easiest year for them.
"The creativity, range and quality of Texas craft beer is no surprise to Texans, and we are happy that it was recognized on the national stage," Charles Vallhonrat, the executive director of Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said. "We anticipate more and more people come to Texas just for craft beer."
Here’s the full list of Texas’ 2017 Great American Beer Fest winners.The ABGB’s Rocket 100 Pilsner: gold medal in American-style pilsnerThe ABGB’s Velvet Revolution Czech-style Pils: gold in Bohemian-style pilsnerArmadillo Ale Works Honey Please Mesquite Bean Blonde Ale: bronze for honey beerAustin Beerworks Super Awesome Helles Lager: gold for light lagerBig Bend Brewing Barrel-Aged Marfa Light Russian Imperial Stout: bronze for wood and barrel-aged strong stoutEureka Heights Brewing Buckle Bunny: gold in American-style cream aleFreetail Brewing La Muerta Imperial Stout: gold in aged beerGalveston Island Brewing’s Blue Bridge: bronze in American-style amber or red aleHoller Brewing ESB: bronze for extra special bitterLazarus Brewing Amandus Belgian Strong Golden Ale: gold for Belgian-style strong specialty aleOasis, Texas Brewing Luchesa Lager: silver for kellerbier or zwickelbierPeticolas Brewing It’s Always Something Belgian Strong Dark Ale: silver in Belgian-stye strong specialty alePinthouse Pizza North Bearded Seal Dry Irish Stout: gold for classic Irish-style dry stoutRahr & Sons Oktoberfest: silver for German-style marzenReal Ale Brewing Firemans 4: silver for golden or blonde aleReal Ale Brewing Real Heavy Scotch Ale: gold for Scotch aleSaint Arnold Brewing Amber Ale: bronze for ordinary or special bitterSaint Arnold Pumpkinator: gold for pumpkin/squash beer or pumpkin spice beerSaint Arnold Weedwacker: bronze for German-style wheat aleSave the World Brewing Lux Mundi Patersbier: silver for other Belgian-style aleSpoetzl Brewery’s Shiner Bock: silver for American-style amber lager