Once a year, some of the biggest names in brewing flock to Denver to celebrate the very best the craft beer scene has to offer. While the breweries focus on making a name for themselves and taking home an illustrious medal, the Great American Beer Festival is a party for drinkers. But now that the party is over, drinkers across the country are clamoring to get their hands on some of these highly-touted beers.
With three winners from each of the 107 categories, figuring out which of these new award-winning beers to try can be difficult – just imagine how the judges felt with thousands of entries. So, we decided to break it down a little and offer up 10 GABF medal winners that should be on your radar until next year’s event. If you find one, give it a try and see what you think. We haven’t had all of these efforts, so their Untappd scores are included.
Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas: Begyle Brewing
Gold: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout
Brewed in Chicago’s northside, in an industrial area known as “Malt Row,” this 13.5 percent coffee and oatmeal stout is aged in bourbon barrels from Kentucky-based Heaven Hill and it contains notes of coffee, vanilla and cinnamon flavors. This year’s effort features a special blend of coffee from nearby Passion House Cofee Roasters, helping it to pour black with a lingering tan head. It also comes in several different variants each year, with past varieties including pumpkin pie and pancakes.
It’s average (2018 batch) Untappd score is 4.09, based upon 198 ratings.
Double Cone: Alvarado Street Brewery
Gold: Imperial India Pale Ale
Like many of the other breweries on this list, Alvarado Street Brewery took home two medals at GABF this year – the other was a bronze for Citraveza in the Contemporary American-Style Pilsner category. Based in central California’s coast, Alvarado’s Double Cone is what the brewery calls a “hop bomb,” a 9.3 percent Imperial IPA featuring Mosaic, Citra and Nelson hops, five pounds per barrel to be precise, that highlight pineapple, gooseberry and orange characteristics for a dank golden look and feel. Alvarado has even kicked it up a notch with Triple Cone, which might also be worth a taste.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.11, based upon 3,384 ratings.
Contains Chocolate: Corporate Ladder Brewing Company
Silver: Chocolate Beer
Corporate Ladder Brewing Company had a good outing this year, thanks to Contains Chocolate and a silver in the Field Beer category for Dessert Station: Cherry Almond Cookie. This beer is brewed just south of Tampa, an area more typically known for lighter offerings due to the temperature. Contains Chocolate is an dark chocolate stout and features locally sourced cacao nibs and coffee, plus real Madagascar vanilla beans. The best part is that Corporate Ladder has only been brewing it for a couple of months.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.59, based upon 19 ratings.
Rye Hipster Brunch Stout: Odd Side Ales
Gold: Specialty Beer
Brewed just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rye Hipster Brunch Stout has been making waves locally, and throughout the midwest, for years now. It’s an 11.0 percent imperial stout that contains coffee, maple syrup and bacon, with rye malt added before it’s aged in Rye Whiskey barrels, giving it a boozy flavor that doesn’t overpower the coffee and malt flavors. It’s dark, it’s potent, it’s desirable and it should be on your radar.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.41, based upon 14,166 ratings.
Farmer’s Reserve No. 5: Almanac Beer Company
Silver: Mixed-Culture Brett Beer
Brewed just across the bay from Oakland, Farmer’s Reserve No. 5 is part of the company’s farm to barrel series and was originally created to celebrate the first mixed-culture, barrel-aged sour beer in Almanac’s repertoire. This blonde farmhouse ale pours a golden color, is fermented with Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces and lactobacillus and is aged for a month in oak barrels with strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and nectarines for a tart flavor. Almanac continues to gain a reputation for creating delicious sours and, judging by this silver medal, Farmer’s Reserve No. 5 is worth hunting down.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.14, based upon 885 ratings.
Extra Extra Itsy Bits: WeldWerks Brewing Company
Gold: Juicy or Hazy Imperial India Pale Ale
Not only did this beer win a gold medal, but it’s lesser counterpart, Itsy Bits, won a silver medal in the Juicy of Hazy Pale Ale category this year. Brewed just outside of Fort Collins, Colorado, this Imperial IPA is composed of Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops – a whopping 12.5 pounds per barrel – as well as white wheat malt, flaked oats and flaked wheat, all of which help bring about a pineapple, tangerine, mango and peach flavor. It’s like the quintessential juicebomb and we certainly understand how it won this year – just look at that mesmerizing color.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.45, based upon 5,708 ratings.
Hop Stalker: Fat Head’s Brewery
Silver: Fresh Hop Beer
The only brewery in this list to win three medals at GABF this year – it also won bronze for Up In Smoke in Smoke Beer and gold for Bone Head Imperial Red in Imperial Red Ale. Fat Head’s has slowly built up a solid reputation thanks to recent distribution expansion from it’s Cleveland brewery and Hop Stalker is another feather in the company’s cap. It’s a 7.0 percent dank, citrusy and piney IPA that emits the taste of grapefruit, lemon zest, pine, and grassy earthiness, with some bitterness on the back-end.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.09, based upon 17,163 ratings.
Mimosa Gose: Pilot Brewing Company
Another double medal winning brewery – it also won Dunkel Bock in the Bock category – this 3.8 percent blood orange gose comes from Charlotte. It pours a light orange with a slight pinkish hue and a fruity taste that blends well with the traditional sourness of a gose. Pilot Brewing focuses on smaller Pilot and “Co-Pilot” system batches and even brews a collaboration beer with the city’s American Hockey League team, the Charlotte Checkers.
It’s average Untapped score is 4.03, based upon 165 ratings.
Reserve Doree: Wooden Robot Brewery
Bronze: Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer
Also brewed in Charlotte, Reserve Dorree is a variant of one of the company’s very first efforts. Wooden Robot is a farmhouse brewery, inspired by those found in Belgium, operating on a 15-barrel system. This particular effort is a 5.8 percent blend of peaches and sour golden ale that’s aged in seven French Oak Chardonnay barrels, which are hand selected based on stone fruit and funky characteristics, for about three years.
It’s average (2018 batch) Untappd score is of 4.35, based upon 356 ratings.
Westfield: Cellar West Artisan Ales
Silver: Specialty Saison
Brewed just north of Denver, Westfield is one of two medal-winners for Cellar West Artisan Ales this year – the other is St. Eldritch, which won silver in Brett Beer. This particular effort is a 6.9 percent wild saison, which is brewed with Pilsner malt, Ballad malt, Wheat malt, Flaked oats, Flaked rye and Acidulated malt. Then it’s lightly dry hopped with Pekko hops before being aged in oak barrels for several months and bottle conditioned, giving it white pear and candied grape undertones – it’s a complex beer.
It’s average Untappd score is 4.10, based upon 249 ratings.