The numbers alone are staggering: Some 4,754 beers from 58 countries competed in last month's World Beer Cup in Denver, Colo. By the time the dust and hops had settled, the U.S. had brought home a staggering 205 medals. Among the winners, nine Bay Area breweries -- including a brand new Berkeley brewery that took home two medals.
The biennial bash organized by the Brewers Association, which hosts the Great American Beer Festival, too, is designed to showcase the diversity of beers from around the world. It's one of the best ways to discover how American pilsners compare to the ones made in Germany or the Czech Republic, where the style originated. It makes the world brewing community feel a little bit smaller, and allows a wonderful mingling of traditions and culture as brewers from all over the map get together and share their expertise and experience.
I was once again privileged to be one of the 219 judges -- and one of just 53 from the U.S. -- who sampled those thousands of brews. It won't come as a surprise that the highest number of entries was American-style IPA, with 223, followed by American-style pale ale (121) and wood and barrel-aged strong beer (111).
This year, a change in the way breweries enter their beers led to greater diversity on the awards stage, where 281 medals were bestowed. The new cap on the number of beers per brewery -- four this year -- was designed to promote fairness and ensure that the judges wouldn't be overwhelmed. (A similar rule will be applied to GABF later this year, too.) Only one brewery won three awards and 26 breweries won two.
Bay Area winners
There's no doubt that the U.S. brought home the lion's share of medals. California breweries claimed 35 of that tally -- and Bay Area breweries brought home 10.
One of the newest of those breweries is Berkeley's Rare Barrel, which was one of the few to win two medals. They won a gold in American-style sour ale for their Ensorcelled, a dark sour beer aged in oak barrels with raspberry. They also brought home a bronze in the Belgian-style Flanders oud bruin or oud red ale category for Shadows of Their Eyes, a dark sour beer also aged in oak barrels.
At Soquel's Discretion Brewing, which opened in March of 2013, brewer Michael Demers is enjoying a sweet victory. He returned to the Santa Cruz area with a gold in the English-style mild ale category for Discretion's lyrically-named Song In Your Heart.
Another gold went to Iron Springs Pub and Brewery, in Fairfax, for their liquid cookie of a beer, Sless' Oatmeal Stout in the oatmeal stout division.
In Campbell, the former Sonoma Chicken Coop re-branded itself last year as Campbell Brewing. It must have been just what they needed, because brewer Jim Turturici won silver in the British-style imperial stout category for his Romanov Imperial Stout.
Other big winners included Lagunitas Brewing -- which rarely enters beer in competitions -- who won gold in the session beer category for DayTime Ale, their lower alcohol version of an IPA. And Anderson Valley Brewing brought home a bronze for their Brother David's Double, as did Heretic Brewing, now located in Fairfield, for their wonderful porter, Shallow Grave, and Third Street Aleworks in Santa Rosa, which won for their tasty Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout.
Find a full list of this year's World Beer Cup winners at http://bit.ly/wbc2014.
By The Numbers
Parsing the statistics for the 2014 World Beer Cup is an exercise in number crunching. Here are the stats that stood out:
94 beer styles
The Medal Count
Some 281 awards were doled out during the World Beer Cup. These were the top recipients.
205 -- United States
27 -- Germany
7 -- Canada
5 -- United Kingdom and Belgium
4 -- Italy
3 -- Australia, the Czech Republic, Japan and the Netherlands
State by State
U.S. medal count included:
35 -- California
21 -- Colorado
16 -- Oregon
11 -- Washington
8 -- Illinois
7 -- Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin
6 -- Michigan
5 -- Minnesota, New York and Ohio