October 3, 2011

Awards, Accolades, Explanations and Announcements

Awards & Accolades
Back from Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and there's much to talk about. If you want a local's first hand account go check out Patrick here. For a recap of the Arizona winners go here and here. All of the 2011 winners deserve congratulation, but we should remember that last year Arizona breweries racked up 6 medals including 3 golds as compared to this year's 4 overall and 1 gold.

I'd like to talk about some of the Arizona beers that won and a little about strategy. After all, this is a competition!

The first question I was asked by everyone was if I had ever had SanTan's Mr Pineapple Wheat, winner of a silver in the Fruit Wheat category. The answer is no. I'm not aware of anyone that has, although I haven't asked my cadre of SanTan regulars yet. An entry for the beer was created on September 1st on Untapped yet there are no check-ins for it.  It does not have an entry at Beer Advocate or Rate Beer. The BA clearly states that that each entry must be commercially available as named:
All beer brands entered in the Great American Beer Festival must be commercially available exactly as entered by brand name. “Commercially available” means the entered brand has been available for sale at retail under the exact brand name as entered on the GABF entry registration form prior to the competition entry registration deadline. Source: GABF
So what gives? Was there some funny business??? No. I don't believe so. SanTan is known for its small batch experimentation using a homebrewer's set up. This is all speculation on my part, but a batch or two may have been made by the brewery in anticipation of Maui Brewing's arrival after the Ameri'CAN' Beer Festival in Chandler at the end of May. In any case, there is this photo taken by iTappd on June 18th which was the same day as the SanTan Luau. Case Closed.

When I tweeted that Four Peaks has won a bronze for Hop Knot, several people wanted to know who won the IPA category and who had a better IPA than Hop Knot? Well, technically all 176 American-style IPA entries. The winners of that category were:

Category: 51 American-Style India Pale Ale – 176 Entries
  • Gold: Elevated IPA, La Cumbre Brewing Co., Albuquerque, NM
  • Silver: Deviant Dale’s, Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO
  • Bronze: Head Hunter IPA, Fat Head’s Brewery, North Olmsted, OH

Hop Knot won the bronze in a different category, American-style Strong Pale Ale.

Category: 50 American-Style Strong Pale Ale – 103 Entries
  • Gold: Pako’s Eye P.A., Snake River Brewing, Jackson, WY
  • Silver: AleSmith IPA, AleSmith Brewing Co., San Diego, CA
  • Bronze: Hop Knot, Four Peaks Brewing Co., Tempe, AZ

So even though Hop Knot wears an IPA banner on every can, it's not an IPA as seen in the eyes of Brewers Association and the brewers at Four Peaks wisely decided to enter it into the proper category. Not an IPA you say?

If we look at the specs for Hop Knot we the following:

  • Hop Knot's Color (SRM) is 8 which fits into both styles as they have the parameters 6-14 SRM.
  • In terms of bitterness, Hop Knot has 47 IBUs. Its not bitter enough for the IPA category which requires 50-70 IBUs but it tends toward the higher side of the scale for American Strong Pale which ranges from 40-50 IBUs. 
  • The alcohol range measured in ABV for American Strong Pale is 5.5% to 6.3% whereas for an IPA it spans 6.3% to 7.5%. Hop Knot is 6.7% which technically places it in the IPA range but not by much.
I'm making a broad generalization here, but Hop Knot fits the American Strong Pale Ale category strategically better because it hits the high end of the IBU range and it also exceeds the alcohol percent (imperceptibly so). It's common for brewers to hit either the high end of specs or the low ends to stand out from the crowd. With an American-style, you always want to hit the high side. That's the prevailing theory.

I had the La Cumbre Elevated IPA, Dale's Deviant (brewery only, not in a can) and the Alesmith at the GABF. I don't prefer one over the other over Hop Knot given that I'm not judging it to style. The Alesmith is available in Phoenix, so a side-by-side comparison would be a fun exercise.

There is a good deal of hype surrounding Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter. It's a popular beer that despite the breweries efforts, sells out much quicker than everyone would like. Just take a moment and consider that BJs Brewhouse in Chandler took a silver at GABF for its Pumpkin beer. It's a good time to head over to the brewery and give brewers Derek Osborne and Jeff Huss a tip of the pint.

I'm not sure how many of you are aware that Draft Magazine is headquartered here in Phoenix. Chris Staten, Draft Beer Editor, and a number of anonymous ASH members judge the beers at the back of each issue. Chris writes a nice post GABF piece on re-focusing the palate with a comfortable local (and solid) choice.

Speaking of ASH, the homebrewing organization drew a few notices from the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix New Times. ASH was named Best Underground Beer Society and was among the Top Ten Oktoberfests in Arizona. Some of the copy in those two links are not accurate, so please check out the ASH Oktoberfest information from the source.

Finally, I've written a column for Food and Flourish Magazine called, "Hi Wine, Beer Here". It was written for   an audience that values it's food flourish as you can well imagine. I think you'll recognize some of the elements I've been harping about-- for most of you this is well traveled ground. Share it if it speaks to someone you know. It's on digital page 36, if the flash technology is supported by your computing rig. Otherwise, the html version should suffice.

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