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Goin’ Out West, Where They’ll Appreciate Me (Hopefully)

Great American Beer Festival

It’s the busiest season of the year in the craft beer world, festival season. Savannah may only currently have one craft beer festival, the Savannah Craft Brew Fest, but there are thousands of others throughout the United States. These festivals showcase the hard work and passion of over 2500 American craft breweries. Although they are participated in year round, the bulk of these are during the fall.  Including the most prestigious festival in the U.S, the Great American Beer Festival.

Great American Beer Festival is a three-day beer festival hosted by the Brewer’s Association every year in Denver, Colorado.  The festival is always held in early October and hosts over 3000 different beers.  This festival was founded in 1982 and has continued to explode along with the craft brewing industry ever since.  However, this isn’t just some drinking festival. The 50,000 festival attendees will be able to sample a multitude of brews, check out pairings at the Farm to Table Pavilion, and event attend classes! You can learn how to pair your favorite craft beers and artisan cheeses or learn from experts in the Cicerone Certification Program how to detect off flavors in your beer. There is a bookstore and even book signings throughout the weekend.  Craft beer education shines just as brightly as the beers themselves.  The popularity of this event has grown so much that tickets sold out in just 20 minutes this year!

Great American Beer Festival is also one of the most well renowned craft beer competitions in the world. This year, 210 judges will taste, smell, and rate 4,875 beers sent in by only a portion of the American breweries.  Only 600 of the over 2500 craft breweries in the U.S are able to attend.  Even the breweries have to rush to enter this Denver competition.  The GABF judges present 84 beer style categories with gold, silver and bronze medals. Those medals are worn with great pride throughout the weekend and likely beyond. It will truly bring tears to your eyes. The hard work, dedication, and true passion of the craft brewer’s from around the nation deserve nothing less.

Just because this competition is out West, doesn’t mean Georgia isn’t involved.  The past few years Georgia breweries have brought home metals in several categories. SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta came back with a silver medal for “Exodus” in the Brown Porter category in 2012. 2011 was a big year for them as well with three additional wins. Max Lager's Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery, a brewpub in Atlanta, also came home with a bronze in 2011 for its “IMOS” in the Imperial Stout category.  In 2010, Terrapin Beer Co. won a bronze for “Beer Gone Good” in the German-Style Sour Ale category.  Savannah’s own brewpub, Moon River Brewing Co. also received a gold for their “Rosemary Swamp Fox” in the Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer category. 

This year Savannah will be sending up even more beer. Moon River Brewing will be attending and participating in the competition. Judges and attendees alike will sample their “Apparition” in the Classic English Pale Ale category, “Slovannah” in the Session Ale category, “Moon River Witbier” in the Belgian Style Witbier category, and “Moon River Porter” in the Robust Porter category, and “Bellywasher” in the Golden Ale category. 

Entered in the judge’s competition, Coastal Empire Brewing entered the “Tybee Island Blonde” in the Kolsh category, “Savannah Brown” in the American Brown Ale category, and “Coastal Empire Pale Ale” for the American Pale Ale category.

Southbound Brewing also entered in the judges competition, sending the “Hop’lin IPA” in the American IPA category, “Scattered Sun Belgian Wit” in the Belgian Style Witbier category, “Iron Lion” for the American Pale Ale category, and the “Day Trip’eler” in the Belgian Style Abbey Ale category.

The competition is incredibly tough, but before the weekend if over the results will be in. If you see an individual or hopefully many individuals walking around with medals on their neck you’ll know exactly what for. I imagine those won’t come off for quite some time.  Keep your fingers crossed and your cups full Savannah!