Texas craft breweries took home a record-shattering number of medals from the Great American Beer Festival’s competition Saturday, with a total of 16 gold, silver and bronze medals awarded to breweries and brewpubs from Austin, Dallas, Houston and beyond — the fourth most decorated state behind California, Colorado and Oregon, traditional craft beer bastions. It’s just one more sign that the state is becoming a craft beer powerhouse in its own right.
(The most medals Texas has won up to this point is 18 in 2002, but because many of those went to macro breweries located in Texas at the time, let’s say that this year at the festival has been the most successful thus far for small, independently owned Texas craft brewers.)
Among the Austin winners were previous GABF victors Austin Beerworks, Real Ale and Pinthouse Pizza. Thirsty Planet and Oasis, Texas Brewing, which only started brewing earlier this year, became first-time winners this year — a distinction that Oasis founder and head brewer Spencer Tielkemeier is still “over the moon” about.
“We’d have been happy with any medal, but it makes it so much sweeter that it’s gold,” he said. “By the time they’ve announced the bronze and silver, you’ve already talked yourself out of it. I honestly don’t remember the ten seconds following the syllable “Lond-“”
He added that the fact “there are so many great beers out there” makes the win all the more gratifying. “You may not always love the beers they pick, but you can be sure they don’t suck,” he said.
Oasis’ London Homesick Ale earned the top prize in the ordinary or special bitter category. Tielkemeier said he had honestly thought Oasis’ lagers (he also submitted Slow Ride, Luchesa, Oktoberfest and Lake Monster for the competition) were the Lake Travis brewery’s strongest contenders.
Austin Beerworks, Real Ale and Pinthouse had all gotten medals last year, when Texas breweries brought back 10 GABF awards. But previous wins certainly don’t make new ones any less sweeter, as Austin Beerworks’ Will Golden noted.
“Winning a silver in the strong pale ale category (for Fire Eagle) was like Big Wave surfing on a great white shark,” he said. “It also is a reassurance we are doing the right thing at the brewery.”
Others who joined the winners’ circle this year include Dallas’ Community Beer Co. (one of two Texas breweries to receive two awards), Fredericksburg’s Pedernales Brewing and Denton’s Armadillo Ale Works.
Texas’ impressive showing at GABF is “establishing the state as a leading craft beer destination,” Charles Vallhonrat, executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said. “Texas craft brewers clearly demonstrated that while craft beer is growing quickly in our state, quality does not take a back seat.”
How the competition component of the festival works: Breweries around the country submit their beers to any one of 90 different beer style categories for professionals in the brewing industry to judge in a blind tasting. The winners are then announced on the final day of GABF in a special ceremony. And make no mistake — breweries faced stiff competition. More than 1,300 breweries from around the U.S. submitted more than 5,500 different beers.
Oasis, Texas, helmed by Live Oak and Uncle Billy’s veteran Tielkemeier, wasn’t the only first-time brewery to take part in the festival and competition. According to the Brewers Association, the organization in charge of putting GABF together every year, 35 percent of GABF participants were newcomers.
Here’s the full list of Texas winners.
- Armadillo Ale Works for Quakertown Stout in the imperial stout category
- Community Beer Co. for Public Ale in the extra special bitter category
- Grapevine Craft Brewery for Sir William’s English Brown Ale in the English-style brown ale category
- Oasis, Texas Brewing for London Homesick Ale in the ordinary or special bitter category
- Peticolas Brewing for 2012 Great Scot! in the aged beer category
- Real Ale Brewing for Benedictum in the Belgian-style lambic or sour ale category
- Austin Beerworks for Fire Eagle in the American-style strong pale ale
- Pedernales Brewing for Lobo Negro in the German-style schwarzbier category
- Saint Arnold for Summer Pils in the Munich-style Helles category
- Thirsty Planet for Yellow Armadillo in the American-style wheat beer category
- 5 Stones for Aloha Pina in the herb and spice category
- Community Beer Co. for Ascension in the coffee beer category
- Pinthouse Pizza for Jaguar Shark in the wood-and-barrel-aged strong stout category
- Rahr & Sons for the Regulator in the German-style doppelbock category
- Saint Arnold for Weedwhacker in the German-style wheat ale category
- Spoetzl Brewery for Shiner Bock in the American-style dark lager category
This post has been corrected with the year Texas had the most wins at GABF.