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The pro guide to GABF, part 6: How to taste medal-winners

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FYI: The Great American Beer Festival is more than just a drink-fest; it’s also the nation’s biggest beer competition. Many of the beers in your cup were judged for weeks leading up to the festival, and the winners (all 250+ of them!) are announced at a ceremony Saturday morning. That means there’s a mad dash to sip the medalists at the Saturday session—and naturally, those kegs kick quickly. We asked brewers for their strategies on seeking out the award-winners. (Our suggestion: Work a year behind. Download last year’s winner’s list and go for those!)

A.J. Stoll, head brewer at Figueroa Mountain Brewing

“Taste them before they’re announced or face the bedlam!”

Will Meyers, brewmaster at Cambridge Brewing

“Grab a copy of the winners list as early as possible and circle or highlight each brewery in the festival map. Then run, I guess!”

Dave Logsdon, founder of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales

“Get the winners sheet and move fast.”

Brian Ford, founder and brewmaster at Auburn Alehouse

“Write down a list of the must-tries and get to those booths quickly. If you can’t make them all (I don’t know how you could unless you have a brewer pass), try what you can and make some plans to visit the breweries in the cities where they actually brew. A good vacation plan!”

Marisa Selvy, co-owner and V.P. of marketing at Crazy Mountain Brewing

“Narrow down the categories and choose the gold medalist brewery from your top 3 categories (i.e., American barleywines, Scottish ales and hefeweizens). Locate their booths on a map and run like crazy, elbows out to knock anyone out of your way, and try to get a decent spot in line. It will be hard enough to taste the gold-medal beers, so you probably won’t get a chance to find the silvers and bronzes.”

Tomme Arthur, founder of The Lost Abbey

“I’ve come to conclude most of them will be unavailable, so I head back to our booth and drink the winners around us that we can get to.”

Scott Baer, head brewer at Telegraph Brewing

“In my experience, you need luck! That, and punctuality. On the last day of the fest, some of the favorite beers won’t be available anymore, and everyone else has the same idea you do: find the breweries that won medals and see what all the hype is about! Try not to be too hungover, and make sure you get a good feel for where each geographical region is represented on the festival floor so you don’t waste time trying to figure out how to get to your next favorite medal-winning brewery.”

Victor Novak, brewmaster at TAPS Fish House & Brewery

“Good luck. Everyone during the Saturday evening session is looking for beers that have medaled. Those are going to run out pretty quickly. But just because a beer didn’t medal doesn’t mean it’s not good. There is a boatload of great beer at the GABF. Make your way around, talk to people and ask what they recommend. Honestly, it’s the greatest beer festival on the planet so you’re going to have a fantastic time!”

This concludes our series of brewer tips for the 2013 Great American Beer Festival. Previously: How to map out your GABF strategy, How to talk to brewers, How to beat a fest-size hangover, Where to refuel and Where to drink after the fest.


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