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First Impressions: An Ambitious Iron Triangle Brewing Sets Its Own Bar

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On a rainy evening in early January the highly anticipated Iron Triangle Brewing in the Arts District opened its doors (and its taps) to friends, community members, and beer media for the first time. Like many others, I had been patiently waiting for this opening for some time; both to try brewer Darren Moser’s beer and to see if the buildup that owner Nathan Cole had been asserting was all that it had promised to be. I think it’s fair to say that Cole has been a polarizing figure in the Los Angeles craft beer scene, something he’ll readily admit. An unknown in beer until now, Cole came out swinging by setting his sights high with a business model built on high levels of production and distribution throughout Los Angeles. Iron Triangle is positioning itself to make quite a bit of beer out of the 10,000 square foot facility they occupy, and there are already rumors of future expansions. The four-vessel brewhouse is equipped to handle multiple brews per day, giving the indication that the goal is to hit the ground running, and run fast at that. If things go well for this startup brewery, Los Angeles could be seeing the birth of a Golden Road sized player quite quickly. And that’s worth the intrigue itself. With these thoughts in my head, I entered the results of Cole and Moser’s best efforts to see for myself.

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The Age of the Arts District

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Boomtown Brewing’s Samuel “Chewy” Chawinga

Note: This article appears in the August issue of Beer Paper LA. Check out the print edition!

This city is, without question, in a period of immense change. Across the greater Los Angeles area, neighborhoods are being reshaped to meet the demands of a growing upper-middle class demographic. There is perhaps no better example of this swing than Downtown and the neighboring Arts District, which has seen a major surge in development over the past five to ten years. Most often defined by upscale coffee shops and fine dining establishments that dot these evolving neighborhoods, a new trend is emerging in the Arts District. Thanks to an interesting mash up of industrially zoned space mixed in tightly with residential, this graffiti-clad community has become a uniquely viable hot spot for Los Angeles breweries to set up shop.

The Arts District can boast at least four new breweries within its boundaries, which stretches between East of Little Tokyo and West of the LA River. This, of course, does not count longtime resident Angel City Brewing, which has operated in the area since late 2010. The Arts District will soon make for a perfect walking tour; every brewery is within a mile and a half of each other. The new four are either currently open or under construction with hopes of opening to the public before 2016. Each has been at least two and a half years in the making, promising that this fall and winter will be a period when fans can finally see the fruits of their collective labor come to light. In other words, the Arts District is about to blow up with beer.

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Iron Triangle owner Nathan Cole

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Crawl4Nepal: A Recap

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It was a beautiful sight to be seen on May 9th. Across Southern California, from the South Bay to Redlands, 34 breweries and beer bars came together across three counties to support a great cause, the Crawl4Nepal. What started as a crazy “what if?” became a rapidly organized Day of Action in just two weeks. Thanks to the hard work of some terrific beer journalists, and the generosity and sheer will of the craft beer community, I can happily report that our combined efforts paid off.

We only have a couple participants left to donate, but for the sake of timeliness I think it’s only fair to let the numbers be known at this time. We raised, so far (drum roll please)…

$13,445.56

That’s HUGE! What a great showing of support for a worthy cause. I am also happy to announce we have a winner for largest donation. A big round of applause and thank you to…

Hangar 24

Who raised $1,950.00

 

It should be noted that everyone involved played a key roll. Each donation, regardless of size, made a difference. So in the spirit of that, I have to thank the following participants:

1642 • 38 Degrees • Alosta Brewing Co • Angel City Brewery • Barbara’s at the Brewery • Barley Forge • Beach City Brewery • Blue Palms Brewhouse • Bottle Logic • Bread & Barley • Cismontane • City Tavern Culver City • City Tavern DTLA • Eagle Rock Brewing • Far Bar LA • Golden Road • King Harbor • The Lost Knight • Mohawk Bend • Noble Ale Works • Out of the Park Pizza (Anaheim & Buena Park) • Phantom Carriage • Pizza Port San Clemente • Ritual Brewing Co • Rookery Ale House • Sanctum Brewing • Select Beer Store • Sunset Beer • The Bruery • Three Weavers • Tony’s Darts Away

A few points, you can still donate to Crawl4Nepal and Global Giving through this link. When you visit, you may notice that the total on the site is only about half of the amount we have recorded. This is because about half of our participants chose to donate via check, and these donations are currently on their way to Global Giving, headquartered in DC. The total should be reflected as these donations come in.

Lastly, some of you might be interested to know where this money is going. Global Giving is a fantastic, highly vetted non-profit. Unlike most other relief groups, their goal is to fund organizations on the ground that might not see US dollars. They have amassed a relief fund of over $3 million so far to help 65+ organizations on the ground currently working in Nepal. The immediate goal is disaster relief, and the fund will continue to be divvied out to assist these organizations in long-term recovery. We can say with certainty that the money we’ve raised is going directly to on the ground assistance.

So cheers to everyone that came out, had a few beers for a good cause, and again cheers to the fantastic Southern California beer community for making this possible. Drink local, think global!

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Crawl4Nepal: On May 9 Beer Comes Together For a Cause

Before moving home to Los Angeles, I lived in Washington, DC working a a photojournalist. In 2011 I had the unique opportunity to visit and photograph in Port au Prince, Haiti for the one year anniversary of the earthquake that shook that country to its core, and then shook some more. On the ground, it was like nothing I had ever experienced. Buildings remained in ruin, hundreds of thousands remained in shanty towns and tent camps. An already fragile political climate had become volatile, and on top everything else a cholera outbreak had spread due to unsanitary conditions throughout the country.

I bring this up because I’ll never forget what I saw on that trip. I could keep focusing on the negatives, and trust me there were plenty, but to flip the same coin what I also saw on that trip was a country in healing, attempting to rebuild. And they didn’t do it alone. 1 in 5 people in Haiti at that time was a relief worker. I, myself stayed with a relief organization teaching emergency medical treatment. This should give us all hope that no matter how bad it gets we come together to help others on whatever scale we can.

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On Saturday, May 9th I invite you, yes YOU, to join in a community effort to help victims rebuild from another terrible disaster, the recent earthquake in Nepal. Myself, and beer writers Cleo Tobbi and Kelly Erickson have helped organized Crawl4Nepal, a Day of Action spanning over 25 beer locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties. Each beer bar or brewery will have one designated “donation beer” on draft. When ordered, 100% of the proceeds will go Global Giving, a well vetted organization raising relief funds for both immediate relief and long term recovery.

I invite you to check out a couple links. Join our Facebook event, and if you can’t make it, you can still make a difference by donating directly to our Global Giving fundraising page. Spread it through social media as well, the more the merrier! #Crawl4Nepal

The support for this event has been nothing short of amazing, in the 2 weeks since we began organizing we’ve seen the craft beer community come together, like it always does, to do some good in the world. We just happen to do that by drinking, and really what a better way to reach our goals? Thanks to the breweries and beer bars that have joined us in this effort, and thanks to the craft beer community for getting to one (or three) of these awesome breweries and bars on Saturday and drinking your fill! Hell, bring your friends and make it a party. Cheers!

Participant Breweries

Eagle Rock Brewery • Golden Road Brewing • Mohawk Bend • Tony’s Darts Away • Sunset Beer Company • The Rookery Ale House • Cismontane Brewing • Ritual Brewing Co • Barley Forge Brewing Co • Sanctum Brewing Co • Bread & Barley • Beach City Brewery • Bottle Logic Brewing • Phantom Carriage • Blue Palms Brewhouse • Three Weavers Brewing Co • King Harbor Brewing Co • Far Bar Little Tokyo • Noble Ale Works • The Lost Knight • Select Beer Store • City Tavern DTLA • Hangar 24 • 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill • Barbara’s at the Brewery • Alosta Brewing Co • Angel City Brewery • The Bruery

(please be sure to ask which “donation beer” they’re pouring! There’s some good ones!)

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Inside Bruery Terreux: Meet Jeremy Grinkey

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I have a storied history with The Bruery. In many ways I owe my inroads to the craft beer industry to their generosity, as well as their beer. It was Oude Tart that gave me my “a-ha!” moment while attending the first Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival. As I’ve written before, it sent a mushroom cloud through my brain (I must have gotten in line at least three more times for that beer, trying to define what hit my taste buds). It was Tyler King, former head of brewing operations for The Bruery, that granted me my first interview for the California BrewMasters book. Lastly, it was thanks in part to a sizable donation by The Bruery to my Kickstarter campaign that California BrewMasters was published in the first place.

I tell you all this for a couple reasons. Might I have an inherent bias? Quite Possibly. But the point I’d also like to make is that as an Orange County native, The Bruery always stood out as a beacon of what was possible in craft beer. In those beginning years, a focus on sours and the use of 750ml wine bottles seemed niche and innovative. And it was. Today, just a mere three years since my first interview in Placentia, sour beers like Oude Tart are booming in popularity. Anaheim and the surrounding area has made itself a beer city well worth talking about. How quickly the tide of craft beer rushed through our lives, changing not only the way we drink but also shaping our thought process as educated consumers. While I don’t think The Bruery can take all the credit, I have no problem calling them pioneers. That’s why, when I heard they were starting Bruery Terreux, a new brand that will, in their own words, “focus solely on farmhouse-style ales fermented with wild yeasts as well as oak-aged sour ales,” I had to stop by and see what all the fuss was about.

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The Golden Road to Anaheim: Victor Novak Interview

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Golden Road Brewing announced earlier this month that they’d be launching their first major expansion brewery in Anaheim. The Los Angeles based brewery found 56,000 square feet of prime real estate just a few steps away from Angel Stadium. This second location not only solidifies Anaheim as a beer town to be reckoned with, but also brings home Victor Novak, acclaimed brewer from TAPS in Brea who has been working for Golden Road for the past six months; and who will be running the show at this new location. In Victor’s own words, taking charge of this new facility “couldn’t be more perfect for an Angel’s fan.”

I’ll spare you too many of the details of this new brewery because, first off, it’s been discussed in many other articles and blog posts, and secondly, I want to focus on Victor and let you hear him talk about this new opportunity in his own words. I sat down with Victor last week to discuss what he’s been doing with his time in Los Angeles, and found out how he’s going to approach the task he’s been given; putting the Golden Road stamp on a town already buzzing with terrific breweries.

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Firestone Walker’s Lion Visits His New Venice Beach Den, and Cans!

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It’s been two years since Firestone Walker announced their plans to construct a taproom restaurant in Venice Beach, complete with pilot brewery and all. Many of us have been waiting patiently for this  idea to become a reality. While I love my trips to Paso Robles and Buelton, this move South is surely a positive for the Los Angeles beer scene as well as my car mileage. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that the Lion, David Walker himself would be previewing the space, albeit on short notice, with fresh cans of Union Jack IPA (canned just the day before, of course) to walk us through the new space.

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More Than You Need To Know: Firestone Walker’s XVIII Anniversary Beer

It’s that special time of year again. With Halloween in our rear view we all know that when walking into our local BevMo we’ll hear the early signs of annoying Christmas music, upon us for the next eight weeks, and showing little respect for our ear drums… and/or sanity. Walking past the holiday boxes of Midori and the Gentleman Jack with the commemorative tumbler glasses, our eyes will squint, darting from section to section looking to find one of the only good parts about the first half of November. SD Beer Week aside
 
But finally, our search will pay off, and we’ll snatch up our prize. Now it could be on display, passed on by the uneducated, waiting to be swooped up by that one asshole trying to hoard every bottle… but more than likely you’ll find this gem tucked behind a few other beers, hidden by a BevMo employee that “technically” left the last bottle on a shelf for customers, crossing his fingers all shift that we would not find it. But picking up this year’s silver box of Firestone Walker’s XVIII Anniversary, the music, the bad parking, the brother-in-law begging you to buy him a bottle too… it all fades away and for a second we’re happy.
 
 
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Three Weavers Opens in Inglewood

All photos copyright Nicholas Gingold, © 2014

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It seems that like many others, I’ve been a fan of Three Weavers for quite a while. Which it surprising, considering their brewery just opened this Saturday. Full disclosure, this is a totally biased blog post. I have the honor of being the first artist to hang work on their walls (prints of brewers will be up for the next couple months, go check them out!), and I’ve known Alex Nowell, their brewer, for a couple years now. I even mentioned them in my previous blog post about GABF. I first met this talented brewer when I photographed Drake’s for the book, and in trying to stay as current as possible with the brewers we had chosen, I had to re-photograph Alex again once she settled into Los Angeles. While the space was purchased the brewery at that point was nothing more than a shell in an industrial complex, dripping with potential but at the time… empty. So we did our updated interview from my car, and did our photo shoot on the beach near LAX. Coming full circle, it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to see things finally complete – beers now being poured, and the space again dripping with potential. This time however, it’s tangible.
 
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The Three Weavers crew. Lynne, Molly, Alex, Omar, and Chris.

    
Saturday’s grand opening brought a few things to my attention. First off, if anyone had questioned if people would make it out to Inglewood – put those fears to rest – the place was packed from the start to the end. City plans ensure a Blue Line Metro stop within throwing distance, which will keep me safe and off the freeways when the time comes. Until then, officers, I’ll be the picture of moderation, I promise. Secondly, Saturday reenforced what I’ve already known for a while now, that LA beer is as tight-knit and welcoming of a community as I could hope for. We have plenty of room to grow here, and I see this community expanding daily with a full pint and open arms. I meet new people at each one of these events I go to, and I always, ALWAYS, come away with a new friend. Lastly, Saturday taught me that above all else, Three Weavers is making some damn fine beers.
 
My favorite might be the Session IPA, as the saying goes I could (and I did) drink that all day long. Bright, dry, citrus forward, just what the doctor ordered on a warm sunny day. Although the entire line up was quality, I’d say the porter, ESB, and DIPA were among my favorites. I’m especially happy they came out swinging with beers that everyone could enjoy; these were solid beers in classic styles that stood up quite well on their own. Sometimes I walk into a brewery that I’ve never been to, that hasn’t been open that long, and I see a list incorporating weird styles and additional flavors I’ve never heard of. Three Weavers will make you rethink the classic porter, and you might just find yourself ordering another over the usual craft beer nerd’s standard obsession of the Double IPA.
 
So even though I’m a big proponent of deciding if a brewery is good or not based on the beer, and only the beer, I don’t think we can ignore how freakin’ cool it is to see a brewery owned and ran by women. It’s far too uncommon. I just have to tell one little anecdote from Saturday, sitting behind the merch booth talking to owner Lynne Weaver’s husband. He said to me, “We wanted to show our three daughter’s that they could do or be anything.” That hit me for several reasons, (I didn’t know until then that Three Weavers is named for Lynne’s 3 daughters) but personally I think too often the thought by outsiders that this is a “white guy wearing a baseball cap with a beard” only type of thing. Which granted, undoubtedly is me, but what I’m itching to see is the growth in diversity. Both gender and race. I keep saying (preaching to the choir I’m sure) that this is people based industry. And with diversity of people will come a diversity in flavor, and that means better beer for all. So I’ll get off the damn soapbox and say nothing more than that it’s cool to see this place open, and it’s cool to see them already on a path of producing amazingly solid beers to a city that I hope continues to be as supportive as its shown itself to be thus far.
 
Congrats on a great opening day, and now check out some damn photos.
 

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The Great American Beer Festival – A Photographic Perspective

Note: This article was published on BeersInParadise.com, thanks to the great folks there for letting me share my experiences through there website. It is re-posted here because, well screw it I wrote the damn thing. All photos copyright Nicholas Gingold, © 2014. Don’t steal photos, it’s bad karma.
 
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The Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest and most illustrious festival celebrating all things craft beer, is now a week in my rear view. Admittedly it took some time, but with my clarity fully restored I’ve had the chance to think about my time in Denver and reflect on my first GABF. I’ve been thinking a lot of about what this festival meant both to me as a beer drinker and to the ever-expanding industry of craft beer. As a photographer I like these conversations to be started with images. I want to share GABF with you through my lens.
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The festival is in short, awe inducing. It’s huge, bigger than my wildest expectations. 710 breweries from every corner of the country poured a staggering 3,500+ beers. 49,000 fellow attendees would be my subjects while trudging through this beer-Mecca. And as one might guess, there was no shortage of flavor – from crazy costumes to a bevvy of pretzel-necklaces; it was enough to keep you smiling at every turn; the unlimited one-ounce pours helped keep the crowd smiling as well.
 
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I set a few ground rules for myself during the festival. Rule 1: Whenever possible do not try a beer you’ve already had. Rule 2: Stick to a particular style of beer, at least for a couple hours, before moving onto the next. Rule 3: Always try a beer with a hilarious name. These rules would at least narrow the field, providing a loose path for me to wonder my way down the rabbit hole. And in case you’re curious (and I know you are), the winner of “best name” goes to Lickinghole Brewing, located in Goochland, VA, pouring Magic Beaver. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
 
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It may be the nation’s largest beer festival, but it can still be an extremely intimate experience. At the heart of this are individuals – people like Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione or Ballast Point’s Jack White. You might just run into these guys on the festival floor, perfectly willing to chat it up with beer fans, take pictures, and talk all things beer. Hell, you might even see Charlie Papazian, founder of the Great American Beer Festival and the Brewers Association, at lunch. What you begin to realize is that while this industry is growing at an alarming rate (1.5 breweries are now opening up per day, according to Bart Watson, staff economist at the Brewers Association told me), it’s still a small enough world filled with friendly faces to make it appealing. And these faces are accessible, which to me is what craft beer was all about in the first place. The minute we lose that accessibility, we might as well be wine.
 
Ballast Point owner Jack White talks with Firestone Walker’s David Walker before the festival began on Thursday afternoon.

Ballast Point owner Jack White talks with Firestone Walker’s David Walker before the festival began on Thursday afternoon.

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Lagunitas brought vaporized hops to share with festival-goers at their booth.

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I began this post by trying to decode this festival on both a personal level as a beer fan and as an active member of California’s beer community. One can easily drift through this whole event in a perpetual fog, attaching little value on one beer or the next, but I needed to think that there was meaning at the center of the galaxy. For the industry, GABF provides validation through its numerous awards and acts as a catalyst for networking and collaboration, as well as a way for newer breweries to develop a national buzz. We’ll talk about awards soon, but for the latter point I think this is an incredibly special and rare opportunity for many brewers and breweries.

 

Three Weavers brewer Alex Nowell, left at their GABF booth.

Three Weavers brewer Alex Nowell, left at their GABF booth.

 
I’ll use Three Weavers as an example, a new Los Angeles brewery in Inglewood whose grand opening is this Saturday, October 18th. That’s right – it wasn’t even open during GABF. With their first batch of beer in tow, they had a huge buzz about them. Maybe it’s because I’m hyper-aware of my local breweries, but it seemed that everywhere I looked I saw a Three Weavers temp-tattoo on necks and arms. I would hear them brought up in conversations between people unfamiliar with California breweries. It’s the type of hype that you can’t generate without a festival like this – making it one of many invaluable resources for brand new breweries.

 

Outside Events

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Falling Rock, a popular post-festival watering hole.

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There are plenty of events outside the festival that make Denver come alive. Sometimes that rare beer you’re after might just be found at one of the many great beer bars located downtown. Falling Rock, Fresh Craft, and Star Bar were among some of the spots I visited after hours. And yes, things had the potential to get a little weird.
 

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Other events of note: a Magic Hat morning event featuring their new coffee beer, Drip IPA, which paired excellently with gourmet donuts, and the media luncheon, put on by the brewers association.
 
 
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Ross Thompson, lead brewer for Magic Hat, gets interviewed during the event. The Denver Convention Center sits in the background.

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Magic Hat Hop Drip IPA being poured by a hotel employee.

 

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Beer Media at the Media Luncheon. A who’s who of the craft beer industry.

 

Beer Judging and Awards

At the heart of the Great American Beer Festival is the judging of beers leading up to the awards ceremony. 222 judges from 10 countries judged 5,507 beers this year (not including 89 Pro-Am competition entries), a 16 percent increase over 2013. There were 90 categories. It’s the one thing putting brewers on edge during this festival, and you can see just the smallest amount of anxiousness in their eyes leading up to Saturday morning’s awards ceremony. Many of these brewers are judges themselves, and I can recall running into more than a few departing the Marriott hotel where the judging was being held with glazed over eyes, having just come out of what can only be described as beer-battle. “They gave us over 20 Belgian Strong Ales to try at 10am,” remarked one brewer.
 
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In this double-exposure we can see the staging area for the beer judging competition in the belly of the Marriot Hotel, and unmarked bottles to be poured for judges.

 
Come Saturday morning the results are in. Again – I need to emphasize how massive, yet intimate this all seemed to me. There was beer flowing, of course, but what made it so interesting to me was how accessible everyone was. You could be sitting next to a tiny brewery from Texas or the Firestone Walker crew, probably both. Whenever anyone would win one of the numerous awards presented, there was always applause, high-fives, and warm hugs between competitors and neighboring breweries. If there were any loyalties, it seemed to be at a regional level to cheer on breweries from your home state.

 

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Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Co in Santa Rosa, CA get their photo taken with Charlie Papazian after winning a medal for their famous IPA Pliny the Elder.

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Ritual Brewing Co. brewer Owen Williams congratulates Kyle Mann on a medal win.

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Firestone Walker Brewer Matt Brynildson (left) and Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo during the award’s ceremony. Both breweries took home a medal for their Pilsner.

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Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a 30 year home-brewer himself, addresses the brewers at Saturday’s awards ceremony.

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Founder of the Great American Beer Festival Charlie Papazian greets the awards ceremony crowd.

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Some state’s performed much better than I expected, New Mexico and Texas had surprising amounts of medals. While California (47 medals), Colorado (40), and Oregon (22), still rounded out the top three, states like Texas (16), Pennsylvania (10) and New Mexico (8), had surprising victories. This was eye opening to me, a native Californian with a proud emphasis on West Coast beers. I of course, rooted on my home state, and need to give special recognition to places like Beachwood BBQ, taking home the award for winning best Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year, as well as to San Diego for sweeping the Session Beer category.
 
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Ballast Point’s Colby Chandler, center, waiting to get on stage for a medal win.

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The Lost Abbey crew gets excited about a big win on stage.

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Jeff Bagby, wearing arguably the best pants at the festival, walks up to the stage for a medal win. This must be a hugely validating achievement for Bagby Beer, having only opened at the end of this summer.

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So to wrap this up, the Great American Beer Festival brought me eye to eye with the vastness that is American craft beer. It showed me just how quickly things are moving in this industry, and I had to come to terms that no matter how hard I try to keep my ear to the ground, there’s just too much happening in too many places to get a handle on it all. In contrast, it also showed this industry to be as personal and warm as I’ve always found it to be from the get-go. It’s what got me into craft in the first place. The circle of friends is only expanding, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of room for more. All are welcome in American beer.
 

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