Every two years since 1996, breweries from around the world have competed at the self-described "Olympics of beer," the World Beer Cup. It's hosted by the Brewers Association, cited as "the most prestigious in the world," according to the San Diego Brewers Guild. San Diego County breweries recently won 12 awards: five golds, three silvers and four bronze medals.
While the competition is international, the majority of the entries hail from the U.S. Of the 6,596 beers entered, 4,858 were American, about 74 percent. The most popular categories were American-Style IPA, Imperial IPA and American-Style Pale Ale. Despite San Diego's leadership in these styles and their proliferation here, no local brewery medaled in these categories.
Here are the local winners:
· Amplified Ale Works, Whammy Bar Wheat (American-Style Wheat Beer)
· Breakwater Brewing, Rye Dawn (Rye Beer)
· Fall Brewing, Bourbon Barrel Aged Jinx Remover (Wood and Barrel-aged Strong Beer)
· Monkey Paw Brewing, Ashes from the Grave (Smoke Beer)
· Mike Hess Brewing, Claritas (German-Style Koelsch)
· Mother Earth Brew Co., End of Summer Beer (Extra Special Bitter)
· AleSmith Brewing Co., Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale)
· Thorn Street Brewery, December Nights Imperial Red (Imperial Red Ale)
· Legacy Brewing Co., That Guava Beer (Fruit Beer)
· Toolbox Brewing Co., Bramble on Rose (Wood and Barrel-aged Sour Beer)
· New English Brewing Co., Brewer's Special Brown Ale (English-Style Brown Ale)
· Novo Brazil Brewing Co., Corvo Negro (British-Style Imperial Stout)
Something revealed by these results is just how competitive large competitions like the World Beer Cup have become. There is no doubt some of the best IPAs and Pale Ales are found in San Diego, yet none medaled this year. Either they have fallen off (unlikely) or other regions are catching up.
Monkey Paw Brewing's Cosimo Sorrentino, recently featured here, continues to conquer the brewing world after winning gold in the smoke beer category. Mike Hess Brewing won gold in the German-Style Koelsch, a remarkable achievement given the amount of German beers in the competition. In fact, all the medalists in the category were American.
One surprise was Chula Vista's Novo Brazil Brewing Co., which won bronze in the English-Style Imperial Stout category for Corvo Negro. It is great to see a South Bay brewery on the winners list so soon after being ripped apart in a West Coaster review.
Not so surprising to many in beer circles was the success of Anaheim's Noble Ale Works. Noble was named Champion Brewery & Brewmaster in the small brewery category. Not only did it emerge atop a field of 275 to win gold for its American IPA, Love It! IPA, it also won bronze in Imperial IPA for Nobility IIPA. There was a time, just a few years ago, that the demarcation line for good beer in Southern California was San Clemente, but times have changed. Long Beach's Beachwood BBQ & Brewing also won Champion Brewery and Brewmaster for a large brewpub.
I would still put most local IPAs and Pale Ales above anything from the Midwest or East Coast. If these results prove anything it is that San Diego brewers, having long conquered those styles, have moved on. And the diversity of the styles in which they won medals proves San Diego brewers excel in more than just hoppy, bitter IPAs.