Whatcha Drinking? Episode 72

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys spun Wild Card again last week so watch this episode to see what everyone brought!

Cheers!

Whatcha Drinking? Episode 71

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy another style of beer. This week’s episode theme was New York beers.

Cheers!

Whatcha Drinking? Episode 70

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys spun Wild Card last week so watch this episode to see what everyone brought!

Cheers!

Whatcha Drinking? Episode 69

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy beers from the state of Washington

Cheers

Post-GABF 2014 Analysis: California Wins Again. And Again. And Again…

Written by Dan Berger

It’s the Friday after the Great American Beer Festival (aka GABF, as if you didn’t know already). By now the thousands of brewers, beer enthusiasts, and industry journalists who spent last weekend in Denver living all things beer have dragged their collective asses back home to sleep off the aftereffects of the festivities. Sadly, I was not one of them.

Like many of us, I spent last weekend watching GABF from afar through my Twitter feed and the GABF website. It was a little like being on antibiotics; forced to sip water while watching someone at the table next to me enjoying a well-aged gueuze. Then I made the mistake of looking up the top medal winners by state to see how my beloved Illinois measured up. Fair warning; unless you are from California, Colorado, or maybe Oregon, looking up the top medalists is not exactly a confidence booster:

Top Ten States in Medals at GABF 2014

• California – 46 Medals: Gold-15, Silver-13, Bronze-18
• Colorado – 39 Medals: Gold-10, Silver-18, Bronze-11
• Oregon – 22 Medals: Gold-7, Silver-8, Bronze-7
• Texas – 16 Medals: Gold-6, Silver-5, Bronze-5
• Pennsylvania – 12 Medals: Gold-5, Silver-2, Bronze-5
• Washington – 9 Medals: Gold-5, Silver-3, Bronze-1
• Illinois – 9 Medals: Gold-3, Silver-5, Bronze-1
• New Mexico – 8 Medals: Gold-5, Silver-1, Bronze-2
• Virginia – 7 Medals: Gold-2, Silver-3, Bronze-2
• Montana – 6 Medals: Gold-3, Silver-2, Bronze-1

That’s right, of the 271 medals issued at GABF this year, 39% went to the top three winningest states. California alone scooped up 17% of the awards, which is nothing new to those of you following GABF for a while now. Fortunately, Illinois made it into the Top 10 States without breaking a sweat by placing #7 with 9 medals. That’s a win for Illinois by most objective standards, but Christ on a crutch—California? 46 medals? Really?

Granted, not all parts of the United States are equal when it comes to craft beer. Some states have been in the game longer than others. Some contend with state laws that are hostile to producers of alcoholic beverages by design, to discourage brewers, wineries, and distillers from spreading their devil firewater among the pious citizens of the land. But almost half of the awards going to the top three winning states at GABF is a disparity of Olympic proportions. What exactly is going on here?

To a certain extent, the obvious is going on. As Brewers Association Chief Economist Bart Watson notes in his article “GABF Medal Winners Analyzed”, states like California and Colorado succeed at GABF because their brewing communities submit the greatest number of total entries among all states, often in categories with traditionally smaller numbers of entrants. Where the race for Best Gluten-Free fielded a grand total of only 20 entrants to claim three medals, American Style India Pale Ale boasted 279 entrants battling for the bronze, silver, and gold. In short, states with more breweries sending more beers to the less congested races in style receive more medals in the end.

It is difficult to overestimate California’s craft brewing dominance, even beyond the halls of the GABF. The Golden State anchors the beer aisles of most liquor stores as well as taps at bars serving craft beer across the entire nation. According to Watson, California contributed approximately 19% of the 15.6 million barrels of beer produced by craft brewers in the United States in 2013. He estimates that a similar percentage of beer finds its way onto store shelves nationwide. The accuracy of his estimate is supported locally by Ken Habenicht, a beer buyer for Binny’s Buffalo Grove, IL location, who reports that California beers occupy approximately 15-20% of the shelf space in his craft beer aisle.

By comparison, the vast majority of Illinois’s craft brewers only produce enough beer to serve markets local to the breweries themselves and, sometimes, the Chicago metro area. The lack of production impacts Illinois’s footprint on the national craft beer scene, as well as the competitive market forces that shape beer in subtle ways on the national stage. “Illinois is thirsty for local product,” said Larry Bloom, owner and brewer of ZümBier in Waukegan, IL. “Our nanobreweries are so small that they have to focus on serving the immediate area first.” If Illinois brewers face challenges making enough beer to serve the Chicago metro area, you can bet that Illinois beers on the whole are relative unknowns to the rest of the country’s craft beer drinkers. “We won’t cross the Illinois borders with our beer anytime soon,” said Bloom, “but new capacity is coming on every day.”

Larry and company at GABFPhoto taken by Talea Bloom: On left, ZümBier owner & Brewer, Larry Bloom celebrating with volunteer pourers.

There are reasons why California beer is everywhere already. First and foremost, the state produces a lot of really good beer. According to the Brewers’ Association website, California ranked #1 in both number of craft breweries in the US with 381 and production in barrels per year at 2,948,895 in 2013. By comparison, Illinois ranked 11th in number of craft breweries with 83 and a paltry 22nd in production at 136,999 barrels per year. With California producing that much beer and that many producers throwing darts at the GABF medals dart board, you’re naturally going to get more hits with the medals. You’re probably going to have more hits among craft beer drinkers at large as well.

The fact that Illinois’s GABF performance surpassed other regional craft brewing powerhouses such as Michigan (5th in number of breweries), Ohio (4th in annual beer production), and Wisconsin (10th in number of breweries and 9th in production) in spite of its lagging national distribution presence is impressive, but makes even more murky the question of why such huge disparities among the states persist. How is craft brewing in the US growing not only in terms of new breweries and increased production, but as regional centers of brewing excellence and stylistic distinctiveness? What is driving growth in the aesthetics of beer?

Population can help determine the strength of a state’s brewing culture, but does not correlate perfectly with success at GABF or the craft beer world in general. Compare the list of Top Ten States by Population as of the 2000 census with the Top Ten 2014 GABF most winning states:

Top 10 US States by Population (2000 census) vs. Top Ten States in Medals at GABF 2014

1. California 37,253,956 1. California – 46 Medals
2. Texas 25,145,561 2. Colorado – 39 Medals
3. New York 19,378,102 3. Oregon – 22 Medals
4. Florida 18,801,310 4. Texas – 16 Medals
5. Illinois 12,830,632 5. Pennsylvania – 12 Medals
6. Pennsylvania 12,702,379 6. Washington – 9 Medals
7. Ohio 11,536,504 7. Illinois – 9 Medals
8. Michigan 9,883,640 8. New Mexico – 8 Medals
9. Georgia 9,687,653 9. Virginia – 7 Medals
10. North Carolina 9,535,483 10. Montana – 6 Medals

Only four states appear on both lists, and only California manages to show up at the same ranking on each. Colorado serves as the other untouchable brewing powerhouse with well-balanced strengths in both number of breweries (4th) and beer production (3rd), but with a population ranked 22nd in the nation at 5,029,196, it is difficult to credit the size of a state’s population as an indicator of craft brewing success. Is the secret to dominance statistical? Intangible? Historical? Geographical? Political? A formula brewed from all of the above?

Maybe the only real way to know is by heading out to Denver to find an answer in the sampling booths at the Great American Beer Festival itself. There are worse ways to seek wisdom. For the sake of science, I am willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and find out.

Below are the 2014 GABF results for each state, broken down by region as they were grouped at the festival. You can find a comprehensive list of medalists by style at the Great American Beer Festival’s website. Cheers!

2014 GABF Medals by State and Region

Note: Each state is followed by the total number of medals won, then the total number of each type of medal won (G-Gold, S-Silver, B-Bronze). Each type of medal was assigned a point value (G-3 points, S-2 points, B- 1 point), which were then tallied at the end of each entry, with the total appearing in parenthesis.

New England Region
Number of States: 6

Connecticut – 0
Maine – 1: S-1 (2)
Massachusetts – 3: G-2, B-1 (7)
New Hampshire – 0
Rhode Island – 0
Vermont – 2: G-1, S-1 (5)

Totals: 6: G-3, S-2, B-1 (14)

Mid-Atlantic Region
Number of States: 8

Delaware – 3: S-3 (6)
District of Columbia – 1: S-1 (2)
Maryland – 5: G-1, S-2, B-2 (9)
New Jersey – 3: G-2, S-1 (8)
New York – 4: G-1, S-3 (9)
Pennsylvania – 12: G-5, S-2, B-5 (24)
Virginia – 7: G-2, S-3, B-2 (14)
West Virginia – 0

Totals – 35: G-11, S-15, B-9 (72)

Southeast Region
Number of States: 10

Alabama – 0 SE
Arkansas – 0 SE
Florida – 3: G-1, B-2 (5) SE
Georgia – 3: G-1, B-2 (5) SE
Kentucky – 1: B-1 (1) SE
Louisiana – 1: B-1 (1) SE
Mississippi – 0 SE
North Carolina – 6: G-3, S-2, B-1 (14) SE
South Carolina – 1: B-1 (1) SE
Tennessee – 3: G-1, B-2 (5) SE

Totals – 18: G-6, S-2, B-10 (32)

Great Lakes Region
Number of States: 6

Illinois – 9: G-3, S-5, B-1 (20)
Indiana – 4: G-2, S-2 (10)
Michigan – 6: G-1, S-3, B-2 (11)
Minnesota – 6: G-2, S-1, B-3 (11)
Ohio – 5: G-2, S-1, B-2 (10)
Wisconsin – 7: G-2, S-1, B-4 (12)

Totals – 37: G-12, S-13, B-12 (74)

Midwest Region
Number of States: 7

Iowa – 2: G-2 (6)
Kansas – 1: G-1 (3)
Missouri – 4: G-1, S-1, B-2 (7)
Nebraska – 0
North Dakota – 0
Oklahoma – 0
South Dakota – 0

Totals – 7: G-4, S-1, B-2 (16)

Southwest Region
Number of States: 3

Arizona – 1: B-1 (1) SW
New Mexico – 8: G-5, S-1, B-2 (19) SW
Texas – 16: G-6, S-5, B-5 (33) SW

Totals – 25: G-11, S-6, B-8 (53)

Mountain Region
Number of States: 6

Colorado – 39: G-10, S-18, B-11 (77) Mountain
Idaho – 3: S-1, B-2 (4) Mountain
Montana – 6: G-3, S-2, B-1 (14) Mountain
Nevada – 3: G-1, B-2 (5) Mountain
Utah – 5: G-1, S-2, B-2 (9) Mountain
Wyoming – 4: S-3, B-1 (7) Mountain

Totals – 60: G-15, S-26, B-19 (116)

Pacific Northwest Region
Number of States: 3

Alaska – 2: B-2 (2) PNW
Oregon – 22: G-7, S-8, B-7 (44) PNW
Washington – 9: G-5, S-3, B-1 (22) PNW

Totals – 33: G-12, S-11, B-10 (68)

Pacific Region
Number of States: 2

California – 46: G-15, S-13, B-18 (89) Pacific
Hawaii – 1: B-1 (1) Pacific

Totals – 47: G-15, S-13, B-19 (90)

Dan Berger has been been writing about science fiction and fantasy media for ten years, but drinking beer for at least twenty. Writing about beer and brewing culture was the logical next step. Dan still gets his fix of dragons and giant killer robots at foesofreality.com. You can read more of his ramblings about liquid bread at podcaskconditioned.com.

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Whatcha Drinking? Episode 68

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy another style of beer. This week’s episode theme was ANY style of beer over 10%ABV.

Cheers

 

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Whatcha Drinking? Episode 67

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy another style of beer. This week’s episode theme was New York beers.

Cheers!

 

Whatcha Drinking? Episode 66

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy another style of beer. This week’s episode was Cream Ales.

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Whatcha Drinking? Episode 65

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy another style of beer. This week’s episode was barrel-aged beers.

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Whatcha Drinking? Episode 64

Thanks for watching this week’s episode. Mike and the guys enjoy another style of beer. This week’s episode was Ryes.

Cheers!

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