Ohio Breweries Take Home 10 medals from the 2022 GABF

The results of the 2022 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition were announced yesterday. A total of 9904 beers were entered, up slightly from the 9680 beers entered in 2021. (With an entry fee of $165 per beer (for BA members) that’s nearly $1.6 million in entry fees alone.) A total of 300 medals were given out, spread across 98 style categories plus the pro-am and collaboration categories. Ohio breweries received 10 medals of those 300 medals, down from 13 last year, but equal to their average medal haul over the past 10 years. The medal-winning Ohio beers are as follows:

Gold Medal

  • Fat Head’s (North Olmstead) Alpenglow – German Wheat Ale (209 entries)
  • Big Ash (Cincinnati) Symphony – Vienna Lager (119 entries)
  • Samuel Adams/Boston Beer Co (Cincinnati) Just the Haze – Non Alcohol Beer (67 entries)
  • MadTree (Cincinnati) Happy Amber – ESB (65 entries)
  • Little Fish (Athens) Apple Brandy Barrel Maker of Things – Wood & Barrel Aged Sour Beer (34 entries)

Silver Medal

  • Platform (Cleveland) for New Cleveland – International Style Pale Ale (136 entries)
  • Platform (Cleveland) for Second Hand Lions – Belgian Fruit Beer (86 entries)
  • Sonder (Mason) for Kato – Coffee Beer (84 entries)
  • Brink (Cincinnati) for Zoomie – Coffee Stout or Porter (76 entries)

Bronze Medal

  • Fat Head’s (Middleburg Heights) for Bone Head – Strong Red Ale (54 entries)

To no one’s surprise Fat Head’s returned to the podium after missing out on the medals last year for the first time since coming on the scene in 2009. The only other Ohio brewery to receive multiple medals was Platform Brewing, earning the silver medal in both the International Style Pale Ale and Belgian Fruit Beer categories. Platform’s only previous GABF medal came back in 2015, a gold medal in the historical beer category for Black Eagle Gratzer.

Five different Cincinnati-area breweries were recognized – Brink, Sonder, MadTree, Big Ash, and Samuel Adams/Boston Beer Co. Brink now has a medal winning streak that dates back to 2017, the longest current streak in Ohio. The gold in the Vienna Lager category was the first GABF medal for Big Ash Brewing, which recently turned 3 years old. MadTree’s Happy Amber now has two gold medals on its resume, repeating it’s 2018 triumph in the ESB category.

Little Fish Brewing in Athens continued their streak of winning hardware in a barrel aged category in even numbered years. This year’s gold medal for Brandy Barrel Aged Maker of Things (their distinctive foeder aged Flanders Red) is one place higher on the podium than the 2020 silver medal for Cleft, and two places higher than their 2018 World Beer Cup medal for Petit Poisson. Add a gold medal at the 2016 World Beer Cup for Barrel Aged Woodthrush in the Belgian and French-Style Ale category and you start to get the impression that these guys know what they are doing when it comes to barrel-aged sour beer.

Unfortunately Central Ohio breweries came up empty at this year’s competition.

Alpenglow’s win in the highly competitive German Wheat Ale category means that it now has an impressive four gold medals (2022, 2017, 2016, 2014), and one silver (2012) at the GABF. However, prior to 2020 the beers in this category were split over two categories, the larger South German Style Hefeweizen and the smaller German Wheat Ale, a category that covered non-hefeweizen beers like weizenbock, crystalweizen, etc. So the earlier medals for Fat Head’s Weizenbock came in a category with far fewer entries: 41 in 2017 vs 209 in 2022. The win also continues northern Ohio’s improbable dominance in the German Wheat Ale category. JAFB Hefeweizen won gold in 2021, Fat Head’s Goggle Fogger won gold in 2020, and Market Garden Prosperity Wheat won gold in 2019 (in the South German Hefeweizen category). Throw in a gold for Goggle Fogger at the 2022 World Beer Cup held earlier this year and Ohio has dominated this category for the past four years.

The five most competitive categories were:

  • American Style India Pale Ale – 423 entries (Gold: Comrade Brewing, Denver, CO)
  • Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale – 375 entries (Gold: Flatland Brewing, Elk Grove, CA)
  • German Style Pilsener – 233 entries (Gold: Austin Beer Garden, Austin, TX)
  • German Wheat Ale – 209 entries (Gold: Fat Head’s, North Olmstead, OH)
  • German Style Maerzen – 207 entries (Gold: Mighty Squirrel Brewing, Waltham, MA)
  • German Style Kolsch – 195 entries (Gold: The Royal Oak Brewery, Royal Oak, MI)

It’s no surprise that IPAs are the most popular style categories, but the resurgence of German-style categories is a newer trend that does not appear to be slowing down. Maybe it’s the autumnal timing of the competition, but I wouldn’t have guessed that Maerzen would be the fifth most popular category (it only had 80 entries in 2021).

As is always the case, California breweries led the medal count with 76 medals, followed by Colorado (25), Texas (21). Washington (19) and Oregon (18). Other states that registered double digit medals were North Carolina (13), Florida (12), Illinois (10), and Ohio (10). Of the state medal counts, Texas made the biggest gains winning almost as many medals as they did 2021 (12) and 2020 (10) combined.

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