First annual Best of Craft Beer Awards

Best of Craft Beer AwardsThis past weekend I had the privilege to participate in judging for the first-ever Best of Craft Beer Awards, a new competition established here in Bend by Katie Barnett (married to GoodLife Brewing co-owner Ty Barnett) that will be an annual event. There was a good turnout for a first-year competition: some 400 entries from around the country, and while some categories had more beers entered than others (37 American-style IPAs versus only 1 Bohemian Pilsner for instance), I think generally it was a good cross-section of the craft beer world that will only get bigger.

I was assigned to judge Stouts, in six subcategories, which consisted of Sweet Stout, Dry Stout, Oatmeal Stout, Foreign Stout, American-style Stout, and Imperial Stout. The Imperial Stout was the big category for this group, 12 beers, and I have to say—this was my first time in a formal judging role and it was a challenge. Not as challenging, perhaps, as the group having to judge 37 American IPAs, and then 14 Imperial IPAs, but having to line up 12 Imperial Stouts for a blind tasting to try and as-objectively-as-possible narrow them down to the three best is no mean feat. But I learned a lot from the other judges and had a good time doing it.

The full list of awards is here; in the interests of disclosure, any category that has less than three winners means that those were the only entries in that category, and good or bad, the organizers wanted to have them awarded. (The assumption being, I believe, that there will be plenty more entries in each category in subsequent years.) For the winning stouts among those I judged:

Sweet Stout
Gold: The Dayton Beer Company – Mad River Milk Stout

Dry Stout
Gold: Breakside Brewery – Breakside Irish Stout
Silver: Public House Brewing Company – Revelations Stout
Bronze: Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company – Ramsey’s Draft Stout

Oatmeal Stout
Gold: Millstream Brewing Company – Back Road Stout

Foreign Extra Stout
Gold: Pelican Brewing Company – Tsunami Stout
Silver: Hopworks Urban Brewery – Organic Motherland Russian Imperial Stout
Bronze: Bootstrap Brewing – Worthog Stout

American Stout
Gold: Mother Road Brewing Company – Lost Highway
Silver: GoodLife Brewing Company – Pass Stout
Bronze: Calapooia Brewing Co. – Devil’s Hole Stout

Imperial Stout
Gold: Kulshan Brewing Co. – Reisterbrau Russian Imperial Stout
Silver: Bend Brewing Company – Big Bad Russian
Bronze: River North – Anniversary Ale #1

I had never heard of Kulshan Brewing before, but they make a great Imperial Stout. And really, it was a really good selection of beers that we judged—we had a difficult time choosing. All in all, a good experience, and a great new competition event I’d be pleased to participate in next year.

(And in the interest of full disclosure: meals were provided to judges, as well as overnight lodging—though I opted out of the lodging since I live in Bend. And after the competition the remaining beers (there were a lot) were freely available for folks to take home, so I grabbed a bunch.)


  1. I can imagine that it’d be quite a feat to judge all of these stouts, but what a cool opportunity to have. Were there any that surprised you after your judging was over?

  2. Well, the winners all surprised me (where we had more than 3 in a category) just because I had no idea what they were going in.

    In particular, though, I know there was 2013 Abyss in the mix (saw a bottle afterwards) and I’m surprised it didn’t win, but at the same time don’t know if it was in our top 5, or what.

    Another nice surprise is the number of winning beers (overall) from Devil’s Backbone Brewing, out of Virginia. Good validation for them after their 2012 GABF sweep.

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