Oregon Nabs 17 Medals at America’s Most Prestigious Beer Festival

Bend's Sunriver and Breakside lead Beaver State contingent in Denver.

(DENVER) The Great American Beer Festival just wrapped up in Colorado, and Oregon had itself a day. Oregon breweries won 17 medals, seven of which were golds.

In addition to being the country's largest festival—it takes over about 13 acres of concrete inside the massive Colorado Convention Center—it's also home to the nation's largest and most prestigious beer festival, which draws 7,923 entries in 99 categories.

Oregon breweries again did very well in those awards, led by strong showings from Portland's Breakside, which won more medals than any other brewery in 2017. Breakside's three locations took home four medals. Breakside IPA also won Bronze in American IPA, whose 408 entries made it the largest category in any beer competition ever held. Breakside also took gold in the category 2014. This year's third-place finish makes it the only repeat medal winner in the American IPA category in the last five years.

The other big showing came from Bend's Sunriver, which we took notice of in our best-selling Beer Guide a few years ago, and which has since gone on a huge run, winning big medals at a number of beer festivals. Sunriver won Small Brewing Company of the Year and took two gold medals, tied for the most in the competition.

Oregon breweries fared very well in the highly competitive pilsner categories. Portland's Zoiglhaus won gold in the German-Style Pilsener category (145 entries), and Oregon breweries also picked up two medals among American- and International-style Pilseners (98 entries), with a silver for Full Sail's Sesión Cerveza and a bronze for the Lemon Pils from Eugene's Elk Horn Brewery.

Awards were presented in a capacity conference room—for some reason the organizers moved this year's awards show out of the larger and posher theater, something I'll be following up on later this week—with IPA coming last.

This year's medal count is a slight drop-off from last year, when Oregon had a 21-medal showing. It's still impressive compared to almost every other state—California, of course, leads the pack and Colorado came in second, as it typically does.

I'll have more thoughts soon, but a few other things worth mentioning:

  • Portland’s Great Notion had perhaps the longest lines on the entire floor at the three sessions I attended, with a snaking line of people that you see at only a handful of places, such as California’s Russian River, Iowa’s Toppling Goliath and Florida’s Cigar City.
  • The IPA that won gold, Hailstorm Brewing’s Prairie Madness, was not great. The small Chicagoland brewery’s hoppy flagship is an old-school version of the style with an amber color and a hoppiness that comes on hard and then fades into softness. I can understand how that softness, which is almost cleansing, stood out from a field of 400 but the judges got this one wrong. The beer had middling reviews on beer sites and I think those random users are right here—this is a fluke.
  • The Ohio branch of Fathead’s also won two medals, for Alpenglow and Midnight Moonlight. Both beers are also made in Portland.
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Here are all the medals Oregon won:

Category 1: American-Style Wheat Beer – 39 Entries
Gold: Sweet As Pacific Ale, GoodLife Brewing Co., Bend, OR

Category 2: American-Style Wheat Beer With Yeast – 52 Entries
Gold: Fuzztail, Sunriver Brewing, Sunriver, OR

Category 5: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer – 58 Entries
Silver: ZuurPruim, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Hood River, OR

Category 14: Rye Beer – 49 Entries
Bronze: Breakside Rye Curious?, Breakside Brewery, Portland, OR

Category 16: Session Beer – 40 Entries
Bronze: Stonefly Session Ale, Three Creeks Brewing Co., Sisters, OR

Category 22: Gluten-Free Beer – 33 Entries
Gold: Dark Ale, Ground Breaker Brewing, Portland, OR

Category 24: American-Style Sour Ale – 35 Entries
Gold: DAM Wild: Hops and Lemon Verbena, Flat Tail Brewing Co., Corvallis, OR

Category 25: Fruited American-Style Sour Ale – 105 Entries
Bronze: Breakside Passionfruit Sour Ale, Breakside Brewery & Taproom, Milwaukie, OR

Category 26: Brett Beer – 71 Entries
Bronze: Touch of Brett Mosaic, Alesong Brewing & Blending, Eugene, OR

Category 36: American-Style Pilsener or International-Style Pilsener – 98 Entries
Silver: Sesión Cerveza, Full Sail Brewing Co., Hood River, OR
Bronze: Lemon Pils, Elk Horn Brewery, Eugene, OR

Category 41: German-Style Pilsener – 145 Entries
Gold: Zoigl-Pils, Zoiglhaus Brewing Co., Portland, OR

Category 59: American-Style Strong Pale Ale – 182 Entries
Bronze: Breakside Stay West, Breakside Brewery + Beer Hall, Portland, OR

Category 60: American-Style India Pale Ale – 408 Entries
Bronze: Breakside IPA, Breakside Brewery & Taproom, Milwaukie, OR

Category 63: Double Red Ale – 72 Entries
Silver: St. James, Coldfire Brewing, Eugene, OR

Category 64: Imperial Red Ale – 41 Entries
Gold: Cinder Beast, Sunriver Brewing, Sunriver, OR

Category 81: Specialty Saison – 81 Entries
Gold: Rye Saison, Base Camp Brewing Co., Portland, OR

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