At this year's iteration of the country's most prestigious beer competition, there were no brewers posing for photos onstage with their shiny medals. There were no eager drinkers racing from booth to booth to sample the winning brews on the Colorado Convention Center floor following the ceremony.
Due to the pandemic, the only traveling to Denver for the 2020 Great American Beer Festival was done by the beers themselves—and perhaps a few judges.
Despite the challenges associated with holding a massive competition during a global health crisis, Oregon breweries had a stellar showing, matching their 2018 high of 22 medals.
In March, when much of the state went into lockdown, it seemed almost inevitable that the Brewers Association would call off the annual three-day fest that draws thousands of beer lovers to downtown Denver. The trade group that promotes independent craft breweries also hosts the Craft Brewers Conference and World Beer Cup, which was scheduled to take place at San Antonio, Texas, in April, and had already scrapped both of those events due to COVID-19.
Would-be GABF attendees knew their prospects looked bleak, but it wasn't as clear whether the association would find a way to go forward with the competition. Fortunately, the organization was able to safely assemble a group of more than 100 judges who tasted entries in more than 90 categories. The ceremony then streamed live on Friday, Oct. 16.
And Oregon came up big.
The state can now boast that it has the best specialty saison producers in the nation—local breweries swept that category, with Eugene's Alesong Brewing taking gold for its Farmhouse Cuvee; Coldfire Brewing, also of Eugene, earning silver for Seeds of Infinity; and Portland's Von Ebert Brewing snagging a bronze for Obeisance.
Another notable win was in the Mid-Size Brewpub and Mid-Size Brewpub Brewer of the Year, which went to Monkless Belgian Ales in Bend. The business has, over many years, become a favorite in Central Oregon for anyone hoping for a break from the region's well-known bold IPAs or classic offerings from the likes of Deschutes.
Founder Todd Clement started out as a homebrewer with a friend, both of whom felt like Bend was missing a Belgian-style producer, so they decided to fill that need and eventually went pro. Last year, Monkless expanded beyond its small tasting room by opening the Brasserie, a restaurant overlooking the Deschutes River and Old Mill District, elevating its profile in the Bend beer scene.
"We are so incredibly humbled that Monkless took home Best Mid-Size Brew Pub of the Year and a Gold Medal for Dubbel or Nothing at this year's Great American Beer Festival!" the business posted on its Facebook page. "Huge congratulations and thank you to everyone in the Monkless Family for their tireless hard work!"
Here is a complete list of Oregon and Southwest Washington winners:
American Pilsener: Old Town Brewing Pilsner, Portland (bronze)
American-Style Amber/Red Ale: Old Town Brewing Paulie's Not Irish, Portland (bronze)
American-Style India Pale Ale: Pelican Brewing Co. Updrift India Pale Ale, Tillamook (silver); Von Ebert Brewing Nothing Noble, Portland (bronze)
American-Style Strong Pale Ale: Grains of Wrath Brewing Built for Speed, Camas, Wash. (gold)
American-Style Wheat Beer: Wild Ride Brewing Whoopty Whoop Wheat, Redmond (gold); 10 Barrel Brewing Co. Bend Pub 10 Barrel TWheat, Bend (bronze)
Belgian-Style Abbey Ale: Monkless Belgian Ales Dubbel or Nothing, Bend (gold)
Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale: Block 15 Brewing Co. Peche, Corvallis (silver)
Bohemian-Style Pilsener: Ex Novo Brewing Co. Perle Haggard, Portland (gold)
Brett Beer: Alesong Brewing & Blending Touch of Brett, Eugene (gold)
Brown Porter: Three Creeks Brewing Co. FivePine Porter, Sisters (silver); Bend Brewing Co. Old Normal, Bend (bronze)
Extra Special Bitter: StormBreaker Brewing Extra Special StormBreaker, Portland (silver)
Fresh Hop Beer: Three Creeks Brewing Co. Conelick'r, Sisters (gold)
German-Style Koelsch: pFriem Family Brewers Kolsch, Hood River (gold)
German-Style Sour Ale: Breakside Brewery Breakside Gose, Portland (gold)
International Pilsener: pFriem Family Brewers Japanese Lager, Hood River (gold)
Mixed-Culture Brett Beer: Coldfire Brewing Wild James, Eugene (gold)
Pumpkin Beer: Rogue Ales & Spirits Pumpkin Patch Ale, Newport (bronze)
Specialty Saison: Alesong Brewing & Blending Farmhouse Cuvee, Eugene (gold); Coldfire Brewing Seeds of Infinity, Eugene (silver); Von Ebert Brewing Glendoveer Obeisance, Portland (bronze)
Brewery Group of the Year: Three Creeks Brewing Co. Team Three Creeks, Sisters
Mid-Size Brewpub and Mid-Size Brewpub Brewer of the Year: Monkless Belgian Ales Todd Clement and Chris Dinsdale, Bend