Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Easy Money

The big dance in Denver is done, and the winners have been announced.

If I were a betting man—which I’m not, but let’s say I was—which brewery would I bet on as almost a guarantee to medal at the Great American Beer Festival next year? For this exercise the number of medals received is irrelevant, just as long as a gold, silver or bronze is awarded. So, which brewery has consistently medaled over the lifetime of the the festival. 

Since I’m not a betting man, I’m not going to bet on the jockey with the prettiest silks, if I’m going put down the coin I want a nearly guaranteed, positive outcome, in my favor. 

So who’s it most likely gonna be? Is it an up-and-comer on the cutting edge of “craft” like Lawson’s Finest Liquids? Nope. Not even close. How about venerable favorites like Founder’s, Firestone Walker or Dogfish Head? Nuh-uh. What about big craft? Your odds are getting better, but no.

The easy money bet is Alaskan Brewing Company.

Alaskan has medaled 25 times out of 28 showings since official judging started at the GABF in 1987. That’s an almost 90% success rate. If you want a nearly guaranteed win, bet on Alaskan. 

Buuuuuut, there is a a slight hiccup. 

Although official judging (that is to say standardized, panel judging) began in 1987, the festival held a “Consumer Preference Poll” from it’s beginning in 1983 until the poll was eliminated in 1988, ushering in the “modern” era at the festival. During the “unofficial” era, Boston Beer Company took home poll medals in 1985 and 1986. Those two extra medals tie Boston Beer with Alaskan over the full 32 year run of the GABF, however in the “modern” era of the GABF (from 1987 to 2014) Boston Beer trails Alaskan 23 to 25 in the medal count.

All said and done, your best bets for next year—literally—are Alaskan first, Boston Beer second—and coming in to show—Sierra Nevada, with 22 total appearances.

So what does all this mean? Not much to me, because I still think beer judging is dopey.

Editor's Note: Only six of the breweries—Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, Snake River, Alaskan, Widmer and Capital—who medaled between 1983 and 1987, also medaled in 2014. Of those six, Sierra Nevada is the only one to have medaled in both the first festival and this past festival.

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