How did our area do at this year’s Great American Beer Festival? We’ll get to that. But first, a brief word on how the festival judging works.

1) The beers entered must be brewed to style. Stone Brewing, for example, did not win any medals in part because they choose to not brew according to style guidelines. Mitch Steele, yes that his real name, is a Stone brewer and has an excellent take on the festival.

2) Entering the GABF competition is not cheap. Five beers will set Brewers’ Association members back $675, and $890 for non-members.

3) Entering the GABF is first come, first served. Once the venue reaches capacity, that’s it. This was the subject of some controversy earlier in the year as many breweries were shut out, though then some were later admitted.


Maryland earned one medal, for Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest [UPDATE: Gordon Biersch Rockville also won silver for its Czech Pils]. In fact, that category, German-Style Marzen, featured a clean-sweep by area brewers, with gold going to Lost Rhino’s Rhinofest (is there a correlation between naming Marzen’s after animals and medalling?) and Great American Restaurants’ Centreville location taking silver. Nicely done.

The State of Virginia was a big winner, with most of the spoils going to the apostrophe-challenged Devils Backbone Brewing Company (nine medals, eight for beer and one for Small Brewing Company and Brewer of the Year) and locals Port City Brewing Company did the DMV proud with four medals, including a gold for Optimal Wit, a silver for Oktoberfest, and two bronzes for the draft-only Colossal One and Two.

Alas, 3 Stars, Capitol City, and Mad Fox entered, but did not place.

A complete list of area winners is below.

Aged Beer, 31 Entries

Bronze: COLOSSAL ONE, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Smoke Beer, 79 Entries

Bronze: COLOSSAL TWO, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

American-Style or International-Style Pilsener, 29 Entries

Silver: Czech Pilsner, Gordon Biersch – Rockville, MD

Bohemian-Style Pilsener, 53 Entries

Silver: Gold Leaf Lager, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Vienna-Style Lager, 30 Entries

Silver: Oktoberfest, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA


German-Style Marzen, 51 Entries

Gold: Rhinofest, Lost Rhino Brewing Co., Ashburn, VA

Silver: Octoberfest, Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA

Bronze: Dogtoberfest, Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD

American-Style Dark Lager, 22 Entries

Gold: Old Virginia Dark, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Baltic-Style Porter, 16 Entries

Bronze: Danzig, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

English-Style Mild Ale, 35 Entries

Bronze: Ale of Fergus, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

German-Style Sour Ale, 46 Entries

Silver: Berliner Metro Weiss, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. – Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Belgian-Style Witbier, 66 Entries

Gold: Optimal Wit, Port City Brewing Co., Alexandria, VA

Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer, 49 Entries

Bronze: Rum Barrel-Aged Belgian Dubble, Three Brothers Brewing Co., Harrisonburg, VA

So how did the 2013 medal haul stack up against last year’s?  It was a mixed bag.  Awards declined for both DC (1 to 0), Maryland [UPDATE] held level (at 2), but Virginia took home one more than last year (12 to 13).  That means that the DC-MD-VA area took home the same number [UPDATED] of medals in 2013 and 2012.

Similarly, the number of winning breweries in the greater DC area held, at eight.  Plust it was encouraging to see a number of new breweries take home some hardware: newcomers like Lost Rhino, Three Brothers, and Smartmouth, out of Norfolk, made a splash with their wins, while the venerable Flying Dog cemented its reputation.

This year’s medal distribution skewed a bit more toward the bronze end, as well, but given the increased competition – the number of beers judged increased 12% year-on-year – the region really held its own.  

Two breweries really stood out in the 2013 competition: Devils Backbone (which we treated as one entity, even though the Basecamp and Outpost submitted entries separately) and Port City.  Its two golds, two silvers, and a bronze put it into the competition’s upper echelon, despite falling a bit short of last year’s four golds, two silvers, and two bronzes.  Even so, DB Basecamp was voted the Best Small Brewery of 2013; last year, it was named the Best Small Brewpub.  Category change aside, that’s something to hang your hat on.


And then there’s Port City, which undoubtedly gained ground.  Compared to 2012’s bronze in English IPA, this year’s gold, silver, and two bronzes represent major ground gained.  When I caught co-founder Bill Butcher after the win, he said they’d have to rejigger their production schedule to meet the anticipated demand for their award-winning beers – and yet again get more tanks.

All in all, 2013 was a good showing for the DC region.  And with so many breweries stepping up their game and others due to come online soon, so does 2014.

Check back for further updates on this year’s GABF.

By Jacob Berg and Chris Van Orden