Fat Head’s Beers Shines Despite GABF Snafu


DENVER — An Ohio brewer saw a brewery of the year award taken away due to a mistake by another entrant at this year’s Great American Beer Festival competition.

On the strength of winning three medals, Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon of North Olmsted initially was named the 30th competition’s Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year. Following the initial announcement, however, GABF staff discovered that Karl Strauss Brewing Co. had mistakenly registered as a mid-size brewpub; GABF competition guidelines classify the San Diego brewer as a production facility, placing it in the Mid-Size Brewing Company category. The results were recalculated, resulting in Karl Strauss’ three medals, two golds and a bronze, trumping Fat Head’s gold, silver and bronze to win Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year.

“All of us with the Great American Beer Festival and the Brewers Association deeply regret this error,” said the Brewers Association, GABF sponsor, in a statement. “Fat Head’s Brewery & Saloon, which had originally been identified as the Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year, had a very strong performance in the competition … . They were among the top medal-winning breweries in the 2016 competition.”

Despite the mix-up, Fat Head’s was one of only four breweries to win three or more medals, including a gold medal for its AlpenGlow in the German-style Wheat Ale category. Fat Head’s silver medal was for Black Muddy River in the Other Strong Beer category and the bronze went to IBUsive in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale group.

Ohio’s only other gold medal went to Millersburg Brewing’s Doc’s Scotch Ale in the Aged Beer category.

Another Fat Head’s location, in Middleburg Heights, won two medals: silver for Midnight Moonlight, an American-style black ale, and bronze for Hop JuJu Imperial IPA, which was the second most competitive category with 211 entries.

Two-year-old Maize Valley Craft Brewery in Hartville won a silver medal for Monk in Public in the Belgian-style Strong Specialty Ale category, while Going Plaid from Cincinnati’s Fifty West Brewing Co. took bronze among the Scotch ales.

“We couldn’t be happier about this win,” said Bobby Slattery, co-founder and director of Operations for Fifty West, which opened in 2012. “It just further proves that we have what it takes to be a world-renowned brewery.”

This year’s Great American Beer Festival competition featured a record 7,227 entries — up 9 percent from 2015 — from 1,752 breweries hailing from 50 states plus Washington, D.C. A panel of 264 judges from 12 countries awarded 286 medals in 96 beer style categories. Since 2002, the most-entered category has been American-Style India Pale Ale, which saw 312 entries this year compared to 336 entries in 2015.

In addition to Karl Strauss, other Brewery of the Year awards went to Brown Truck Brewery, High Point, N.C., Very Small Brewing Company; Uberbrew, Billings, Mont., Small Brewing Company; Pabst Brewing Co., Los Angeles, Large Brewing Company; ZwanzigZ Brewing, Columbus, Ind., Small Brewpub; Boxing Bear Brewing Co., Albuquerque, N.M., Mid-Size Brewpub; and The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Austin, Texas, Large Brewpub.