Earlier this week, MXSW reported four of our local craft breweries returned from the Great American Beer Festival with medals. This is a monumental moment for Arizona craft beer: Never have so many Arizona brewers returned from the GABF with honors in the same year.
For those not familiar with the festival, it’s a three-day event hosted by the Brewers Association of America. It is held in Denver and invites industry professionals to come together and – without knowing the brand names – taste and judge beers in different style categories.
With almost 4,000 beers entered in 83 categories this year, the competition was fierce. These awards are among the most coveted in the industry. So let’s introduce our winning breweries:
Barley Brothers Restaurant & Brewery
First on the list with a gold medal in the Chocolate Beer category is Barley Brothers from Lake Havasu City. Founded in 1997, Barley Brothers is a Lake Havasu staple and brews beers to accommodate every type of drinker. They beat back stiff competition from Samuel Adams to take the gold medal in difficult-to-judge category with 30-plus entries.
SanTan Brewing Co.
Second with a silver medal in Fruit Wheat Beers is SanTan’s Mr. Pineapple (pictured above). Founded in 2007 by Anthony Cannechia, SanTan has become the hub of historic downtown Chandler, attracting beer lovers from all over the state. I’m proud to say that I had a hand in making SanTan special and know this will be the first of many awards for Anthony. San Tan beat out almost 50 entrants, including Blue Moon.
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
Another silver – this one in the Field or Pumpkin Beer category – was won by BJ’s Pumpkin Ale. BJ’s is at Chandler Fashion Center and features as many as 10 of their own brews on tap. When reached for comment, Derrick ”Doc” Osborne, BJ’s regional brewmaster, gave credit to Jeff “Ginger” Huss and Steve Smith, brewers at the Chandler location. BJ’s held off two up-and-coming Colorado breweries in a category with almost 40 entries.
Four Peaks Brewing Co.
Last but not least, winning a bronze medal in American-Style Strong Pale Ale, is Four Peaks’ Hop Knot IPA. This beer is my favorite local brew. Located in Tempe, Four Peaks was founded in 1996 and has won several GABF medals over the years. Overcoming opposition from 102 other entries, Hop Knot competed in perhaps the toughest category in the competition.
As I have said it many times before, the East Valley is the next San Diego. Slowly but surely more local breweries are opening, and more local bars are carrying local beers. As the medals from GABF and other competitions continue to pour in, our little craft beer scene will grow and continue to thrive.
You can send comments or column ideas to England native James Swann, the beer buyer at Chandler’s Whole Foods, at firstname.lastname@example.org.