Brew Dude: How the GABF awards shook out

September 30, 2018

I don’t want to overstate how important or shocking Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony was this year, but I was blown away with how things shook out.

First things first though, congratulations to the fine people over at Alarmist Brewing for winning gold in the brand new Category 63 — Hazy or Juicy India Pale Ale category, the first year of the award with the single most entries in the history of GABF, with its stellar beer Le Jus. Just as surprising as Alarmist taking gold in Hazy IPA, was Eris Brewery and Cidery taking Bronze in the same category with Foiken Haze.

Derek Yarno, of Kankakee, and I made the journey up to these two breweries that will feature together as a brewery crawl article because they are only a few blocks apart on the Northwest side of Chicago. But let this ring out for itself, Chicago took Gold and Bronze in the most competitive category in the country at the most heated beer competition in the country.

There is a huge debate among the haze-crazed young craft beer drinkers that basically if you don’t pay $50 for a 4-pack of something out of state, then you aren’t drinking the right beers. I think this officially puts this myth to rest forever in my mind.

You can get Alarmist’s Le Jus in 16-ounce, 4-packs for $13.99, usually from Binny’s Beverage Depot on the shelf regularly. After the momentum of GABF medal hype dies down, this beer is an accessible and fairly cheap Gold Medal winning beer.

Alarmist Brewing and Eris Brewery and Cidery are great craft beer outfits without a doubt. Eris has not been open all that long maybe even less than a calendar year. Alarmist also is a fairly new brewery that opened their taproom fairly recently as well.

I think what surprised me the most is that there are breweries across the country that when they release beer, people flock to it and pay exorbitant amounts to get their hands on these beers. I’m thinking here of breweries like Tree House Brewing of Massachusetts or Monkish Brewing from California where the only way to get these beers even in their own market is to go to their taprooms.

The way these beers end up in the Midwest is through a convoluted system of beer trading. The fact that I have had any of these beers is that people went through a lot of trouble and money to get it to me. I will be on the lookout for when Le Jus makes it to shelves again, and I will drive up to Binny’s or The Open Bottle in Tinley Park or Crafted Bottle Shop and Taproom in Mokena and buy a 4-pack for a decent price.

What a competition like GABF does though is that it puts a quantifiable data point into people’s minds that there is a way to say which beer is better than which as far as you can trust these metrics, and this year down-to-earth reality won the day. Congrats to Alarmist Brewing and Eris Brewery and Cidery for your jaw-droppingly wins for great beers. I will get that brewery crawl article up as soon as I can.

Now, onto the other medals. Illinois took home 12 medals this year over a number of categories. The next most exciting win that I did not want to frame as surprising was Corridor Brewery and Provisions took home Silver in Category 65 “Hazy or Juicy Double IPA” for their DDH Double IPA.

Corridor doesn’t distribute outside of their brewpub on the North Side, but I have had the pleasure of getting some of their cans thanks to sweet people like Eileen Garrity, their PR maven. Corridor also won for Gold Medal in the Other Belgian Style for Pour le Mineur.

Corridor Brewery and Provisions is a sister brewery to DryHop Brewers also a taproom only outfit just a neighborhood apart. DryHop was originally meant to be a more hop-forward brewery, and Corridor was meant to focus on the Belgian side of things with saisons and mixed fermentation beers.

Here are the other awards with some brief commentary:

The fun folks over at Maplewood Brewing, of Chicago, medaled again for Charlatan APA which is rock-solid beer. This is the second Bronze medal for Charlatan which proves it wasn’t a fluke. I personally love this beer and should buy it more often.Midnight Pig Beer won Gold for Barley Wine-Style Ale with their Chicago Overcoat. Barley Wine is one of the most overlooked category, the sort of ‘always a bridesmaid’ sort of category the more hyped Imperial Stout. Midnight Pig (Nevin’s, of Plainfield) won bronze in 2015 for their Doppelbock — Apocalyptinator, and took Gold this year at World Beer Cup for Hook and Hatchet Vienna Lager.Werk Force Brewing, also of Plainfield, took Bronze for their Double Hoppy Red Ale, Bad Polaroid. I have featured Werk Force in the column before because of their homebrew shop and excellent beers. I am putting together a contest on the Daily Journal website to vote to see which breweries to visit in the Joliet-area. Werk Force and Midnight Pig are both on that list.The Smylie Brothers Brewing Company won Silver again for Purple Line Fruit Wheat Beer. They won Silver for the same beer last year, and took bronze for Purple Line in 2015 as well. That makes Purple Line one of the most GABF award winning beers in Chicago.Tightheads Brewing, of Mundelein, took home gold for their Scarlet Fire for the Irish Red category. I have heard great things about Tighthead Brewing, and I have had this beer before out of their exceptional label art cans.I recently featured Argus Brewing, of Pullman, in the column for their Argotoberfest party this past weekend. Just before Derek Yarno, of Kankakee, and I got to the fest, we found out that they had just won Gold for their Doppel Alt, Golden Prairie.

They were serving all of their other beers in half and full pours into the liter steins but the Golden Prairie was only available in sample pours. It’s a great beer and the only doppel alt I have ever had. Argus Brewing making noise again on the South Side.

The last award to mention here is Revolution’s bronze medal for their bourbon barrel aged Barley Wine Straight Jacket. Again, the Barley Wine is an often overlooked beer style especially when compared to the Imperial Stout.

Revolution releases its deep woods series beers every year, and Straight Jacket is one of them along with Deth’s Tar the flagship Imperial Stout. They are both very exceptional beers.

Illinois has made a resurgence in award-winning beers over the past couple of years averaging about 10 medals are from 2016 to now. Illinois craft beer has got to be a contender for the best craft beer state in the country.

Le Jus from Alarmist Brewing

ABV: 5.8%

IBUs: 30

Style: New England IPA (on Untappd)

Notes: “2018 GABF Gold Medal Winner — Juicy/Hazy IPA. New England-style juice bomb. Mosaic and Citra hops and a bit of lactose” According to the brewery’s updated details section on Untappd. Cheers!

Where to Buy: As of the writing of this column, no one has any of this beer but the brewery is trying to get some back on the market soon. Usually you can find this beer at Binny’s in Orland Park in 16 oz 4 pack cans for $13.99.

Charlatan from Maplewood Brewing

ABV: 6.1%

IBUs: 35

Style: American Pale Ale

Notes: “Fresh cut citrus. Aromatic. Clean. A unique American Pale Ale with English malt character. -2016 [and I might add here 2018] GABF medal winner in the American Pale Ale category” according to the brewery’s Untappd Details section with my own addition laid in there.

Where to Buy: You can find this one reliably at The Open Bottle in Tinley Park in beautiful 16 oz 4 pack of cans for $9.99.

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