There are those in the industry that prefer the experienced taste buds of the Great American Beer Festival tasters, and there are those that think the masses should have the final say. Sales means really that the second has to be true, but there's still the matter of winning awards.
So let's put the people up against the awards. There were 273 winners, so we just took a sample of 30 in popular styles. Here are the Style+, Beers Above Replacement, and Untappd stars for the medal winners in ten of our most popular styles.
|Gold||Revolver IPA||BNS Brewing & Distilling Co.||CA||American-Style India Pale Ale||-0.1||96||3.57|
|Silver||Pernicious IPA||Wicked Weed Brewing - Candler||NC||American-Style India Pale Ale||N/A||N/A||4.09|
|Bronze||White Rajah||The Brew Kettle Taproom and Smokehouse||OH||American-Style India Pale Ale||9.3||116||4.05|
|Gold||Monterey St. Pale Ale||Central Coast Brewing Co.||CA||American-Style Pale Ale||N/A||N/A||4.00|
|Silver||Hoppy Palm||Track 7 Brewing Co. - Natomas||CA||American-Style Pale Ale||2.6||108||3.73|
|Bronze||Featherweight Pale Ale||Cannonball Creek Brewing Co.||CO||American-Style Pale Ale||1.5||104||3.75|
|Gold||Savant Blanc||Perennial Artisan Ales||MO||American-Style Sour Ale||3.4||103||4.24|
|Silver||Ensorcelled||The Rare Barrel||CA||American-Style Sour Ale||N/A||N/A||4.39|
|Bronze||Apropos of Nothing||The Rare Barrel||CA||American-Style Sour Ale||3.7||106||4.21|
|Gold||Turbulent Consequence, Peche||Block 15||OR||Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale||4.5||109||4.28|
|Silver||Feral One||Firestone Walker Barrelworks||CA||Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale||6.6||111||4.30|
|Bronze||Viejo Rojo||Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. - Truckee||CA||Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale||0.7||97||3.99|
|Gold||Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout||New English Brewing Co.||CA||Coffee Beer||3.6||107||3.97|
|Silver||Mocha Machine||Beachwood BBQ & Brewing||CA||Coffee Beer||5.8||110||4.26|
|Bronze||Bacon and Eggs||Pizza Port Ocean Beach||CA||Coffee Beer||3.6||106||4.17|
|Gold||Pivo||Firestone Walker Brewing Co.||CA||German-Style Pilsener||5.5||111||3.49|
|Silver||Pilsner||pFriem Family Brewers||OR||German-Style Pilsener||3.0||109||3.58|
|Bronze||Pilsner||Dry Dock Brewing Co.||CO||German-Style Pilsener||N/A||N/A||3.46|
|Gold||Hop JuJu Imperial IPA||Fat Head's Brewery||OH||Imperial India Pale Ale||9.3||113||4.33|
|Silver||Eazy Duz It IIPA||Laurelwood Public House and Brewery||OR||Imperial India Pale Ale||N/A||N/A||3.86|
|Bronze||Teahupo'o||Breakwater Brewing Co.||CA||Imperial India Pale Ale||N/A||N/A||3.88|
|Gold||Double Negative||Grimm Artisanal Ales||NY||Imperial Stout||1.1||99||4.01|
|Silver||Russian Imperial Stout||Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant - Lancaster||PA||Imperial Stout||0.8||99||3.98|
|Bronze||The Miller's Toll||Raleigh Brewing Co.||NC||Imperial Stout||1.0||100||3.92|
|Gold||BJ's LightSwitch Lager||BJ's Restaurant & Brewery - Temple||TX||Session Beer||1.1||98||2.92|
|Silver||MCA||21st Amendment Brewery Cafe||CA||Session Beer||1.7||103||N/A|
|Bronze||Guillaume||Pizza Port Ocean Beach||CA||Session Beer||N/A||N/A||3.57|
|Gold||Ctayt||AC Golden Brewing Co.||CO||Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout||2.0||103||4.15|
|Silver||Sherry Ink||Rhinegeist Brewing||OH||Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout||N/A||N/A||4.15|
|Bronze||Dosvidanya||DESTIHL - Champaign||IL||Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout||2.8||105||4.22|
The beers that I have personally had on this list are all excellent, and beer by beer commentary won't get us anywhere, especially with the missing information. Beers are often brewed especially for GABF, so it's no surprise that there are some beers missing enough sample to get on our leaderboards.
But let's see how these Gold, Silver, and Bronze beers did, on average.
Well, that's strange. The Silver medalists look like they are the people's champions, though all of these are super close and our sample in each category is ten.
There isn't a great takeaway except that it looks like there's little correlation between the judges and the populus. Look especially at the session and stout styles, where the judges picked beers that the beer drinking population has already deemed below-average.
As much as these are well-respected judges with well-trained taste buds, they come with a much smaller sample than the statistics on our leaderboards. They move faster and can tell you something in a smaller sample, but once you get thousands of people to weigh in on a beer... would you still take the opinion of a small group of judges over thousands of ratings?
‘Photo © Brewers Association’