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What’s the 16th best brewery in America?

GABF logoThe drafting order is set for The Beer Mapping Project GABF Fantasy League, and I drew the 16th choice. beerinator cut off signups at 30 and the team (is that the right word?) with the last pick of the first round gets the first pick of the second. So in the second I’ll be drafting 15th. And so on until we’ve chosen hundreds of breweries.

Given that the last two years there has been a definite drop off in value after about a half dozen breweries (using the proposed scoring system, which could change) what should my strategy be?

(An aside: Predictions are always easier to make when you have the results in hand – that’s called data mining. You might have taken Anheuser-Busch high after the brewery scored 17 points in 2005 and got only three points in 2006 for your trouble. Flossmoor Station Brewing won three medals in 2005 for just three points, but in 2006 scored 13 points with four.)

I figure that A-B, Miller, Pabst (seriously, worth 14 points each of the last two years – Blatz and Stag win medals), Pelican, Flossmoor, New Glarus and nine more breweries will be long gone before Appellation Beer makes a pick.

What should my strategy be (for the 16th pick, but also the 45th and beyond)? Go with a brewery that has been dependable, always or almost always winning at least one medal (like Goose Island and Brooklyn)? Pick a newcomer with some street cred (Terrapin, Surly)? Somebody close to home (Chama River, Il Vicino, even Pagosa Springs)? Or those devoted to beers of conviction?

I need your help.

(I’m still working on the prize for the reader who provides the best advice. I’m sure it will be terrific.)

20 Responses to What’s the 16th best brewery in America?

  1. Peter September 19, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    Better than the 16th best brewery, but if Alaskan is around when you pick I would scoop them up.

    It’s about time for the Smoked Porter to get another gold and you know something else will win too.

  2. Stan Hieronymus September 19, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    New research from Swordboarder (who has the first pick) would indicate that the 13th through 24th breweries were equal last year.

    Allagash Brewing Company Total 5
    BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery – Chandler, AZ Total 5
    Blackstone Restaurant & Brewery Total 5
    Blue Moon Brewing Company Total 5
    Capital Brewery Company, Inc. Total 5
    Eel River Brewing Co. Total 5
    Elk Grove Brewery and Restaurant Total 5
    Humperdinks Restaurant and Brewery Total 5
    Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company Total 5
    Odell Brewing Co. Total 5
    Pyramid Breweries, Inc. Total 5
    TAPS Fish House & Brewery Total 5

  3. Josquin September 20, 2007 at 5:29 am #

    This is a tough call; I’ve never thought about breweries in this way before. If it were me, I would put serious thought into dark horses. Just thinking about what’s in my region, there’s Live Oak, with its incomparable Bavarian-style wheat beer, and Real Ale, whose Fireman #4 is the best blonde ale I have ever tasted (one of those in which the floral and caramel elements connect seamlessly). But then you have to consider a brewery’s whole portfolio, which might put a brewery like Live Oak at a disadvantage (their pils is well regarded, but I imagine the competition in that category is stiff).

  4. Up Nort September 20, 2007 at 6:21 am #

    Surly! They are a shoe in to get a medal if Darkness and Furious are judged. Oh, and grab Pigs Eye late for their Pit Bull High Gravity Malt Liquor, an easy win in a crummy category.

  5. Stan Hieronymus September 20, 2007 at 6:25 am #

    Josquin – I never understand why Live Oak doesn’t win more. I always find the Live Oak Pilz to be one of the best on the floor.

    Maybe it is related to the fact they are draft only and package only for this competition. Of course, brewpubs win with the same disadvantage.

  6. Stan Hieronymus September 20, 2007 at 6:27 am #

    Up Nort – I knew that doing this would shake “sleepers” out of the sleeper category.

    In the case of Surly, though, I’m not sure I would call them a sleeper. A lot of people are expecting them to take home more than one medal.

  7. Mark H September 20, 2007 at 8:12 am #

    How about Dark Horse (for a dark horse)?

  8. Mark Tichenor September 20, 2007 at 8:49 am #

    I’m gonna suggest a small but up-and coming brewery: The Rohrbach Brewing Company of Rochester, New York.

    Brewer Bruce Lish, 2001 medalist at the Great American Beer Fest, is back with the brewery after an absence of several years, and his return has caused quite a stir. With a major expansion underway, Rohrbach is poised to expand its capacity an regional distribution. This is the Dark Horse you’re looking for.

  9. Gretchen September 20, 2007 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t see Captain Lawrence on the list, but I am sure that Scott is going to have beer judged. A definite first round pick.

  10. Loren September 20, 2007 at 10:29 am #

    My advice, if you care, is to buy a dartboard and get creative. Chances are you’ll do better than choosing a respected brewer who brews competent styles in categories judged solely on a whim.

    Have fun!

  11. Stan Hieronymus September 20, 2007 at 11:24 am #

    Loren, I would disagree on two counts.

    – Really good brewers win pretty consistently, although picking which beer they might win with is a tougher call. You brew well you seem to be rewarded.

    – Beer are definitely not judged solely on whim. Read this account from Michael Jackson written in 2001 (particularly the back half).

  12. Loren September 20, 2007 at 11:30 am #

    Fair enough Stan but when AK Smoked Porter GOLDS just because a judge “recognizes” it among better (in the eye of whichever beer holder you ask today) examples…I have to roll my eyes. There’s many more examples and breweries I’m sure (Triumph? Hello?).

    Dart board…I’m telling ‘ya. Pretend you’re a weatherman!

  13. Stan Hieronymus September 20, 2007 at 11:58 am #

    If the judges really can pick out AK Smoked Porter then Geoff must be feeling he isn’t particularly loved. The beer medals a lot but has won gold just once since 1995.

    Alaskan wins in a variety of categories because they make great beer.

    I’m certainly not claiming the process does anything more than single out excellent beers that fit certain parameters – and I reserve the right to make fun of some of the results.

    However, I think it’s a great comp. Sure, there are great beers that win nothing. But far more would be overlooked if we went with the darts method.

  14. Jay September 20, 2007 at 1:55 pm #

    Mark – Rohrbach’s a great brewpub, with a dandy Scotch ale. Good choice.

    Stan – Look for dark horses in San Pedro Brewing Co (BOS-LA County Fair, and some golds in SoCal comps./has a talented new brewer) and also the new Hollister Brewing Co (Goleta, CA).

  15. Stan Hieronymus September 20, 2007 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks to everybody for the suggestions (and keep them coming – although you’ve let the cat out of the bag on a couple of my sleepers).

    Jay, it doesn’t look like San Pedro is entered.

    Mark, that is good news about Bruce Lish although it looks like Rohrbach isn’t entered.

  16. beerinator September 21, 2007 at 6:22 am #

    Maybe next year I will have flushed out the code and we’ll actually be able to accept more than 30 entries!

    Two breweries I would be picking would be Piece and Foothills!

  17. Rebecca aka roan22 September 24, 2007 at 10:39 pm #

    This game sounds like fun.

    I have not read all the other comments but my choices would be either Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA; Founders in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Boulder Brewing Co. in Colorado.

    Unrelatedly apparently Surly Brewing Co. won best craft brewery 2007 although I am not sure who bestowed that award. I agree with the choice though.

    Thanks.

  18. Rebecca aka roan22 September 24, 2007 at 10:50 pm #

    wait a minute I’m sorry, I take back my post. I thought you were asking for guesses based on sales. ok this is the 16th best brewery based on medals earned at GABF…I’m gonna go with a chain. Iron Hill or Rock Bottom but probably Iron Hill. Maybe Defiant out of NY.

    Why did I pick these? I can’t explain it, I have no clue.

  19. al October 1, 2007 at 1:09 am #

    Surly won Best Breweryfrom BeerAdvocate Magazine, as ranked by the reviewers on Beer Advocate.com

  20. Nancy Odell May 22, 2008 at 7:15 am #

    Hi…Thanks for the nice read, keep up the interesting posts about odell brewing company..what a nice Thursday .

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