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When the GABF had 12 categories

Not surprisingly, chatter about the Great American Beer Festival runs rampant in the world I occupy, and now particularly on Twitter. Just to be clear, I know full well Denver will not be the center of the beer universe this weekend.

There isn’t one.

But GABF has my full my attention, and in doing a little research for stories I’ll be working on this weekend in Denver I was looking at the 1987 judging results. Although the festival began in 1982 the blind judging competititon did not commence until 1987, in all of 12 categories (compared to 78 today).

Here’s who won gold:

Ales – Big Foot Barley Wine Style Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing
Alts – Chinook Alaskan Amber, Alaskan Brewing
American Cream Ales – Little Kings Cream Ale, Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing
American Lagers – Koch’s Golden Anniversary Ale, Genesee Brewing
American Light Lagers – Leinenkugel, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing
Bock/Doppelbocks – Chesbay Doppel Bock, Chesapeake Bay Brewing
Continental Amber Lagers – Golden Bear Dark Malt, Thousand Oaks Brewing
Continental Pilsner – Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Boston Beer Co.
Porters – Great Northern Porter, Summit Brewing
Stouts – Boulder Stout, Rockies Brewing
Vienna Style Lagers – Vienna Style Lager, Vienna Brewing Co.
Wheat beers – Edelweiss, Val Blatz Brewery

A few of those beers will be contenders to win this week.


8 Responses to When the GABF had 12 categories

  1. Jeff Alworth September 21, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    Even for a fan of limited categories, this seems a bit … lean. And also bizarre. Ales is one category (9,612 commercial examples) and alts another (commercial examples: 17). Stouts and porters–also known as ales–occupy two more. Very odd.

    It goes to show that the categories have to reflect current brewing mores. In ’87, we were still much more an American light lager country than a multidimensional craft brewing country.

  2. Rick Garvin September 21, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks for the flashback! That was my first GABF and it was held in conduction with the AHA Conference. The world was different place then and it was a MUCH smaller event.

    Cheers, Rick

  3. Ron Pattinson September 22, 2009 at 2:08 am #

    Remind me, how many categories are there this year?

  4. Stan Hieronymus September 22, 2009 at 5:55 am #

    78 medal categories, within those styles defined in many subcategories.

    For instance, 59 is German-style sour ales. 59A Berliner Weisse and 59B Leipzig Gose.

    60 is German-style Hefeweizen (really just what Germans call helles hefe) and 61 German-style Wheat Ale. 61 has 5 subcategories, everything from leichtes weiss to weissbock.

    The whole list.

    I’ll do my best to report back on the status of attempts at Gose.

  5. SteveH September 22, 2009 at 6:41 am #

    >>”And also bizarre. Ales is one category (9,612 commercial examples) and alts another (commercial examples: 17). Stouts and porters–also known as ales–occupy two more. Very odd.”

    Not so bizarre not so many years ago. Look into some of Jackson’s first books and you’ll see that his Beer Style Tree separates styles into Top and Bottom fermenting — with Top Fermenting divided into many categories, including (but only limited because I don’t have a photographic memory) Ales, Stouts and Porter, and German Wheats as separate branches.

    All this is based on original understanding (belief?) that these really were distinctly separate styles. My question has always been, do you think a Bavarian Weizen brewer would call his product an “ale?” Sure, it’s top-fermenting, but is it an ale? No, it’s a Weizen.

    I think Ale became synonymous with top-fermenting when the craft beer revolution started trying to educate the world on beer. Ale & Lager was just easier than trying to define the (good) myriad of different beers available.

  6. Jeff Alworth September 22, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Steve, here in Oregon, as a precursor to the craft beer movement, we had our own “ale.” Henry Weinhard produced a line of beers in the 1970s that appealed to those who would become craft fans. It started with Henry Weinhard Private Reserve. When that took off, they added “Dark” and “Ale.” It had a green label and was advertized as “Ireland style.” Except for a tiny bit more body, it was indistinguishable from Private Reserve, but what the hell–it was called “ale.” Somehow that seemed like an incredibly exotic, ancient word. They advertised it as “ale, instead of beer.”

    Ah, the olden days … 22 years ago.

  7. SteveH September 22, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    “They advertised it as ‘ale, instead of beer.'”

    Indeed exotic for those days — reminiscent of breweries and taverns that advertised “Beer and Ale.” Albeit, more marketing pap than scientific reporting — ale is beer, in most definitions. Though I’ve read where, in ancient days, beer wasn’t hopped, but ale was the new big thing with these aromatic and bitter flowers added. 😉

    There’s also that whole U.S. legal definition of beer that’s above a certain ABV level needing to be labeled as “ale.” Makes newbies at BeerAdvocate think they’re on to something when they see it on their Salvator labels. 😉

    “Papa’s in the icebox lookin’ for a can of ale
    Mama’s in the backyard learning how to jive and wail”
    Louis Prima

  8. SteveH September 22, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    “Remind me, how many categories are there this year?”

    No — please don’t.

    Stop it Ron!

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