2014 GABF Medals: How does Colorado stack up to the rest of the nation?

(Photo: © Brewers Association)

(Photo: © Brewers Association)

Another Great American Beer Festival (GABF) has come and gone meaning it’s once again time to tally up the scores and see how well Colorado’s medal count compares to the rest of the nation.  The first criterion in deciding the winner is the most obvious: Who won the most overall medals?

Most Overall Medals

1. California (46)

2. Colorado (39)

3. Oregon (22)

4. Texas (16)

5. Pennsylvania (12)

Colorado missed top-honors by seven medals.  That’s nothing new; Colorado has a history of being the penultimate overall medalist to California.  That’s fine, though, because the true measure of a state’s GABF prowess is determined by how many gold medals it earns.  Bronze and silver are nothing to sneeze at but they’re still only the first and second losers to the top beer in the land.  With that in mind, how did Colorado do in the gold medal count?

Most Gold Medals

1. California (15)

2. Colorado (10)

3. Oregon (7)

4. Texas: (6)

5. Pennsylvania & Washington (5)

Photo: Nicole Bruns

Photo: Nicole Bruns

Okay, that stings a little.  There’s no other way to spin it, Colorado did not win the 2014 GABF.  It’s solidly in the runner-up position but the championship remained elusive.  Excuses could be made about California, which has so many more breweries than Colorado, inundating the competition with more entrants thus giving itself an advantage through sheer number and that observation would be accurate.  However, it’s been accurate for many years and, despite that, Colorado has, in the past, edged out California in gold medals.  If it happened before, it could conceivably happen again.  It just didn’t happen this year.

There are a few silver linings.  For one, in overall medal count, Colorado avenged its Super Bowl loss, defeating Washington by nearly the same margin the Seahawks defeated the Broncos: 39 to 9 in GABF compared to 43 to 8 in the Super Bowl.

Colorado also managed to sweep the entire American-Style Brown Ale category, winning the bronze, silver, and gold!  If you love American brown ales, the Centennial state is the place to be; Upslope Brewing Company, Diebolt Brewing, and Telluride Brewing Co. have the hook-up (of course, California had to one-up Colorado by sweeping two categories: Barley-Wine Style Ale and Session Beer).

Colorado spread the love around with 34 different breweries taking home prizes; this isn’t a state with two or three medal-hoarding breweries, it’s a state where all our breweries big (e.g. Coors, Rock Bottom, C.B. & Potts) and small (e.g. BRU, Wit’s End, Dostal Alley), old (e.g. Left Hand, Avery, Steamworks) and new (e.g. Platt Park, Coda, Comrade, Station 26, The Post, Former Future, LowDown), Front Range and Mountain (e.g. Pagosa, Bonfire) contribute to the greater good of Colorado’s brewing reputation.

Photo: Nicole Bruns

Photo: Nicole Bruns

Four breweries tied for most medals won, each claiming three.  Colorado’s own Left Hand is among those in the upper echelon having snagged three silver medals.  It shares the spotlight with Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing Co. and Barley Brown’s Brew Pub (which really has four medals if you count all their locations; one of their brewing facilities got three medals, a different facility got one) as well as Virginia’s Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. – Outpost (which, like Barley Brown’s, actually has four and for the same reason).

Finally, Colorado can be proud of the Coors subsidiary AC Golden Brewing Company as they received Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.

When it comes right down to it, the GABF awards are essentially worthless pieces of metal.  Their real value is in the bragging rights they imbue in the brewers and in the beer geeks who support said brewers.  This year, Colorado beer geeks have much to crow about; the state came to GABF with a solid line-up and they competed admirably.  Go right ahead, Colorado; puff out your collective chests.  Just don’t do it when there’s a California beer geek in the room.

P.S. If nothing else, we can all rag on the following states:

No Medals in 2014





North Dakota


New Hampshire


Rhode Island

About Chris Bruns

Chris Bruns is a self-professed beer geek living in Denver. Chris spends much of his time brewing beer at home with friends and family, attempting to visit every brewery in Colorado, attending special beer events and festivals, purchasing and assessing the latest releases from local breweries, and blogging about his adventures in the world of craft beer. He is also the Denver Craft Beer Examiner on Examiner.com. Contact Chris by e-mail at chrisdbruns@gmail.com or through his blog at www.beerincolorado.blogspot.com.