Kegs have been tapped, beers have been poured, cups have been dropped, and medals have been won at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). While the event participants and organizers were nursing their hangovers, I was doing some thinking on my front steps while watching the first autumn leaves fall. While I have heard some local news about winners at this year’s GABF, I began to wonder about how New England breweries stacked up against the rest of the country.

Some basic stats about New England and the 2011 GABF:

  • Total breweries in attendance: 466
  • Breweries from New England attending: 14

So, New England apparently made up a very small chunk (3%) of the nearly 500 breweries pouring brews. (At some point, I want to map out all the breweries in New England and figure out what percentage of all the craft breweries in the U.S. they represent, but I digress…) But they were there, alright. And, it turns out, they were winning some serious medals.

This year, there were 7 medals awarded to New England Breweries (out of the 249 medals awarded) which included 3 gold medals, 1 silver and 3 bronze. [See a list of all the 2011 winners]

New England breweries winning medals in 2011:

Intrigued by this, I did a little bit more digging to see if this was a “typical” year or if there were any trends in the number of medals awarded to craft brewers in New England. Here’s what I found:

I was honestly surprised to see a downturn this year after a three-year trend but then I thought further. I’ve read a few bloggers say that there was a disappointingly few number of actual brewers pouring, so this may be evidence that there were external factors that might have made make it less likely for a brewery (especially a small one) to attend. Additionally, the number of craft breweries in attendance (14 this year) from New England is down from 16 the previous year. Without data on the number of beers entered each year, I’m not sure what to make of the trend.

What does make me happy though is that there are breweries that are pretty small still making an appearance and picking up some honors. This year, I think thatCambridge Brewing Company embodies the throngs of small brewers in New England who make some excellent beer. The remaining 2011 New England winners are significantly larger in size and distribution, adding some validity to the theory that this year may have been more difficult for the “little guys” to enter. Last year, medals were awarded to many more small-scale New England Breweries (including Portsmouth Brewery, Prodigal Brewing (NH), The Alchemist (VT), Haverhill (MA) and Trinity (RI)).

Some food for thought. For me, I’m proud of all of the wonderful beer made in New England, whether it gets shipped out to Colorado to be judged or not. Cheers!