Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Tag: New England

New England Craft Brewers Scoop Up GABF Medals

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!

Sharing the Spotlight

This post is part of the ongoing coverage of the 2011 Beer Blogger’s Conference. For more information on the conference itself, visit The Beer Blogger’s Conference Webpage.

Last year, one of the highest rated segments of the Beer Blogger’s Conference was the “Night of Many Bottles” where participants were encouraged to bring local, unusual, or hard-to-find beer to a free-form tasting. With more than 100 participants last year, there were literally hundreds of bottles waiting to be sampled. What I thought was the most interesting bit of that evening was not that there was an infinite selection- but more of what the beer bloggers became as the night progressed. We each became advocates and salesmen of our own favorites. Being the only blogger from Maine in attendance last year, I thought it was my duty to bring attention and respect to east coast beer. Last year I brought Rising Tide’s debut beer, Ishmael, and Maine Beer Company’s Peeper Ale. Both are outside the box beers – an alt and a great, crisp pale ale with lots of hops – that you wouldn’t expect from little old New England.

This year, I received support from many individuals, businesses and beer folks in order to attend this year’s conference. One of the key supporters of my journey was a local brewery, Rising Tide. I think the brewer, Nate Sanborn, has done a terrific job with the three brews he has released so far, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. So, I decided to bring along my favorite Rising Tide beers to share them with the beer blogging community; Ursa Minor and Daymark, both as a thank-you to the sponsors, but also to continue my tradition of sharing the best of Maine beer with the rest of the beer blogging community.

Ursa Minor is labeled as a “Weizen Stout” and I just can’t get enough of it.

“Dark as squid ink and moody as the sea, Ursa Minor is our take on a winter wheat beer. Starting with a German wheat-beer yeast and a base of malted wheat, we added a blend of dark crystal and roasted malts to create a wheat stout. Redolent of dark fruit, weizen yeast esters, and roasted barley, Ursa Minor is perfect for an icy winter’s eve.” – label text

When shopping for Daymark, I noticed that there were still a few bottles of this winter release around and I snatched them up immediately. A few months on the shelf also mellowed the brew just enough to make it super special. The thickness of the mouthfeel and the nice roastiness is what I love about this beer. At the conference, it was the first bottle I had opened for me, and the one that went the quickest.

Daymark, my new favorite summer beer from Maine, was up next. This one is a “Rye Pale Ale” and has some great, bright hoppiness to it, and is made with local rye.

“Chart a new course with Daymark as your guide. We start with a classic, clean and crisp American pale ale brewed with spicy Columbus and Centennial hops. Then we accent the grain bill with rye grown on small local family farms right here in Maine and malted to our specifications at Valley Malts, an artisanal malt house. Finally we dry hop the finished beer for a bright floral aroma.” -label text

It has almost a subtle lemon flavor and it just goes absolutely perfectly with any summer meal. In a large bottle, it’s a little unusual to bring this to a picnic, but I am seeing more people ordering this with meals and sharing the bottle like a bottle of wine. At the conference tasting, a lot of bloggers appreciated that there was a major difference between this and some of the sticky super hoppy brews of the Pacific Northwest, but in a good way.

Having beer bloggers (especially those from the Pacific Northwest, California, etc.) sample maine beer made me start to seriously ponder my blogging focus. I love – LOVE – being an amplifier of what’s going on in New England Craft Beer, and I adore thinking about the ways in which craft beer in New England is completely different, but not less worthy than West-Coast brews. The reality is that New England Beer (vs. West Coast Beer) isn’t an apples to apples comparison. The best IPA in New England is not the same, nor comparable to the best IPA in the West because it’s an entirely different culture of craft beer, a different philosophy of brewing. I plan to write more on this topic later, but it was great to have the opportunity to think about it.

And, if the satisfaction of sharing wasn’t enough, I was thrilled to hear comments and see the word spread about the beers that I brought, like this:

For more information:
Rising Tide Brewing Company
website: www.risingtidebeer.com
email: risingtidebrewing@gmail.com
twitter: @risingtidebeer

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