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GABF 2012 Beers and Thoughts

Will there be Gold at GABF?


Each year we gather up a set of beers and work hard to slot them into the best category so that they may succeed in the competition.

Given the range of expression we produce here at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, finding the right spot for each beer can be a challenge. The reward for getting it right is when the beer does well in the competition.

For 2012, we sent 16 total beers (6 from Port Brewing and 10 from The Lost Abbey). Last Friday, we sat down and opened sample bottles of the beers we sent off to the competition. There are always some clear cut favorites and this year was no different.

Here are the results from our tasting and the categories in which that our beers will compete.

Port Brewing

  • Old Viscosity – Category 13 Other Strong Ale
    We have never sent Old Viscosity to this competition and given how great the beer is, we are left scratching our head as to why. That being said, this is a wide open category and who really knows what the judges will be looking for. Entered in Sub Category B as an American Imperial Porter. Nice Cocoa and sweet caramel notes in the sample had us all nodding this beer tastes as great as ever.
  • Hot Rocks Lager – Category 16 Indigenous Beers
    This used to be called Out of Category Beers. We have won multiple GABF medals for this beer and it continues to showcase our brewing techniques well. The current batch really displays the stein beer portion of the brewing process. The sample we tasted was crisp and clean and perhaps a tad too dry for the judging. Still a nicely built beer.
  • Churchill’s Finest Hour – Category 23 Wood and Barrel Aged Stout
    From the land of crapshoot, this beer showcases all the qualities one would expect in a barrel aged stout. Yet, this category remains one of the craziest and one that we have not historically done well in (never won a medal here). Boozy and chewy — great attributes for this category — are what we found. Not really rolling the dice on this one. But we always remain hopeful for Churchill’s to do well.
  • Mongo – Category 52 American IPA
    This year marks the first time we are not sending Wipeout. While we love the way Wipeout drinks, it just lacks a balance of hops and caramel malts. So it gets ditched in favor of Mongo being our IPA entry. We all had huge hopes for the bottle we tasted but find there’s just too much green onion from the hops expressing themselves. Taking on pass on this one doing well in what historically is the largest category at the competition.
  • Hop 15 – Category 53 Double IPA
    Probably one of the biggest surprises at the tasting was how great this bottle expressed the hops and finish one expects in a double IPA. No stranger to the awards stage in Denver, Hop 15 continues to give us hope that we can compete in this category.
  • Shark Attack – Category 55 Imperial Red Ale
    We rarely enter Shark Attack into competitions but when we do, the beer has provided some nice results. This batch was fermented with our La Cruda yeast which slays on beers like this. We found the bottle sample to have bright hop quality and the malt finish was very balanced and well built. We have history with this recipe in this category so wouldn’t be shocked at all if this beer went forward.

The Lost Abbey

  • Track #8 – Category 14 Experimental Ales and Lagers
    We have a solid track record of doing well in this category and much of what we do at The Lost Abbey falls into this camp. Track 8 was Bourbon Barrel Aged Judgment Day to which we added Cinnamon and Dried Chiles. The impression of an oatmeal raisin cookie was executed in this beer. I love the way it smells and tastes. Hard to know if there’s enough “experimental” beer here. This category doesn’t “Love” barrel aged versions so it all comes down to the judges finding our beer truly experimental.
  • Red Poppy and Framboise de Amorosa – Category 19 American Style Sour
    Both of these beers have previously earned hardware in the category. Framboise is much bigger and bombastically fruited than Red Poppy. So most of the brewers and crew are banking on the raspberry to carry the load. That being said, the Red Poppy oozes great balance and a rounder acid profile. Both could do well but as Framboise did well last year, we’ll hang our hat on this one.
  • Track #6 – Category 23 Wood and Barrel Aged Stout
    This is the same category as Churchill’s Finest Hour. While we don’t like doubling up beers in tough categories, it happens when the beers deserve it. This reverse Deliverance Blend has great flavor and the blend of Imperial Stout and Barleywine may give this beer an edge over single batch and barrel aged beers. We liked this beer in the tasting but didn’t see it going the distance.
  • Track #7 – Category 24 Wood and Barrel Sour
    This category can be tough and this beer has some serious competition to get past. Many of the beers will showcase wood flavors and aromas. As we were hoping to emulate Sangria in this Track release, we really are lining up with Tannins and Red Wine flavors being the driver here. Might not be enough wood or too heavy on the acid. Either way, the judges will have lots to contemplate here…
  • Carnevale – Category 69 Belgian and French Style Saison
    Coming off the wins with the Gold Medal at World Beer Cup and Best of Show at the San Diego International Beer Festival in June have us feeling a bit smug with this one. Bottle tasted amazing and the Brett quality stayed true. Carnevale has won a Gold before and almost all of us we’re unanimous in pronouncing this a great example for the category.
  • Saint’s Devotion – Category 70 Belgian Style Ale
    It’s been a while since we have entered this category. Saint’s Devotion has all the hallmarks of a great beer in this category. Historically, Brett beers are received well. We love the way this one has developed in the bottle all summer long. Concern for me was a bit soapy nose on the beer and perhaps too much hop in the finish. Still the beer should stand out on the table.
  • Cable Car Kriek and Track # 3 – Category 71 Belgian Style Lambic
    A couple of years ago, a new batch of something we call Duck Duck Gooze stormed its way to the Gold Medal. Many of our brewers see the same texture and aromas in the Track 3 we are sending. I am pleased with the beer (especially the nose) and believe the only thing holding us back would be the viscosity of the beer. Pretty Heavy. Contrasting this heaviness is the Cable Car Kriek. An explosively fruited Kriek Sour, we may have finally found a home for this one. All of our guys will be circling this category as a place we hope to do well.
  • Serpent’s Stout – Category 81 Imperial Stout
    Back at the San Diego International Beer Festival this same batch of beer pulled down a Silver Award. A little bit of aging has not hurt this beer at all. Another one of the very difficult categories we don’t historically do well in. That being said, this is the finest batch of this beer we have ever packaged. Fingers crossed for sure as this is one of the last categories in the competition and the in which category we have entered a beer.

So that’s it. Another year and another great tasting. We make great beer at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. They aren’t all World Class, so we’ll go ahead and state any win would be great for our crew. With 16 beers total in the competition we have a great chance to be part of the continued success of San Diego based breweries at the GABF.

Best wishes to every brewer and brewery who has sent their beers out for evaluation. We’re in for another great year.

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