While there was plenty of beer to be sampled on the floor at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, some of the most innovative recipes could be sampled at the Pro-Am Competition booth. From a basil saison to a prickly pear wheat to a stout with chocolate, raspberries, and habanero peppers, Brewers Association members brought out their hardest hitting and most memorable recipes.
As of 2013, there are over 1.2 million homebrewers creating delicious beers in all 50 states. Of that, 43,000 are also Brewers Association members and are eligible to compete in American Homebrewers Association competitions nationally.
The GABF Pro-Am competition pairs amateur brewers with professional breweries to scale up award-winning homebrew recipes. The finished beers are submitted to Pro-Am competition judges, who come from the same professional panel of world-class judges that evaluate the other 5,507 beers submitted at this year’s Great American Beer Festival competition. However, the Pro-Am competition is separate from the GABF competition, and therefore the Pro-Am medals do not count towards GABF Brewery and Brewer of the Year awards.
Brewers Association members are eligible to submit one entry into the GABF Pro-Am competition each year. However, the submitted beer recipe must be based on a homebrew recipe that has won an award in an AHA/BJCP Sanctioned Competition in the previous year. The partnering breweries also must have at least one of their own beers entered into the GABF competition and must make the Pro-Am submission commercially available in their retail markets. This year, the competition allowed for no more than 96 total entries. For each of the four festival sessions, a quarter of the 89 entries were showcased for attendees to sample.
One of the more moving categories awarded at the competition at the festival, this year’s gold medal brew was a Scottish style ale named Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Scottish 80 Shilling created by Michael Kelly and brewed with Bear Republic Brewing Company out of Healdsburg, California. Michael Kelly is a Vice President and co-organizer of the Sonoma Beerocrats and a member of the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild.
Aside from the Pro-Am win, Bear Republic also took home a bronze medal in the Bohemian Style Pilsner category for their Double Aught pilsner. Although this was Bear Republic’s first Pro-Am award, the brewery has won 20 GABF medals to date.
A tearful Mr. Kelly fist-bumped Charlie Papazian with pride after the top honor was announced at the festival’s award ceremony. Additionally, all five of the Bitch Beer writers in attendance also cried.
The silver award winner Daniel Christensen submitted Spencer Pale Ale brewed with Kokopelli Beer Company. The bronze went to ‘I Wanna Rauch!’ rauchbier created by Keith Wallis and brewed at Springfield Brewing Company.