Beer Buzz: Goin’ out west where they’ll appreciate me

It’s the busiest season of the year in the craft beer world: festival season.

Savannah may only have the Savannah Craft Brew Fest, but there are thousands of others throughout the United States.

These festivals showcase the hard work and passion of more than 2,500 American craft breweries. The bulk are in the fall, including the most prestigious in the U.S., the Great American Beer Festival, which was this past weekend.

The three-day festival is hosted by the Brewer’s Association every year in Denver. The fest is always in early October and hosts more than 3,000 beers.

This festival was founded in 1982 and continues to explode along with the craft brewing industry.

However, this isn’t just some drinking festival.

The 50,000 attendees sample a multitude of brews, check out pairings at the Farm to Table Pavilion and even attend classes.

Craft beer education shines just as brightly as the beers themselves.

The popularity of this event has grown so much that tickets sold out in just 20 minutes this year!

Great American Beer Festival is also one of the most renowned craft beer competitions in the world.

This year, 210 judges tasted, smelled and rated 4,875 beers sent in by only a portion of the American breweries. Only 600 of the more than 2,500 craft breweries in the U.S. were able to attend.

Even the breweries had to rush to enter this Denver competition. The GABF judges presented 84 beer style categories with gold, silver and bronze medals. Those medals were worn with great pride throughout the weekend and likely beyond.

The dedication and true passion of the craft brewers from around the nation deserve nothing less.

Just because this competition is out West doesn’t mean Georgia isn’t involved.

The past few years, Georgia breweries brought home medals in several categories.

SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta came back with a silver medal for “Exodus” in the Brown Porter category in 2012.

2011 was a big year for them, as well, with three additional wins. Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery, a brewpub in Atlanta, also came home with a bronze in 2011 for its “IMOS” in the Imperial Stout category.

In 2010, Terrapin Beer Co. won a bronze for “Beer Gone Good” in the German-Style Sour Ale category. Savannah’s own brewpub, Moon River Brewing Co., also received a gold for its “Rosemary Swamp Fox” in the Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer category.

This year, Savannah sent up even more beer.

Moon River Brewing attended and participated in the competition. Judges and attendees alike sampled their “Apparition” in the Classic English Pale Ale category, “Slovannah” in the Session Ale category, “Moon River Witbier” in the Belgian Style Witbier category, “Moon River Porter” in the Robust Porter category and “Bellywasher” in the Golden Ale category.

In the judge’s competition, Coastal Empire Brewing entered the “Tybee Island Blonde” in the Kolsh category, “Savannah Brown” in the American Brown Ale category and “Coastal Empire Pale Ale” for the American Pale Ale category.

Southbound Brewing also entered in the judges’ competition, sending the “Hop’lin IPA” in the American IPA category, “Scattered Sun Belgian Wit” in the Belgian Style Witbier category, “Iron Lion” for the American Pale Ale category and “Day Trip’eler” in the Belgian Style Abbey Ale category.

The competition was incredibly tough, but before the weekend was over, Georgia brought home two medals from long-standing giants SweetWater and Terrapin. If you’re in Atlanta or Athens and see an individual, or hopefully many individuals, walking around with medals on their neck, you’ll know exactly what for. I imagine those won’t come off for quite some time.

Keep your fingers crossed and your cups full for GABF 2014, Savannah!

Smith Mathews (brewmaster) and Carly Wiggins (marketing director) are founders of Southbound Brewing Company, Savannah’s only production microbrewery. Go to or send an email to

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