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Craft Beer

Has the Great American Beer Festival become too great?

A steward pours beer before delivering to Great American Beer Festival judges.
A steward prepares beer samples for judges at the Great American Beer Festival.
(Brewers Association)

This weekend, San Diego’s craft beer epicenter shifts 1,000 miles to the northeast. Denver, ho!

This weekend, San Diego’s craft beer epicenter will shift 1,000 miles to the northeast. Denver, ho!

“When we are out there,” said Doug Constantiner, co-founder and CEO of Kearny Mesa’s Societe Brewing, “it feels like everybody is out there.”

Denver is home to the 38th annual Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest and most respected craft beer event. From Maine to Alaska, breweries send delegations to Colorado, where they pour their beers for fans — and submit them to judging panels. On Saturday, winners will be announced in 107 categories.

While San Diego County has been a major player in this competition, victory is far from guaranteed.

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“There are north of 8,000 beers that will be judged and they only give out, what, 300 or so medals,” said Tomme Arthur, co-founder and director of brewery operations at San Marcos’s The Lost Abbey. “The quality is very high.”

In this tough competition, Societe has captured four medals, while The Lost Abbey has 11 wins. Both breweries scored last year: Societe’s session IPA, The Coachman, took gold and The Lost Abbey’s Duck Duck Gooze won silver in the wood- and barrel-aged sour beer category.

What’s it like to triumph in this arena?

“It’s one of the greatest feelings of all time,” Constantiner said.


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