14 San Diego craft beers earn medals at this year’s virtual Great American Beer Festival

Medal winner from the Great American Beer Festival
San Diego County breweries were awarded 14 medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2020, the largest beer competition in the U.S.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The largest beer competition in the U.S. drew more than 8,800 beer entries


San Diego County’s craft brewers are known to be a collaborative bunch. But that doesn’t mean they shy away from competitions, particularly the Great American Beer Festival — the largest beer contest in the U.S.

Even in the year of COVID-19, the region’s beer industry largely lived up to its slogan as the Capital of Craft by taking home 14 awards across 12 different local breweries.

That haul comes in the year filled with distractions because of the pandemic. Breweries were required to close taprooms, a key moneymaker, for months early on and had to scramble to find ways to get their brews in the hands of customers to take home.

Under these circumstances, it was unclear whether organizers of the Great American Beer Festival could even pull the annual event off. They did, but instead of a big shindig in Denver, it was held virtually online last week.

About 1,720 breweries competed, which is down from about 2,400 in past years. To compensate, organizers loosened the four-beer limit that any one brewery could enter. This year, each brewery could submit 10 beers. A total of 8,806 were entered nationwide.

Second Chance Beer Co. submitted eight beers and won a gold medal in the robust porter category for its Tabula Rasa.

While the San Diego region is known for its India Pale Ales, local breweries have consistently brought home awards in competitions for beers other than IPAs.

“IPAs are obviously popular and people love them,” said Virginia Morrison, chief executive and co-founder of Second Chance. “But in our tasting rooms, we like to have 19 taps of really different styles. Of course, there are one or two hazys (IPAs) and one or two (other IPAs). We also do sours. We do brown ales. We do red ales. We do fruit infusions. We love to take an eclectic approach for the very purpose of bringing more people into the (craft beer) fold.”

California was the top state nationally in the contest, with 63 medals. The Pacific Northwest had a solid showing, with 22 awards for Oregon breweries and 16 for Washington. A cluster of craft brewers in North Carolina, brought home 11 awards, and Virginia, 16 awards, also had success. A full list of winners can be found here.

This year’s local winners are:

Gold Medalists

American-Style Sour Ale: Vice Sans Fruit: Wild Barrel Brewing Co.

International Pale Ale: Locals Only; Pizza Port Carlsbad

Robust Porter: Tabula Rasa; Second Chance Beer Co.

Silver Medalists

Coffee Beer: Golden Stout; Karl Strauss Brewing Co.

Session Beer or non-Alcohol Beer: Guillaume; Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Fruited American-Style Sour Ale: Peach Afternoon; Port Brewing Co. / The Lost Abbey

Golden/Blonde Ale: Salty Crew: Coronado Brewing Co.

International Pale Ale: Carlsbad Crush: Burgeon Beer Co.

German-Style Sour Ale: Slightly Sour: Second Chance Beer Co.

Specialty Berliner, Weisse style: Glitz & Glam: Eppig Brewing

Fresh Hop Beer: Fresh Hop Ride the Pine -- Belching Beaver Brewery

Bronze Medalists

Session Beer or non-Alcohol Beer: Straight Drank N/A IPA — Two Roots Brewing Co.

Bohemian-Style Pilsener: Tres Tres — Ocean Beach Brewery

Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale: Hell Camino Belgian Quad — Dos Desperados Brewery

“The San Diego beer community has always been ambitious, but rightfully so,” said Kris Anacleto, president of the San Diego Brewers Guild. “It’s this determination for excellence which continues to make San Diegans proud and repeatedly earns our city the title of Capital of Craft.”