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It was a pretty good year for Washington area breweries at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival, the biggest competition of its kind. The annual commercial brewing contest and tasting event, sponsored by the Brewers Association, was held in Denver this weekend.

Out of nearly 5,000 entries from 745 American breweries, 252 medals were awarded in 84 beer style categories. Breweries from Maryland and Virginia won a total of 16* medals, and one, Devils Backbone of Roseland, Va., was named Small Brewing Company of the Year.

Closest to the District, Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company brought home an impressive four medals. Founder Bill Butcher and head brewer Jonathan Reeves received a gold in the Belgian-style witbier category for their best-selling flagship brew, Optimal Wit. Oktoberfest, their fall seasonal, won a silver medal in the Vienna-style lager category. Their two limited-release anniversary brews, renamed Colossal One and Colossal Two, each earned a bronze medal.

The D.C. area seems to be a good place to find great Oktoberfest beers. Lost Rhino, located in Ashburn, Va., clenched a gold in the German-style Märzen category for their RhinO’fest, an Oktoberfest-style amber lager. Sweetwater Tavern, the Great American Restaurants location in Centreville, Va., snagged the silver medal in the same category for their Octoberfest. Rounding out the sweep, Flying Dog of Frederick, Md., took the bronze medal with their widely available seasonal, Dogtoberfest.

Devils Backbone won a top national honor and neck-bending number of medals for the second year in a row. The Nelson County brewery earned eight medals and the title for Small Brewpub of the Year at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. After moving most production to a new facility in Lexington, Va., last year, founder Steven Crandall and brewmaster Jason Oliver entered this year’s festival as a small production brewery. They won the best-in-show title for that category with the following six medals:

  • Gold: Azrael (Belgian- and French-style ale)
  • Gold: Old Virginia Dark (American-style dark lager)
  • Silver: Gold Leaf Lager (American- or international-style Pilsener)
  • Silver: Berliner Metro Weiss (German-style sour ale)
  • Bronze: Danzig (Baltic-style porter)
  • Bronze: Ale of Fergus (English-style mild ale)

Other medal winners from Virginia include Three Brothers Brewing of Harrisonburg, which scored a bronze for their Rum Barrel-Aged Belgian Dubbel. Smartmouth Brewing of Norfolk received a bronze in the competitive Imperial India pale ale category for their Notch 9 Double IPA.

The District’s 3 Stars and Capitol City and Virginia’s Mad Fox and Blue Mountain breweries  entered the competition but did not place.

*UPDATE: The Washington area had another award-winning brewery at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Gordon Biersch of Rockville, Md., won a silver medal for their Czech Pilsner in the Bohemian-style Pilsener category. The medalist was announced as the Gordon Biersch in Broomfield, Co., but the winning beer was brewed at the Rockville location under the direction of brewmaster Christian Layke.

Photo by Tammy Tuck