The Great American Beer Festival, the Oscars of the beer world, went down in Denver over the weekend, and local breweries took home some top awards.

The annual beer competition and tasting event, organized by the Brewers Association, featured 4,338 beers from 666 breweries across the country. Judges awarded 254 medals in 84 categories, and 15 of those top honors went to breweries from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

DC Brau, which attended the festival for the first time this year, won a silver medal in the competitive Belgian- and French-style ale category for Your Favorite Foreign Movie, a collaboration with local homebrewer Brian Barrows. Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company clenched a bronze in the nearly as popular English-style India pale ale category for its locally distributed flagship brew Monumental IPA.

Mad Fox in Falls Church, which won two medals last year, took a silver for its Elixir Maibock in the bock category. Arlington’s Rock Bottom location, which scored a gold medal for its coffee beer in 2009, captured another first place award this year with Nikki’s Gluten-Free Honey Pale Ale in the gluten-free beer category. Blue Mountain Brewery’s Barrel House project in Arrington, Va., won a bronze medal in the wood- and barrel-aged beer category for Local Species, a specialty pale ale with Belgian yeast found in shops throughout D.C.

Two Maryland breweries also took away awards: Bel Air’s DuClaw Brewing Company won a silver in the Chocolate beer category with X-1, its Imperial chocolate rye porter. Union Craft Brewing of Baltimore grabbed the gold for German-style Altbier with the aptly named Balt Altbier.

But the most impressive display was from Devils Backbone Brewing Company of Roseland, Va., which walked away with a neck-bending eight medals and the best-in-show title for Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year. Headed up by Jason Oliver, who brewed for Gordon Biersch in D.C. before partnering with owner Steven Crandall to start the Nelson County brewpub in 2008, Devils Backbone is no stranger to recognition. The brewery won a gold at this year’s World Beer Cup (the, um, World Cup for beer) for its Vienna Lager and the Small Brewpub Champion Brewery and Brewmaster award in 2010. After building a new production facility in Lexington, Va., late last year, Devils Backbone’s award winning brews have been available throughout northern Virginia and D.C. since mid-June. The brewery’s eight medal-winning brews include:

  • Gold: Berliner Metro Weiss (German-style sour ales)
  • Gold: Vienna Lager (Vienna-style lagers)
  • Silver: Old Virginia Dark (American-style dark lagers)
  • Silver: Danzig (Baltic-style porters)
  • Bronze: Turbo Cougar (Bocks)
  • Bronze: Gold Leaf Lager (American-style or international-style Pilseners)
  • Bronze: Ramsey’s Draft Stout (Classic Irish-style dry stouts)
  • Bronze: Ramsey’s Export Stout (Foreign-style stouts)

As for how the winners were selected? Judging panels comprised of 185 industry professionals from around the world conducted multiple rounds of “blind” tasting to choose a gold, silver, and bronze medal in each style category. According to the Brewers Association, which started the event in Boulder in 1982 with only 22 breweries in attendance, there were an average of 50 entries in each category this year.

Download the entire 2012 awards list or search past years’ winners here.

Photo by Tammy Tuck

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