The GABF Winners “Fantasy Draft” — Who’d We Pick?

In Beer News by The Guys

The fine folks over at Draft Magazine have put together this little contest here, where you can pick who you think is going to come away winners at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. There’s some prize involved, we guess, but we’re less interested in that than we are arguing with each other about who’s going to win, who’s not and why the hell Andrew picked the Miller Brewing Company to medal.


So, who’d we pick?


  • Miller Brewing Company
  • Stone Brewing Co.
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
  • Highland Brewing Company
  • Cigar City Brewing
  • Deschutes Brewery
  • Three Floyds Brewing Co
  • Surly Brewing Company
  • Russian River Brewing Company

Did I make some safe picks? Yep, absolutely. But were they also smart picks? Time will tell. I wanted a diverse portfolio of breweries, both by geography and the beer style that I think highlights the brewery, and I think I was able to accomplish that.

So right off the bat I went with Miller. I figure one of the big macro-brewers has to win a couple of awards, so I pulled the trigger on them. I followed that up with the likes of Jolly Pumpkin (sours anyone?), Russian River (hello hop heads) and Three Floyds (some local love and respect to Dark Lord). Then, because I wanted to feel warm and cozy with some safe bets, I came home to Dogfish Head, Stone and Surly.

Diversified portfolio for sure…but will that be enough to win?


  • Church Street Brewing Company
  • Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery
  • Goose Island Brewpubs
  • Scratch Brewing Company
  • Solemn Oath Brewery
  • Short’s Brewing Company
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • Half Acre Beer Company
  • Revolution Brewing

I picked with my heart, not my head for this one — as you can see, aside from taking a safe selection in Dogfish Head and throwing a bone to the Michiganders at Short’s, all the rest are Illinois breweries. I’m sure the home team won’t entirely the table, but my gut tells me that the folks at Church Street and Solemn Oath are going to make some noise.

DESTIHL has already reaped the benefit from being the belle of the ball with their sours in recent GABF memory, and I think that may echo itself this year. The bigger guys — Goose, Half Acre, Flossmoor and Revolution — all have enough gravity to pull some medals into their wake and I think the constant storytelling about Chicago’s beer scene may bring some added attention.

Beyond all that, though, I truly think the folks at Scratch are going to really impress some people in the same manner they impressed us. With their outdoor brewing techniques, ingredient foraging and unique products, this could be a breakout year for one of our favorite downstate operations. If you’re going to Denver this year (we’re not), please stop by and tell them we say hi, and then tell someone else to go over and try their beer.


  • New Glarus Brewing Company
  • Short’s Brewing Company
  • Barley Brown’s Brew Pub
  • Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Basecamp
  • Church Brew Works
  • Boulevard Brewing Company
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Company
  • Pizza Port Carlsbad
  • Solemn Oath Brewery

Having not quite come down from the high of finishing third in my fairly competitive fantasy baseball league — after being shut out of the playoffs for four years in a row — I tried to employ some of the same strategies on draft day as I did picking my breweries. Yup, that’s right, I did research and stuff.

I tried to pick with my head, using some hard numbers as a guide, and not with my heart. Which, to be honest, is rather hard to do as it’s just as difficult not to pick a favorite brewery as it is a favorite player. However, I did choose a few breweries close to home that I thought might fare well while I couldn’t even tell you where some of the other breweries are located.

DESTIHLNew Glarus and Short’s fit into the former. All three churn out creative and innovative beers: DESTIHL and New Glarus have produced award-winning sours in the past and Short’s tends to excel brewing beers that contain lactose.

Firestone Walker (37 medals since 2002) and Boulevard (nine medals since 2008) aren’t the sexiest picks but they have placed in the past and they are pretty consistent and reliable in the beers they produce.

Now the research comes into play. Where’s Barley Brown’s Brew Pub? Couldn’t tell you, but they have won 12 medals since 2006. How about Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company – Basecamp? No clue, however they took home five medals last year and were named Small Brewpub/Brewer of the Year. The Church Brew Works was shut out at GABF for nearly a decade – save for a medal in 2005 – before landing four medals last year and the Large Brewpub/Brewer of the Year award. Here’s hoping their success continues in 2013. Pizza Port Carlsbad has had similar success over the last few years, netting eight medals in 2011 and 2012 combined.

And then there’s Solemn Oath, my one “heart” pick. They’re my sleeper.

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So, who’d you pick?

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.

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