Photo © Brewers Association
  • Photo © Brewers Association
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The competition keeps getting tougher, but San Diego beer keeps coming out a winner at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival. San Diego area breweries tallied 18 medals overall at the annual beer competition held in Denver each year, including 8 gold, 3 silver and 7 bronze.

By far the biggest winner was Karl Strauss Brewing Co., which earned the distinction Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year, tallying 2 golds and a bronze. Karl Strauss's La Jolla location added a second bronze: its Windansea Wheat took gold after winning bronze last year, while Mosaic Session IPA took bronze for the second time in three years.

Another top winner was Santee's BNS Brewing & Distilling Co., which followed up its enormous IPA gold medal from 2015 with two medals: a silver for Gatling Gun stout, and gold for Prospector red ale.

Last year's very small brewery of the year, Rip Current, took gold the for second year in a row with Breakline Bock. Meanwhile, AleSmith's Old Numbskull barley wine claimed gold for a whopping third time in four years, already having earned a couple of silvers in previous years.

While brewer Jeff Bagby has won more gold medals at GABF than just about anyone, his Bagby Beer Co. earned its first, for its Sweet Ride Bohemian pilsner. Likewise, Marty Mendiola added to a hefty personal medal count but earned a first win for his new brewery, Second Chance Beer Company for its Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter.

Genuine first-time winners include Solana Beach's Culture Brewing with a gold medal brown; Duck Foot Brewing with a silver medal chili beer; and Pure Project, winning a bronze prior to its first anniversary with its Belgian sour, Roses Red.

A couple other beers repeating as medalists were Benchmark's Oatmeal Stout, nabbing silver after winning gold two years ago; and New English Brewing's Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, which claimed bronze after winning gold last year.

To put San Diego's medal haul into perspective, its 18 medals and 8 golds bested another great beer city — breweries in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon, won 13 medals, including 2 golds. However, greater Denver area breweries (including the Boulder area) claimed 31 medals and 12 golds.

Ultimately, California beer continued to show well, earning 68 medals with 22 of them gold, including an Apricot Wheat by Wiens Brewing Co. in Temecula.

Karl Strauss Brewing Co. Gold — American-Style Sour Ale — Queen of Tarts; Gold — South German-Style Hefeweizen — Windansea Wheat; Bronze — Session India Pale Ale — Mosaic Session IPA; Bronze — English Style Summer Ale — Liquid AC

BNS Brewing & Distilling Co. Gold — American-Style Amber/Red Ale — Prospector Red Ale; Silver — Imperial Stout — Gatling Gun Imperial Stout

Babgy Beer Co. Gold — Bohemian-Style Pilsener — Sweet Ride

Rip Current Brewing Co. Gold — Bock — Breakline Bock

Culture Brewing Co. Gold — American-Style Brown Ale — Brown

Second Chance Beer Co. Gold — Robust Porter — Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter

AleSmith Brewing Co. Gold — Barley Wine-Style Ale — Old Numbskull

Duck Foot Brewing Co. Silver — Chili Beer — The Contender

Benchmark Brewing Co. Silver — Session Beer — Oatmeal Stout

New English Brewing Co. Bronze — Coffee Beer — Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout

Alpine Beer Co. Bronze — American-Style Strong Pale Ale — HFS

Mother Earth Brew Co. Bronze — Extra Special Bitter — Mother Earth ESB

Pure Project Bronze — Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale — Roses Red

Societe Brewing Co. Bronze — American-Style Stout — The Volcanist

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