Wild Barrel Brewing Company
Wild Barrel has a hit in many colors with its tart Vice series of fruited beers.
Fans know it. Brewers know it. And for the fourth time in five years, the judges of the Great American Beer Festival have affirmed it: the best robust porter in the United States is brewed year round by Second Chance Beer Co.
The 34th edition of the annual beer competition announced results last week, operating a little differently this year. Rather than 60,000 beer enthusiasts gathering for a long weekend in Denver, this year’s contest consisted of 115 socially distanced judges deliberating over 91 beer styles during 35 sessions that took place over 18 days.
That’s down from 332 judges in 2019. The 91 categories judged was down from 107 last year. So were the number of entries (8,806 from 9,497) and breweries participating (1,720 compared to 2,295). Nevertheless, the competition grew steeper this year, with an average of 97 beers competing within each category, compared to 88 per category in 2019.
Second Chance collected two of San Diego’s 14 medals — in addition to that porter’s impressive fourth gold (the fifth gold in this category for brewmaster Marty Mendiola), it earned a silver medal in the German style sour category, with its Slightly Sour Berliner weisse.
Also adding to an impressive medal winning resume was the Pizza Port family of brewpubs. Pizza Port Ocean Beach has its own perennial winner with its 4.2-percent Belgian blonde, Guillaume, which medaled for the fourth time since 2014, showing consistency despite a change in brewers. Former head brewer Ignacio “Nacho” Cervantes won silver and bronze in 2014 and 2015, while current head brewer Matt Palmer earned silver this year to go with a 2017 gold. The OB brewpub has earned an impressive 13 medals since 2011, including three golds.
Meanwhile, Pizza Port Carlsbad continues to pace the brewpub family. Its Locals Only pale ale earned gold with a mix of Mosaic, Citra, and newer generation Strata hops. Appropriately, Locals Only gets its name from the concept of locals passing on lessons to the next generation. Current head brewer Mike Aubuchon started with Pizza Port in 2007, and has been leading the Carlsbad Village brewpub since 2012, joinging a list of head brewers winning hardware at this location: 46 medals and counting, 15 of them gold.
The entire Pizza Port brand can claim 35 golds overall since it started collecting medals in 1994. The two medals this year to bring its total medal haul to 98 — meaning a real chance it breaks 100 in 2021!
Nineteen breweries celebrated their first GABF medals this year, including three from San Diego. Dos Desperados took bronze for its Hell Camino Belgian Quad, and Belching Beaver’s Vista Village tavern won a silver for its fresh hop ale, Ride the Pine.
But the biggest first time medalist is San Marcos’ Wild Barrel Brewing Company, which gets a well-deserved gold medal in the American sour category for its Berliner weisse inspired tart ale, Vice. While a Berliner weisse typically measures under 4-percent alcohol, Wild Barrel’s Americanized version (Vice is spelled the way Weisse is supposed to sound) sits above 5-percent.
Wild Barrel has already released more than 20 fruited versions of Vice since opening in 2017, ranging from early favorites such as pink guava and black currant, to recent additions including mango lychee and the intriguing “passion cactus dragon fruit.”
What’s noteworthy about this medal, is Wild Barrel earned recognition with its Vice Sans Fruit, proving once and for all that the success of this beer starts with its tasty, lacto-soured base.
See all of San Diego’s winners below. Find a full list of GABF winners here.
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.
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 or 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 - Style Weisse - Glitz & Glam, Eppig Brewing
Fresh Hop Beer - Fresh Hop Ride the Pine, Belching Beaver Brewery - Tavern & Grill
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