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Southern California craft breweries win big at the Great American Beer Festival

Beachwood BBQ and Brewing

Brewmaster Julian Shrago of Beachwood BBQ & Brewing was part of the team to take home a Great American Beer Festival silver medal for the brewery’s Mocha Machine, a  coffee-infused milk stout.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The largest commercial beer competition in the world was held in Denver this past weekend and, as usual, California breweries took home plenty of hardware. Los Angeles and Orange counties combined to score eight medals and titles of midsize brewpub of the year.

The Great American Beer Festival (or GABF) is an annual gathering of some 60,000 beer industry pros and craft beer fans, and it is considered one of the most prestigious beer competitions in the country. It was the 29th year of the ever-growing competition, and this year more than 1,500 American breweries entered a total of nearly 7,000 different brews into the 92 specific style categories.

Two medals went to Los Angeles County breweries: Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach won a silver medal for its coffee-infused milk stout Mocha Machine (which was also awarded a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in 2014), and Smog City Brewing in Torrance won its second GABF medal with Kumquat Saison. The Kumquat Saison, a collaboration with L.A. nonprofit Food Forward, is made with foraged kumquats, and it earned a silver medal in the Belgian-style fruit beer category.

This special-release beer was recently re-brewed with the late-summer kumquat crop, and the new batch will be released at the brewery tasting room on Saturday.

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Orange County was home to more winners, including TAPS Fish House & Brewery, awarded the midsize brewpub of the year honors. Between its Corona and Brea locations, the well-decorated O.C. institution scored four medals.

The Costa Mesa outpost of the Karl Strauss chain of brewpubs won a silver medal in the American-style black ale category for singularity, and Anaheim’s Bottle Logic Brewing took home a pair of gold medals with its brews Lagerithm and Cobaltic Porter.

Three new styles were added to this year’s competition, and by far, the most popular of the new additions was the the Session IPA. Over 160 breweries sent Session IPAs to the competition, making it the fourth-most-popular style at the festival. Anaheim’s hometown favorite Noble Ale Works took home the bronze medal in the style with its punchy Nose Candy IPA.

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Firestone Walker Brewing was another notable California brewery to win big, and besides winning five medals (two golds and a bronze for the Paso Robles brewery, and a silver and bronze for the Barrelworks aging facility in Buellton), the Paso Robles site was also named midsize brewing company of the year.

Overall, California breweries were awarded 67 medals and four out of the seven brewery of the year awards.

In past competitions there have been tears shed over losses and raucous celebrations of wins, and this year was no exception. The awards can be powerful marketing tools for winning breweries, but they’re also badges of honor for the men and women who make the beer. Winning beers are selected by a battalion of judges, and these 242 beer experts are tasked with “identifying the three beers that best represent each beer-style category as described and adopted by the Great American Beer Festival.”

Take a look at the full list of winners and start making a shopping list.

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