In largest Great American Beer Festival competition ever, two Minnesota breweries score gold

Lauren Bennett McGinty, the executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, holds three of the Minnesota medals at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival competition // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

Out of over 100 categories judged at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival (GABF), Minnesota breweries medaled in four, including two golds.

St. Paul’s Barrel Theory Beer Company took a gold medal in the specialty Berliner category for Midwest Exotic, a gose with calamansi, blood orange, tangerine, and peach.

“Super cool,” Barrel Theory co-founder Brett Splinter said of the gold medal. “Timmy [Johnson, a co-founder and the head brewer] continues to make exceptional beer, and it’s humbling to see it recognized on a national scale.”

The other gold came in the Bock category courtesy of Hutchinson’s Bobbing Bobber Brewing Company and its Tackle Bock.

“I’m shocked given the talented competition we competed with,” said Lane Wanous, co-owner and head brewer of Bobbing Bobber. “It’s really an honor and a dream of ours to win such a prestigious award.”

“Winning an award of this caliber has been a goal of ours since we first discussed opening a brewery,” Bobbing Bobber co-owner and president Dan Hart added. “All of us here at 3BC are just elated to bring home a medal for Minnesota and for our hometown of Hutchinson.”

Spilled Grain Brewhouse continued its winning ways in strong beer categories with a silver medal for its False Hope, an American wheatwine ale, in the Other Strong Beer category. “It’s always amazing to win a medal, but GABF is another level,” Spilled Grain co-owner and head brewer Jacob Schnabel said. “To win two years in a row for the same beer is a testament to our brewing team and their passion.”

Ursa Minor Brewing in Duluth rounded out Minnesota’s awards with a bronze in the Scottish-Style Ale category for Thistle Dew.

“So much hard work and passion goes into each and every beer we make, and it feels great to have one of them be recognized, especially since this is our first ever GABF,” Ursa Minor CEO Ben Hugus said. “We opened one year ago on Sept. 26 and have brewed 79 unique beers in our first 12 months. Our whole team has worked a ton of long hours over the last year and it feels amazing to have received such an amazing award.”

Lauren Bennett McGinty, the executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, accepts Ursa Minor’s 2019 Great American Beer Festival award on its behalf // Photo by Louis Livingston-Garcia

Nearby Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, also medaled at GABF, winning gold in the Coffee Beer category for its Duluth Coffee Pale Ale.

Though Minnesota had a better showing last year with 12 medals (four golds, four silver, and four bronze), Lauren Bennett McGinty, the executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, points out that this year’s competition was the largest to date with 9,497 total beer entries, making the awards for two of Minnesota’s newer breweries that much more exciting.

“I’m super excited for Ursa Minor and Bobbing Bobber—as well as the other two breweries—but I think they’re just such brand-new breweries, it’s exciting to see them win some awards,” Bennett McGinty said. “For breweries who have won now or in the past it just shows how consistent their beers are and that the quality is great. It reflects well on Minnesota too, to see that we are making really excellent beer in Minnesota and that our breweries work really, really hard. A medal is just icing on the cake to that.”

Updated at 10:00pm on October 8, 2019