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Culture

GABF 2016 Wrap-Up: What happened to Houston?

Last year, after my annual trip to Denver, I wrote a glowing write-up of Houston’s successes in bringing home hardware from the Great American Beer Fest competition. As you may recall, for the third year straight, Houston breweries garnered two medals, as just part of a strong Texas showing. Were such successes to continue for a fourth year? Sadly, while I enjoyed numerous delicious beers Saturday morning, announcements slowly revealed that this year, Houston would go home empty-handed.

To be fair, Texas’ haul as a whole dropped, from fifteen to twelve. But the fact that Houston failed to take home even a single Bronze evokes a lot of questions, chief among them: is the city being left behind, as far as beer is concerned?

I intend to explore this question, and other tangential thoughts, in depth in future articles, but for now I have just two thoughts to touch upon. First, it’s possible that this conclusion is spot on. After all, Saint Arnold Weedwacker has been a big winner in the past, garnering two Bronze medals and one Gold. This year, the German-Style Wheat category actually had fewer entries than in 2015, so one would expect the back-to-back-to-back medalist to place again. (Interestingly, the Gold medal went to AlpenGlow from Ohio’s Fat Head’s Brewery, a brewery that took home five medals.) Second, and perhaps more importantly, these competitions aren’t perfect. Sure, the judges this year included Saint Arnold brewer Aaron Inkrott, but like any other subjective competition, there are whims and preferences that vary from person to person.

Ultimately, I don’t personally believe that medals at events like this matter all that much. But I do think there’s something to be said about the fact that a city that previously had shown an impressive trend of improving in the medal standings each year, by either quantity or position, has just fallen off, hard. I think the silence says quite a bit.

(Featured Image Photo © Brewers Association)

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