Barely a year after celebrating a year on the job, Wynwood Brewing Company brings home a gold medal from the Great American Beer Festival, the country's largest beerfest, which was held from October 2-4 this year.
Wynwood Brewing's flagship beer, Pop's Porter, took first place in the Robust Porter division, with Founders and Tapistry brewing companies (both from Michigan) taking second and third, respectively. The winners were announced on Saturday afternoon.
Wynwood Brewing registered five beers: La Rubia blonde ale, Father Francisco Belgian ale, Rickenbacker Pils, Magic City Pale Ale and Pop's Porter. Miami's first craft brewery is also the first to take home a medal for the city in the 32 years of the GABF.
But while it is great news that a Miami brewery brought perhaps the first gold medal to its home city, the fact that there was a contingent of Florida breweries at the GABF is also important to area enthusiasts. The number of breweries from last year to this year's festival increased from six to 11.
Wynwood Brewing was the only one from Miami, but in the future that is likely to change as the Magic City's beer industry continues to grow.
It's really all about trying the beer America has to offer. The festival is like a cross-section of America's beer. The GABF is not just any beer festival, it is the country's largest. In 1982, the first year of the festival, there were only 22 breweries participating. This year more than 500 breweries from across the U.S. converged upon the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, along with several thousand beer enthusiasts.
But for the brewers, winning a medal at the GABF is ultimate recognition because there is no bigger festival. As diverse as the competition may be, it is also fierce. Of all 11 Florida breweries, only three received medals, with Wynwood garnering the only gold. Tampa Bay and Motorworks brewing companies each received bronze medals for their beers. Other area brewers who also attended, but did not score medals, were Funky Buddha Brewery and Due South Brewing Company.
"Winning a medal is huge, let alone a gold medal," said Luis Brignoni, owner of Wynwood Brewing. "It's not just great for me personally, but for my team. We put in lots of hard work."
The gold medal brew is available at Wynwood Brewing's tap room. It's made with a blend of roasted malts with hints of a chocolate and coffee aroma and weighs in at 6.2 percent alcohol-by-volume. The brewery's website suggests that it pairs well with a cigar.
The credit goes out to the Wynwood Brewing team: Luis Brignoni (Luis Sr.) and son, David Rodriguez, Alex Gutierrez, Victor Mesa, and brewmaster Nik Mebane.
But competing for prestige is simply an incidental portion of the festival. Like many beer festivals, the GABF is a meet-and-greet for brewers and a chance to share ideas, draw inspiration, drain kegs of carefully crafted brew and compliment each others beards.
Among some of Brignoni's favorite brews were ones from Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery, Great Divide Brewing Company and Wynkoop Brewing Company, the brewer of Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, the beer made bovine testicles.
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When asked if he had tried Wynkoops testicle beer, Brignoni said yes and he was indifferent about the taste.
At the awards ceremony, all of the brewers were given a standing ovation, Brignoni said.