Through all of the continual changes in the craft beer industry, from the arrival of new breweries and new beer styles, I’m glad to say that RateBeer has been a consistent resource throughout this evolution. Several weeks ago I had the privilege of attending both the RateBeer Best Awards and the RateBeer Best Festival in the beautiful Santa Rosa, California.
The inaugural RateBeer Best Awards took place on Saturday, January 30th at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa. Prior to the awards ceremony the sold out crowd sampled from around a dozen of local Sonoma County breweries such as Woodfour Brewing, Third Street Ale, Bear Republic, Lagunitas and Fogbelt Brewing. Served alongside the beer offerings were smoked meats, charcuterie, cheese and more.
When the main evenings event began at 6:00pm, Joe Tucker, RateBeer’s executive director and founder, began talking about what to expect during the awards ceremony. Tucker then introduced the nights MC, the well-respected Bay Area beer writer, Jay Brooks.
Before I get into the award recipients (there were a lot), let me first explain how the awards were determined. RateBeer tallied nearly 1 million user submitted reviews and then analyzed the results to determine a winner. The process they use is not perfect, but a good starting point in understanding the popularity of beers throughout the world. Higher alcohol beers like barrel aged stouts and Imperial IPAs seemed to rate quite well in this competition. As I know from working with RateBeer directly on a number of projects I can tell you they are data nerds. Tucker and his team provide very useful and insightful information for both the beer nerd and the casual beer drinker.
The evening’s first awards were for Top Beer, Top Brewer, Best New Brewer, Brewpub, Restaurant, Brewery Tap Room, Bottle Shop, Grocery, and Bar. In all hundreds of awards were delivered in less than three hours. Unfortunately, the audio was not great so many of the awards announced I could not hear very well. Interesting enough there was boos heard from the audience on multiple occasions when Goose Island was announced for winning select categories.
The Top Ten 2015 Breweries in the World
- Hill Farmstead Brewery – Greensboro, Vermont, USA
- AleSmith Brewing Co – San Diego, California, USA
- Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Beersel, Belgium
- Three Floyds Brewing Co – Munster, Indiana, USA
- de Garde Brewing – Tillamook, Oregon, USA
- Alpine Beer Company – Alpine, California, USA
- Sante Adairius Rustic Ales – Capitola, California, USA
- Side Project Brewing – St. Louis, Missouri, USA
- Bells Brewery – Galesburg, Michigan, USA
- Russian River Brewing – Santa Rosa, California USA
A few of the best beers in the world include Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise, Hill Farmstead Double Galaxy, Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, and Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight to name a few.
In lieu of naming all of the awards I encourage you to check out all of the 2015 RateBeer Best Awards at its website at http://www.ratebeer.com/ratebeerbest/.
Then the following day is when the inaugural RateBeer Festival took place north of Santa Rosa at the KaiserAir Jet Center next to the Charles M. Schulz Airport. Here well over 2000 craft beer fans turned out to sample beers from over 40 of the world’s top breweries, many of who received RateBeer Best awards the previous evening.
The work that RateBeer did to secure these highly lauded brewers to be part of this inaugural festival was amazing. At each of the brewery booths either the brewer or brewery representative was there to pour the beers. A few of these brewers traveled from as far as China, Germany and Sweden to be here at the RateBeer Festival.
With glass in hand conquering the festival made for a fun and enjoyable afternoon. Plus the unlimited pours of some amazing beer made it even better. The RateBeer Festival featured beer from the cream of the crop. I believe the first brewery to go through all of its beer was Toppling Goliath Brewing Co. Other breweries that had tremendously long lines all day long were Hill Farmstead Brewery, Three Floyds Brewing and Side Project.
With unlimited pours this non-beer ticket event kept everyone in attendance wanting the try the next rare beer. Lines for the breweries varied throughout the afternoon as each brewery rotated through its exceptional lineup. Hill Farmstead Brewery and Three Floyds Brewing seemed to have the longest lines during the day but the lines kept moving so no one was out of a beer in their hand for very long.
I sure hope that RateBeer makes this weekend an annual event. For those that did not make it this year, make sure to put this one your beer calendar as this is bucket list worthy.