05 Jun Three Indiana Breweries Take Medals at North American Brewers Association Beer Awards
The medals continue to pile up for Indiana breweries in 2019 competitions. This time it’s the North American Brewers Association (NABA) Awards, with five medals awarded to three Indiana breweries – Chilly Water Brewing, Flix Brewhouse-Carmel, and Backstep Brewing.
NABA is located in Idaho Falls, ID and functions as a non-profit foundation with a mandate to “help secure beer’s role in our culture and society through the advancement of brewing quality and consumer education. Founded in 1996, the NABA conducts classes in beer judging and organizes competitions and festivals. The NABA Awards are the culminating event of the Idaho Craft Beer Week, and the results came out on June 1st, the same day as the Mountain Brewers Beer Fest.
Judging for the beer competition is done in a blinded format by certified judges, brew masters from national breweries, beer writers, and brewers from small independent breweries. Gold, silver, and bronze awards are given to the top three beers in each category, and in some cases honorable mentions are presented to non-winning beers.
Because the NABA and its competition are located in Idaho, the awards are usually dominated by breweries from the west and northwest. Breweries in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Utah, Oregon, and Washington make up the majority of the entries. This 23rd iteration of the competition was highlighted by more than 2000 beers vying for medals across 97 categories.
The five medals won by breweries from Indiana made up the bulk of the medals taken from the eastern part of the country. In fact, only ten breweries east of the Mississippi River won medals at all, and Indiana was the only eastern state with more than one winning brewery. Michigan and Kentucky had one brewery each win a medal or two, and no breweries from Illinois or Ohio took a medal. It may be that breweries from those states had few entries, or it could be that Indiana just makes better beer.
Backstep Brewing. This Crawfordsville brewery continues to pile up medals, even though they have been open for only a year and a half. Head brewer Josh Miller brought back three medals this time, a gold for the Three Vows Belgian Dubbel, a silver for Backstep Gose in the classic gose category, and a bronze for Dunkel Witz in the Munich-style dark beer category.
In talking about this particular competition, Josh told me, “It is definitely West Coast dominated. I’m not sure the reasoning behind that – more than likely its just because of where it started and where the Craft market was most prevalent early on, but I think the re-branding this past year is a step to making it more marketable East of the Rockies.” He likes NABA because it is one of the larger competitions and that, “Competing with some of those hard hitting western breweries gives me a great idea of where my beer stands on a national level.”
Of Backstep’s three medals this year, Josh picked out one for special consideration. He said, “I am especially proud of the Dunkel this year. I took in a lot of feedback last year to improve it; almost 10 full notebook pages of feedback, actually, and really did my research on the style over the last year.“ It’s that willingness to let people tell you about your beer and to keep striving to improve it that leads to medals – and medals lead to patrons that trust your beers and seek them out.
The medal from the Belgian Dubbel continues a trend with Indiana breweries winning medal after medal for Belgian style beers. In the last year Indiana breweries have won no fewer than ten medals for Belgian style beers – Taxman, Flix, Bier Brewery, Backstep, Blind Owl, etc. – Indiana could be renamed Belgium-West. Josh commented, “I have no idea why Indiana in particular is making such fantastic Belgian beers, but we certainly are. Taxman is always on point and I love drinking them, but so many other breweries are also are hitting Belgian beers so perfectly to style. The number of medals is impressive, but not surprising.”
Chilly Water Brewing. This was a repeat win for head brewer Dan Krzywicki. Chilly Water’s Vienna Lager called Moonlight Sonata won the gold medal last year in this same competition and then followed it up by winning again in 2019. That speaks not only to the beer’s quality, but also to its consistency. Dan told me, “I’m excited and grateful that this beer has earned such merit because I personally gravitate toward lagers, especially classic lager styles such as the Vienna….I’m proud to say that Moonlight Sonata has won multiple awards in more than just one competition.”
Dan enjoys entering larger competitions because his beers are being judged against national and international brands. “When we receive news of a medal at a competition this size it really means a lot, as some very legit breweries are competing for the same prize.” As Chilly Water has matured as a brewery, Dan has decided to enter more contests all around the country to “see how my beers stand up to brewers in other regions.” I think we know the answer to that.
Flix Brewhouse – Carmel. The gold medal won by Flix head brewer Rob Malad for a bier de garde called Super Power Potion wasn’t that much of a surprise. That particular beer has won medals in its last three competitions, all large format contests. It took gold at both NABA and the Los Angeles International Beer Competition, and a bronze at the San Diego International Beer Competition. In fact, the two beers that finished ahead of Super Power Potion were saisons, so it really has been judged the best bier de garde in its last three outings.
Rob also commented on the timing of NABA, noting that he covets the feedback as he gets ready for other competitions. He told me, “NABA is the last contest before we get into the thick of the competitions that I place the most importance on: Indiana Brewers’ Cup, US Open, and GABF.” Now that Rob has continued the winning tradition at Flix, he knows that medals are expected and is working hard to improve already great beers.
Congrats to all the breweries for their medals and for constantly working to give us the best beers around. Look for more medals to come Indiana’s way as the summer progresses. For a complete list of the winners at NABA, click here.
banner image credit: NABA