15 Year Winning Streak at the Great American Beer Festival Continues!

by | 11/29/2022

The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) is an annual event celebrating the best in American brewing culture. This year’s competition attracted more than 46,000 visitors, including 3,930 beers from 526 breweries in 48 states, plus Puerto Rico, vying for the 248 medals. Award-winning brewers received prestigious gold, silver and bronze medals in 84 beer categories, establishing the best examples of each style in the U.S.

Each year from 8 Iron Hill locations, staff and customers unite to form an Iron Hill entourage, known for being the largest and loudest cheering section in the hall, as the Iron Hill Brewers stand among the best of the best in our industry. 

Vince Desrosiers from Iron Hill North Wales won the first award this year. This medal is special because it was Vince’s very first (and we’re sure not last) recognition at The GABF, a milestone moment for any brewer. At the same time, this medal brought it home for Iron Hill as a team by marking the continuation of “the streak”, 15 straight years of Iron Hill brewers taking medals at the GABF. 

2011.10.07 GABF Iron Hill Winners (Short Cut) from CapAerial on Vimeo.

You have to understand, this is a very superstitious bunch, the nerves run high for anyone who is making their first trip out there or doing anything remotely differing from the annual ritual as they fear that they could be the infamous “jinx”. Good thing for us, we’ve got some top-notch talent and even the “jinx” has been averted one more time.

Vince was recognized for Grand Inquisitor, a bronze medal winner for “Wood-and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout,” from North Wales, PA.

OurRussian Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. The complex malt character is balanced with distinct bourbon flavors.

Next up, not his first time on stage to shake Charlie Papazian’s hand, Chris LaPierre has been recognized by the GABF judges several times in the past. All of those times, it was for a beer that he created the recipe for himself.

This time, Chris was recognized for a recipe that was collaboratively formulated by all of the Iron Hill Brewers and requires a high level of precision and consistency. This is a true testament to Chris’ excellence in traditional brewing styles where the competition is generally steep. Plus, a win for all of the Iron Hill Brewers who did what they do best when they come together to develop an award-winning recipe for a house beer that is on tap every day. Chris said it best in his recent blog post “Great beer all the time, contest or no contest.”

Chris has been a professional brewer since 1997 working with Harpoon and Dock Street before calling Iron Hill home nine years ago. He has collected awards for many different styles but takes the most pride in clean and balanced lagers.

Chris’ win was for Vienna Red Lager, a bronze medal winner for “Vienna-Style Lager,” from Maple Shade, NJ.

GABF gold medal 2008; GABF bronze medal 1999; WBC silver medal, 2008
One of Iron Hills “house” beers, a wildly popular European amber lager with delicate malt aroma, slight sweetness and a clean, crisp finish.

Then we got to Category 80 (out of 84) – The nail-biting tension builds as the list of remaining categories gets shorter. A win at this year’s GABF competition for Bob Barrar would mean 10 consecutive years with a win for the Northeast’s most decorated brewer and his most coveted category was up!

Phew! That fiery look of intensity in Bob’s eyes burst into joy as the crowd went crazy over the announcement: Russian Imperial Stout, a silver medal winner for “Imperial Stout,” from Media, PA. 

Iron Hill’s most “decorated” beer: GABF gold medal 2010, GABF gold medal 2006; GABF gold medal 2003; World Beer Cup [WBC] gold medal 2010; WBC bronze medal 2006
A full-bodied beer that starts with a complex malty sweet and high roasted character, wonderfully balanced with the generous use of citrusy American hops. 

This was an exciting year for our brewery team as we continued a long time tradition and there is more to the magic that meets the eye.

Here is something that I observed that was really special to me, Bob Barrar is Vince DesRosiers’ mentor. He brought him into the brewery at Iron Hill Media, taught him everything he knew. The little nugget that I knew, because Vince told me the first night at GABF “Grand Inquisitor is the hands down best beer I’ve ever brewed. If I have a chance to win anything it is for that beer, but I’m up against Bob in that category. So, we’ll see.” Bob had a beer in the same category. Winning a medal at this festival would have meant a pretty big milestone for Bob and to see the look on Bob’s face as Vince’s beer was announced, was priceless. Watch it again in the video above. It was as if he won too, which he did, because none of these guys do it on their own. Each and every one of them contributes to the success of the other every day. Chris’ win was for Vienna Red Lager and I was around to observe when they were formulating that beer. It took weeks and weeks of tasting, tweaking and repeating and they all worked together to come up with the perfect recipe. When you watch the video, check out the reactions, when one wins, they all win! It’s a really cool thing to watch, it’s a really cool thing to be a part of and it’s one of the things that makes Iron Hill great; collaboration, team spirit, teaching others and celebrating each others success just like it was your own.  

“Competing in the GABF is a huge honor,” says Director of Brewing Operations Mark Edelson. “We are tremendously proud of all our talented brewers, particularly Vince, Chris and Bob, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate 15 years of consecutive wins as a team.”