The Great American Beer Festival took place in late September. This once-a-year event that brings together brewers from all parts of the country continues to grow, attempting to keep up with the increasing number of breweries. Many Southern California brewers received accolades at this year’s competition, including three of the six top honors. 43 of the medals in the 92 categories awarded went to Southern California craft brewers with 19 of those going to San Diego County brewers.

TAPS Fish House & Brewery Brea & Corona earned a combined total of four medals and the Mid-size Brewpub and Brewer of the Year award. Kyle Manns and David Huls have come back big time since returning to TAPS, along with their brewing team of Jonathan Chiusano and Steven Torres. Prior to Brewmaster Victor Novak’s departure from TAPS for Golden Road last year, Manns had exited to take the brewing helm at Bottle Logic Brewing, going on to win gold at the GABF in Bottle Logic’s first year in business. Huls had also left to assist with the opening of Barley Forge Brewing Co. in Costa Mesa. Both were successfully coaxed to return. TAPS Corona’s two gold medals key to earning them top brewpub/brewers were for The Velvet Hog chocolate beer category and TAPS Irish Red. The TAPS Brea location received silver for TAPS Kellerbier and bronze for Amend This! American/International pilsener category. The team is doing amazing things beer-wise these days. In addition to the classics we have come to know and love, look for an expanding list of IPAs along with other creative offerings. If you can’t make it out to Brea or Corona, TAPS beers are also available at its new non-brewing restaurant in Irvine, TAPS sister restaurant, The Catch, in Anaheim, and Lillie’s Q in Brea.

Matt Brynildson & his team at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles were once again named Mid-size Brewing Company and Brewer of the Year. FW’s medals included gold, for Pivo Pils in the German-style Pilsener category, gold for Double Barrel Ale in the ordinary & special bitter category and bronze in the English-style IPA category for Hammersmith IPA. Its wild and often sour sister, Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton came away with silver for Feral One, in the Belgian-style lambic/sour category, and a bronze medal for Sour Opal in the wood and barrel-aged sour category. Having recently partnered with Belgian brewery Duvel Moortgat, it will be interesting to watch Firestone’s expansion into more markets in the coming year. FW’s new Venice brewpub is still slotted to open soon, likely by the first quarter of 2016, if not sooner.

Very Small Brewing Company and Brewer of the Year went to the up-and-coming Rip Current Brewing Company from the North San Diego County city of San Marcos. Gold in the bock category for Break Line Bock and silver in the Scotch ale category for Black Lagoon Scottish Strong secured a spot at the top of this nation’s tiny breweries. Large is the fact it sports two tasting rooms. The first is at its brewery in San Marcos. The second, in the North Park area of San Diego, is a collaborative joint-effort with Sublime Ale House. Food and guest beers are also available.

Other SoCal brewers earning medals included Ballast Point, BNS, Breakwater, Green Flash, Karl Strauss Brewing La Jolla and Pacific Beach, The Lost Abbey, New English, all four Pizza Port locations, Societe, South Park, Stone Liberty Station and URBN St. Medals for the rest of SoCal also went to Beachwood Long Beach, Bottle Logic Anaheim, Central Coast San Luis Obispo, Dale Bros Upland, Figueroa Mountain Arroyo Grande and Santa Barbara, Garage Brewing Temecula, Heroes Riverside, Institution Ale Camarillo, Karl Strauss Costa Mesa, Noble Ale Works Anaheim and Ritual Redlands.

Multiple award winners in the above list included two gold medals for Bottle Logic Brewing Company and Ritual Brewing Company, and double bronze medals for Pizza Port, Ocean Beach. Bottle Logic’s gold medals were for Lagerithm, in the American dark lager category and Cobalt Porter in the Baltic-style porter category. Lagerithm also attained gold in Bottle Logic’s first year, 2014. Ritual’s gold medal winning Fat Hog Barley Wine also took Best-of-Show at this year’s California State Fair competition.

This windfall of recognition is more than ample confirmation that Southern California has numerous choices for great craft beer.

With so much craft beer related news in recent months, there is definitely much to talk about and limited space in which to do so. Last issue we prepped you for Abnormal Beer Company, located in Rancho Bernardo. It looks like this brewery, also equipped with an in-house restaurant and winery, will have to again await a later edition.