Sightlines — 2015 GABF: We Started at the Bottom, Now We're Here

Nate Micklos

THE GIST
The 2015 GABF has officially come to a close. This year's event saw record numbers of entries (6,647 total, +20% vs 2014) from over 1,500 breweries nationwide. The beers were judged by the biggest panel to date, with 242 official judges from 15 countries. While several big names such as Firestone Walker, Green Flash, and Left Hand received medals (not surprising, and well-deserved), a plethora of small and relatively new breweries also scooped top honors: 38 first-time entrants took home awards.

WHY IT MATTERS
As we perused the list of entrants and medalists, we were struck by the the sheer breadth of categories and breweries with a seat at the table in 2015. But perhaps more importantly, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of small and/or new breweries that are more than holding their weight against craft beer's new giants. Despite all the recent noise about consolidations, international exports, and national footprints, the GABF results prove that "craft beer" remains a healthy and thriving market segment from top to bottom. The small players continue to push the industry forward with their innovation and their dedication to making quality, world-class beers. It serves as a timely reminder that we are only getting started on this thing, and that there's always work to be done for GBH's traveling team (no complaints).   — Nate Micklos