Winning is so over rated. I mean, who wants a medal or a trophy that says to the world, “I’m the best at FILL IN THE BLANK”? That’s just ostentatious.

I feel like I’ve earned the right to say that, because I’ve never won anything in my life. Not even those school superlatives. In an informal poll my senior year, I had a real shot at winning “Most Likely to Drop Out of College,” but for a while it looked like I wasn’t even going to go to college, so my name was unceremoniously removed from the contest. Because I grew up in the ‘90s when they gave awards out to everybody who bothered to show up, I have a box full of “participation” medals, but none that I actually won.

So yeah, winners are lame.

And yet, I can’t help but get really excited when the winners of the Great American Beer Festival are announced. This is the biggest craft beer contest in the world, and most American breweries are represented, each submitting beers they’re proud of in specific styles. There was a time when the festival was dominated by West Coast breweries and a few progressive Midwestern shops, but I’m happy to say that the Southern Appalachians represented pretty well this year (the GABF was held last week in Denver).

A number of our finest breweries pulled in some beautiful hard wear, but there are three winning beers that I think everyone should seek out if they have the opportunity.

  • Hardywood Park’s Raspberry Stout. This Richmond brewery pulled big boy gold in the fruit beer category. Word on the street is their Raspberry Stout is worth its weight in, well, gold.
  • Pisgah Brewing Chocolatized Vortex II. The limited release of this imperial stout has reached feverish levels in Asheville, and it earned a gold for Chocolate Beer at GABF.
  • Monday Night Brewing Bourbon Barrel Drafty Kilt. I can’t imagine the big hitters that Monday Night went up against to win gold in the Bourbon Barrel Aged Beer category. Some of the most sought after beers in the country fall into this category. And this year, Monday Night, out of Atlanta, has the gold standard.

The biggest round of congratulations in our region has to go to Virginia’s Devils Backbone, which won four individual medals (including a gold for their Schwartz Bier) and the biggest award of all: Midsize Brewing Company of the Year. That’s their third consecutive national title for Devils Backbone at GABF. Obviously, these dudes are on a roll. It’s enough to make me change my stance on winners.