image sourced from the United States Beer Tasting Championship websiteThis past March 23rd, several breweries from Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana; were announced winners in a unique beer judging competition.

Winners include Grand Teton, Rogue Ales, Deschutes, Three Creeks, Icicle, Reuben’s Brews, Old Schoolhouse, Fish Brewing, Pike Brewing, Big Sky, and Bitter Root.

Listed in order, according to the results listed on the USBTC’s website, are the following* (including quotes from breweries that responded to our inquiry for comment).

  • Barrel-Aged Beer Bourbon Barrel-aged, Reuben’s Brews Imperial Stout
    • Honorable Mention Rogue Ales Big Ass Barrel Brewer’s Ale

We were really pleased to have our Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout recognized at the USBTC! It was the first barrel aged project we had brewed, and we're looking forward to many more on the horizon!

Cheers, Adam from Reuben’s Brews

  • Barleywine Barley Wine Style Ale Old Schoolhouse Brewery
    • Honorable Mention Rogue Ales Old Crustacean

We are truly happy to be part of the craft beer movement and honored to stand out amongst incredible breweries. Thank You USBTC! - Old Schoolhouse Brewery

    • Strong/Old Ale Honorable Mention Big Sky Powder Hound
  • American Black Ale Bitter Root Last Cast Black IPA
    • Honorable Mention Grand Teton Trout Hop

Bitter Root Brewing is raising a toast in honor of our brewers today! Our fall seasonal, Last Cast Black IPA, took 1st place in the United States Beer Tasting Competition's American Black Ale category. This seasonal offering is available throughout Montana and select markets in Washington and Idaho, from Labor Day through January in 22oz bottles and draft. Aggressively dry hopped, this Black IPA didn't stray too far from it's IPA roots! Cheers! – Jason Goeltz, General Manager at Bitter Root Brewing.

  • Imperial Stout Deschutes Brewing The Abyss 2011

“Our brewers pour their creativity and  imagination into all of our beers, particularly those that make up our limited Reserve Series lineup. Being recognized at a national competition like this one is an honor and highlights the effort that our brewing team puts forth every day to craft beers that our fans will love.”

Jason Randles, digital marketing manager, Deschutes Brewery

  • Stout Old Schoolhouse Hooligan Stout
    • Honorable Mention Fish Brewing Organic Oatmeal Stout

“We are very excited for our win at the United States Beer Tasting Championship.  We have all been working very hard to make great beer, which makes it all the sweeter!” – Head Brewer Paul Pearson, Fish Brewing Company

  • Porter Three Creeks Five Pine Chocolate Porter

We were very excited to hear about our FivePine [sic] Chocolate Porter winning an award at the United States Beer Tasting Championship. This beer represents the time and quality Three Creeks Brewing Co. puts into all of our uniquely crafted ales. We are happy to know people are out there enjoying it. – Three Creeks Brewing Co.

  • Brown Ale Grand Teton Bitch Creek ESB
  • Scottish-Style Ale Pike Kilt Lifter

“We're so proud our bottle cap pins are popping! Cheers, Rose Ann” – co-owner / co-founder Pike Brewing

  • Belgian-Style Ale Pike Monk’s Uncle
  • Dark Lager/Dunkel Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager
    • Honorable Mention Leavenworth** Biers Bakke Hill Black Lager
  • Vienna/Marzen Lager Icicle Dirtyface Amber Icicle
  • Spice Beer Icicle Winter Drumfire

“This win is a recognition of everyone within the brewery. We are very proud to acknowledge that there isn’t a single beer in the brewery that isn’t considered our favorite. We are happy to have been included in this year’s awards.” Icicle Brewing’s head brewer Dean Priebe

  • Bean Beer Deschutes Brewing Black Butte XXV
    • Honorable Mention Icicle Dark Persuasion

As of this story, the United States Beer Tasting Championship committee have a date picked for the Spring-Summer tasting. Interested breweries should contact the USBTC directly via their website.

More on the USBTC

The USBTC takes a unique approach in that its competition is held in multiple stages. Sequential field trials are conducted wherein judges evaluate beers and select the best to advance to subsequent rounds. This allows beers to be judged in relatively small flights while ensuring that the best beers are still determined through head-to-head competition. All beers were tasted in blinded fashion and judged on a hedonic scale.

As it has been known, the United States Beer Tasting Championships is split into two bi-annual judging periods, Fall thru Winter & Spring thru Summer. This approach means the brewery can focus on beers styles that are more familiar based on the Season. Factually the styles judged during the Fall thru Winter contest are:

Barrel/Wood-Aged Beer

  • Beer of any style that is aged in a barrel or with wood chips. There is no limit to the ABV of
    this style.

Barleywine

  • Ales with ABV>9.0%, and including imperial porters/stouts with ABV=>14%.

Imperial Stout

  • Ales with 6.5%<=ABV<=9.0%. Exclusions based on ABV, etc. are noted elsewhere under their appropriate style.

Imperial Stout

  • Stouts or porters with 7.5%<ABV<14%. Those with ABV of 14% or more will be placed in
    our barleywine category.

Stout

  • All ales labeled “stout” with an ABV of 7.5% or less.

Porter

  • All ales labeled “porter” with an ABV of 7.5% or less.

Scottish-style Ale

  • All ales brewed to mimic the Scottish tradition; that is, a heavily malt-accented character and
    often smoky/peaty/whiskey undertones. No ABV limit is set for Scottish-style Ale

Belgian/Abbey Strong Ale

  • Ales brewed in traditional Abbey/Belgian styles excluding those examined in our Belgian/French styles in our summer competition (Belgian Pale Ale, Saison, Wit). The styles for this category include, but are not limited to Dubbel, Trippel, Quad and most Belgian Golden Strong Ale. No ABV limit is set for Belgian/Abbey Strong Ale.

Brown Ale

  • Ales brewed with significant amounts of dark malt typically imparting chocolate, nutty,
    and/or roast flavor, but with ABV<6.5% and not otherwise classified as a porter/stout. This
    includes beers in the “mild” style.

Black/Dark Lager

  • Lagers denoted as “dunkel,” “schwarzbier,” “dark” or “black” that have ABV<=6.5% and
    are not otherwise classified by the brewer (i.e., bock beer).

Vienna/Marzen Lager

  • Lagers described as “Vienna,” “Marzen,” “Octoberfest,” “Fest” or “Amber Lager” that are brewed with more malt accents than pilsners, Dortmunders, Helles or other gold lagers. They are typically light to dark amber in color and have an ABV<=6.5%.

Spice/Herb Beer

  • Beer of any style that contains a clearly detectable level of spice or herb flavoring in the taste. The category includes strong ales (up to 9.0% ABV) that have significant spice/herb flavor, but excludes spiced barleywines, Belgian-style beers, and beers where the additional flavor is consonant with the base style of the beer

The USBTC recognizes that American brewers are continually establishing new beer styles and reviving interest in classic styles. As one way to acknowledge this, the USBTC devotes “pull-out” categories in each competition to styles that are currently emerging or being faithfully carried on. In our most recent event, “Giant” Beer and “Bean” Beer were selected as the USBTC pull-out categories.

American Black Ale: Black IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ales and Hoppy Brown Ales

  • Black IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ales and Hoppy Brown Ales are all included in this category,
    which includes highly-hopped ales with a significant amount of dark malt character. No
    ABV limit is set for American Black Ale.

Bean Beer

  • Beer with significant coffee, chocolate, vanilla or other flavor based on an addition that
    comes from a “bean.” The flavor must be imparted from the addition (as opposed to
    chocolate flavor coming solely from malt, for instance). No ABV limit is set for Bean Beer.

More on the hedonic scale.

All beers are rated using a hedonic scale indicating overall pleasure achieved from tasting the beer.  Our scale incorporates aroma, flavor intensity, balance, complexity, and mouth-feel (since we feel great beer is mainly about great taste, our system does not assign points based on the appearance of the beer).  One point regarding the entries; while significant efforts are conducted within each category to find relatively unknown good beers that are worthy of consideration, extensive searches of numerous other reference lists and competition results are also done to make sure that products considered exemplary by other respected authors, organizations, etc. are included (i.e., we’re not above having others do some of the work for us!).  Thus, we feel our entries tend to include the best currently produced beers in each category.

* per the definition of craft brewer via “Craft Brewer Defined”
** brewed by Fish Brewing Company, Olympia (Washington)

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