Great American Beer Festival, the premier U.S. beer festival and competition, was founded in 1982, the Gluten-Free Beer category has only been a part of the event since 2007. At this year's competition, held last week in Denver, Harvester Brewing of Portland, Oregon took the Gold medal for its Harvester Brewing IPA No. 1. A gluten-free Pale Ale made by Deschutes Brewery's Bend (Oregon) Public House won the Silver medal, while Colorado's New Planet Beer Company earned a Bronze medal for its Brown Ale.
Harvester's winning beer uses Horizon, Willamette, Cascade and Meridian hops for "a piney, citrusy, truly northwest IPA bitterness, flavor and aroma," according to the brewer's description. The body to support these hops comes from pale roasted chestnuts, certified gluten-free oats and organic tapioca maltodextrin. (It's available for purchase online, although shipping to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware is prohibited.)
Deschutes' Pale Ale, brewed with Bravo hops, brown rice, honey, and dark candy sugar, is only available at the brewery's Oregon pubs, but New Planet's Brown Ale, which won a Silver medal at the 2012 GABF, is rolling out nationwide. New Planet describes its sorghum and brown rice ale as "rich in character and depth, highlighted by coffee and chocolate flavors, with subtle cinnamon and vanilla notes on the finish."
Festival rules prohibit gluten-reduced beers such as Omission and Estrella Damm Daura from being entered in the category.
This year, a total of 14 beers were submitted in the Gluten-Free Beer category, down from 20 entered in 2012.