Five Ohio craft breweries took home medals at the World Beer Cup last week, with Fat Head’s Brewery again leading the way for the Buckeye State.
Fat Head’s, which operates a brewery in Middleburg Heights and a brewpub in North Olmsted — along with places in Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore. — won a gold medal for its Hop JuJu in the imperial India Pale Ale category and a bronze for its Midnight Moonlight in the American-style black ale category.
The other Ohio winners were:
•?Little Fish Brewing Co. in Athens, a gold for Barrel Aged Woodthrush in the Belgian- and French-style ale category.
•?Fifty West Brewing Co. in Cincinnati, a gold for its 10&2 Barleywine in the barley wine-style category.
•?North High Brewing Co. in Columbus, a silver for Pale Ale in the American-style pale ale category.
•?Willoughby Brewing Co. in Willoughby, a bronze for Nut Smasher in the specialty category.
While Fat Head’s and Willoughby have previously won at the event, Little Fish, Fifty West and North High took home their first World Beer Cup medals.
The awards were handed out Friday in Philadelphia at the conclusion of the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America. The World Beer Cup, held every two years, is organized by the Brewers Association, the Boulder, Colo.-based trade group.
This year’s event included 6,596 beers from 1,907 breweries representing 55 countries. That was a 38.5 percent increase in the number of entries from the 2014 World Beer Cup.
Miller Brewing Co., which operates a brewery in Trenton, Ohio, won the “Large Brewing Company” award. Miller Lite won a gold medal, while Miller High Life won a silver.
Here’s what the Ohio craft breweries had to say about their wins:
Fat Head’s again was in rarefied air at an awards ceremony.
When it comes to big events such as the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival, Fat Head’s doesn’t come home empty-handed. The brewery has racked up an astounding 20 medals — one was for the Portland brewery — at those two competitions since 2009.
Hop JuJu now has earned three gold medals.
“We had great hops this year. That’s a big part of it,” head brewer and co-owner Matt Cole said.
Only 28 breweries won more than one medal.
Others have taken notice of Fat Head’s success. A California brewer joked with Cole that he now has an “X” on his back.
“We’re just really deeply honored,” co-founder Jimmy Stockwell said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of confidence that we were going to win anything. ... . It’s really great to be recognized and be part of a such a great community of the world’s best beer.”
The award is extra special because the Barrel Aged Woodthrush — which is available at bottle shops around the state — was the sixth beer made by the brewery, which opened last year.
“We feel like we’ve been doing it right from the get-go and the medal validates that,” Stockwell said.
10&2 Barleywine isn’t a newbie when it comes to awards. It’s been honored at the U.S. Beer Championships, the New York International Beer Competition and the Commonwealth Cup events.
“This is a huge deal for us,” said Thomas Hemmer, who handles marketing for the brewery. “This proves that if you put in hard work and pay attention to the craft, and you brew for the beer and not for the fad that’s going on right now, you can do beautiful and wonderful things.”
Hemmer, who attended the awards ceremony, said it was not only flattering but humbling to win.
“You always hope that you’ll win,” he said. “But when they announce the bronze and then silver, you’re like, ‘Crap.’ And all of a sudden our name is on the screen. We lost it. We were jumping around like kids in a candy store.”
One of the coolest things, Hemmer said, is that the gold medal was awarded on the same night that Fifty West held a grand opening for its new production brewery.
“It was the best night it could possibly happen,” he said.
10&2 Barleywine — named for the fact that it’s 10.2 percent alcohol — isn’t available right now. But a barrel-aged version should be released soon.
Brewer Jason McKibben didn’t have a lot of confidence that his Pale Ale would win.
“When I saw how many entries there were in the category, I’m like, ‘We basically wasted an entry. There’s no way ...' And as I was completing that sentence, they called our name,” he said. “We were totally shocked and super proud and honored. A crazy feeling.”
Pale Ale is one of the brewery’s regular lineup.
“That does make it feel special,” McKibben said. “This wasn’t some one-off that we mega hopped.”
North High just grabbed some Pale Ale from a pallet for its entry. That means the winning beer is the “exact beer that you will find on the shelf year-round,” he said.
“Anytime you win something like that, it’s awesome,” said head brewer Rick Seibt, who previously won a medal for Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter. “It’s cool to see Ohio do so well as well.”
Customers have recognized Nut Smasher, an imperial stout, as an outstanding brew and have been willing to stand in line to get a bottle of it at the brewery. But it’s also special to get the recognition from judges, Seibt said.
He noted that the beer will be at the Fat Head’s Heavyweight Brewer’s Brawl on June 4. It has won the people’s choice award at the event the last two years.
Nut Smasher also will return on draft to the brewpub in mid-June.
To see all the World Beer Cup winners, click here.