We started this list last year, taking the data from three years of BC Beer Awards and compiling it into a master list that tracks all the awards won from breweries across the province. Now with another year of award winners announced and behind us, how does this impact the overall medal count for the province as a whole?
As a reminder, the top five breweries in BC as of last year were:
- Dageraad: 13 medals
- Parallel 49: 12 medals
- Steel & Oak: 10 medals
- Central City: 9 medals
- Brassneck Brewing: 8 medals
Now a disclaimer before we look at the new results. First, yes this is just tracking the BC Beer Awards medals, which some may argue is not an accurate representation of the best breweries in the province. Which is fair; if you want to look at public opinion, we ran a comprehensive poll not that long ago on the best Vancouver breweries. Secondly, some of your favourite breweries will not be on this list. Why? Because they don’t submit (aka. Four Winds, although this year they did submit and win, a first since 2015). So is it flawed, absolutely; but it’s also a good overview of how the state of the industry is in the province.
Ok, that being said, let’s dig in.
Most awarded breweries
Here’s the interesting thing about the new “leaderboard”, in some ways it hasn’t changed, while in other ways it’s changed quite significantly. What do we mean by that? Well overall, the breweries that were listed with the highest medal count in 2017 are still on the list, but the order has been altered quite a bit, and there are a lot of ties.
After tallying up the awards won from this year, the new list looks something like this:
- Dageraad/Steel & Oak (TIE) -15 medals each
- Parallel 49 – 14 medals
- Central City/Strange Fellows/Steamworks/Twin Sails (TIE)- 10 medals each
- Brassneck – 9 medals
- Nelson/Bomber/Howe Sound – 8 medals
As you can see, this is no longer a top five, but a top 11 based on all the tied medals counts. The biggest movers this year were Steel & Oak with five medals, Twin Sails with four and Steamworks and Strange Fellows. Dageraad only won two medals this year, the lowest hardware count they’ve had.
If we break it down even further, with rankings weighted on gold/silver/bronze wins, then the list looks more like this:
- Dageraad (8,3,4)
- Strange Fellows/Steamworks (7,1,2)
- Parallel 49 (5,2,7)
- Nelson (4,3,1)
- Central City (4,2,4)
Interestingly enough Steel & Oak doesn’t make the list in that format as they are 3,6,6 respectively.
Big winners for 2018
This year was quite interesting as it saw more breweries take home less awards, when in previous years we would see several standout breweries take home the majority of the awards. A much larger field meant breweries were generally winning one or two awards this year as the average, with a few exceptions:
- As mentioned, Steel & Oak took the most home with five, two silvers and three bronzes.
- Two other breweries took home four medals each: Twin Sails and Sooke Brewing (Sooke also won best rookie brewery)
Twin sails also happened to be the only brewery that sweeped a category: Hazy IPA; so I guess you know where to go for Hazy beer.
Last year we had a list of beer that either won almost every year, or in the case of Steel & Oak dark lager, won every single year. This year, that list no longer applies. Not a single one of the previous beer mentioned won an award this year. Which is a statement to the changing landscape of craft beer, the absolute glut of choice and the stiff competition out there.
Strange Fellows continues to score big with their sour ales. They are consistently gold winning material and has propelled the brewery into the top spots for medal count either way you look at it (overall, or weighted).
The other interesting this is that while craft beer drinkers may scoff at the larger scale breweries, the reality is they are winning an awful lot on a very consistent basis. Just look at the medal count, these breweries have won at least one medal every year for the past four years:
- Steamworks- 10 medals
- Parallel 49- 14 medals, every year wins at least two
- Howe Sound- 8 medals
- Dead Frog- 7 medals, walked away with three this year alone
- Central City- 10 medals
- Granville Island- 5 medals
- Howe Sound- 8 medals
The only other breweries to manage something every year are Strange Fellows, Dageraad, Ravens, R&B, Brassneck and Steel & Oak.
Cult breweries, despite their dedicated fan base, are just not represented in the medals. Boombox, Superflux, Four Winds, Fieldhouse, Category 12 and more just have very little BC Beer Awards to call their own. Now whether that’s due to not playing the game or simply just being outmatched in their category, it’s hard to say.