A few weeks ago, I was online looking to see which Boulder County craft breweries took home a medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (here is the 2016 breakdown). In my search, I stumbled across the historical results for the competition dating back to the festival’s creation in 1983.   Even though I thought that the eight medals that Boulder breweries were awarded this year sounded great, I realized that I didn’t have enough context to know if this was actually an up or down year for Boulder relatively speaking. Using the data provided by the website showing the award recipients, I began consolidating this information provided by the Brewers Association and digging in to the results.

The chart above shows two different pieces of information related to the historical performance of Boulder County breweries at the Great American Beer Festival. The first are the red bars, which represent the total number of medals awarded to breweries located in Boulder County for each year of the competition. The second is the blue line, which shows the percentage of total medals awarded in that year’s competition that were brought back to the brew houses and taprooms in Boulder.

So how did Boulder County do in the 2016 GABF compared to past performances?

  • The 8 medals awarded in 2016 is the 7th highest total in the 34 years of GABF competition.
  • The 8 medals awarded in 2016 beat the average of 5.5 medals awarded per year by Boulder County breweries since 1995 (the first year the total medals awarded surpassed 100).
  • The 2.8% of total medals awarded to Boulder County breweries in 2016 is the 11th highest since the beginning of the GABF in 1983.
  • Since 1995 (the first year the total medals awarded surpassed 100), the 2.8% of total medals awarded beats the Boulder County average of 2.64%.

In the coming weeks and months, we here at Beer in Boulder will take a look at a few different ways to analyze the performance of Boulder County craft breweries in the Great American Beer Festival to expand our understanding of the context surrounding any single year of competition. Before I wrap up, though, let me provide a couple of comments about how to consider the results that we analyze:

  • The goal of the analysis (in this post and in future posts) is to simply see how well Boulder County breweries performed at the Great American Beer Festival. As statistics presented in the absence of context are meaningless, and as there are a lot of factors that we didn’t consider when looking at the data, such as the total number of submissions by Boulder breweries, for example, this isn’t an indicator on its own of an individual brewery’s success as a business or in their skill making great craft beer. These are only the results of one national competition.
  • Our original source of information for the data (the competition’s posted results) has the disclaimer on their site that their list might not be 100% accurate. As a result, our data and analysis might not be 100% correct either, meaning this information would be better presented as “the performance of Boulder County breweries as assessed by the data from the GABF accessed on 10/14/16.” Because of that, there may be some discrepancies between actual performance and reported performance.
  • Because the data required manual input from the website and into Excel, there were some additional challenges of inconsistencies in the names of breweries (some have changed), the location where the brewery was headquartered (Rock Bottom breweries have a number of brands), and some inputs required a subjective assessment about whether to be included or not (Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams was listed in the results as being from Boulder instead of Boston in one year). Combined with the fact that I’m a human, while I was as accurate as I could be, there is always some room for error.

If there is a specific piece of analysis you would like to see or if you have any questions about the data used in this analysis, please contact us by sending an email to

Great American Beer Festival: Medals Awarded to Boulder County Breweries
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