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California State Fair Beer Competition Sees Record Number Of Entries

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Judges from across the country are called on every year to judge the best beer California has to offer.

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

Update: June 18, 5:43 p.m.

The California State Fair announced the winners of its commercial beer competition, and an Eldorado Hills brewer has been named brewery of the year.

Judges awarded Mraz Brewing Company gold medals for eight of its beers.

The Best of Show was awarded to Captain Fatty’s Brewery in Goleta for their Berliner-Style Weisse called "Kalliope."

The California State Fair isn't until July, but some judging of entries is already taking place, including beer. Judges picked their favorites over the past four days in West Sacramento. And there was a lot of brew: Michael Moore, the head judge of the commercial beer competition, says there were 1,580 beers in a record 64 categories this year.

He said that the competition also had to accommodate the variety of new styles, such as hazy IPAs and “milkshake” beers. “I invented quite a few different categories," Moore said.

Moore invited judges from all over the state. Each panel included one certified by the Beer Judge Certification Program, someone from the industry, and a brewer.  

Andrew Mohsenzadegan, the brewer with Flatland Brewing in Elk Grove, described what judges are looking for: beers that are true to style, balanced, elegant, without off flavors and something that would do well in the marketplace.

“I mean, that's the end game. You want clean, drinkable, high-quality beer,” Mohsenzadegan said.

Each panel judges a flight of 10 beers, which Mohsenzadegan says took his group about 45 minutes.

“It's a lot of thought that goes into each one and there's a lot of work that goes behind those beers,” he said, adding that patience — and legible handwriting — are important. “You want to make sure you give a good feedback, and the brewer can read your notes legibly and take something insightful from it," he added.

Mohsenzadegan should know what he's talking about. His entry last year won Best in Show.

Moore says there is an order to the judging, and for a reason: The last of the beers to be judged are the beers made with peppers and chilis. He says that when they pour those beers, the smell permeates the room.“I mean, we have ghost pepper chili beers. We have only certain judges who are willing to blow their palate out and just do those at the very last," Moore said.

This year, there were also 750 home brews that entered. Those results are already posted at the California State Fair website.

This is the third-largest beer competition in the United States. Results will be posted sometime this week.

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