It was bigger. It was Brewvi-er. It was open to the public.
The Inquirer's annual Brewvitational competition for local craft beer held its eighth edition Thursday, capped by its first public event — Taste of the Brewvitational — at the Reading Terminal Market.
Hundreds of revelers came to the historic market to sip, taste, and vote on the best flagship beers from dozens of local breweries.
But earlier in the day, 12 expert judges had gathered for a private blind tasting to determine the region's best new beer as well as the best lager, this year's focused style category. It was the largest field in the competition's history, with nearly 80 entries from 41 breweries in three states.
With the thirsty crowd looking on, the top three winners in the two judged categories were announced and presented with Tiffany crystal mug Brewvi trophies. But not without some drama — for the first time ever, there was a tie for first place in the new-beer category.
The winners were Saint Benjamin Brewing Co.'s Franklin Abbey Dubbel and Forest & Main Brewing Co.'s Antebellum Saison. It was an especially big day for Saint Benjamin, because the Kensington upstart took first place in the lager category with Pilsner Prosim.
Winners of the popular vote in the flagship category will be revealed Friday morning.
The "new beer" and lager categories winners were:
Best new beer:
1. (tie) Franklin's Abbey Dubbel, Belgian Dubbel, 6.5 percent alcohol, Saint Benjamin Brewing Co.
Judges' comments: "Complex, malty, rummy, raisiny, dates and dried fruit"; "Such a well-made dubbel, a style you just don't see done often"; "Beautiful."
1. (tie) Antebellum, Saison, 6 pct., Forest & Main Brewing Co.
Judges: "Funky, fruity, and pleasantly sour"; "Herbal"; "Nice! Bright apricot, orange zest, and a lingering dry finish."
3. Refreshing Double IPA, 8 pct., Tired Hands Brewing Co.
Judges: "A cloudy New England-style juice bomb … but balanced"; "Wow! Like a milkshake"; "Dank."
Best lager style:
1. Pilsner Prosim, Czech-style Pilsner, 4.2 percent alcohol, Saint Benjamin Brewing Co.
Judges' comments: "Bright hoppy-liciousnness"; "Clean and malt-forward"; "Light and crushable."
2. The Weekender, Hoppy Pilsner, 5.8% pct., Manayunk Brewing Co.
Judges: "American hop profile with some spicy flavors … grapey"; "Not lager-like."
3. It's Raining Cats & Dogs! FALSE, Indian Pale Lager, 6.5 pct., Evil Genius.
Judges: "Hazy, rich and hoppy"; "Haze craze, grassy. Sweet."