Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Two Humboldt County breweries including Fortuna's Eel River Brewing Company have been recognized as some of the best commercial breweries in the United States. The prestigious label accompanies the medals both local breweries received recently at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).

”We are thrilled,” said Ted Vivatson, who along with Brewery co-owner Margaret Frigon attended the 31st Annual GABF in Denver earlier this month. “It's like the Super Bowl and World Series rolled in one for the brewing industry,” he added. Vivatson has attended the GABF every year since Eel River Brewery opened, and Frigon has missed only one year. “The energy there is electrifying,” she said. “It's absolute chaos and mayhem ... in a good way,” she added with a smile.

Their 2004 Triple Exultation captured a silver medal in the Aged Beer category. There were 24 entries in that specific category from throughout the United States. The GABF silver medal award criteria as stated is: An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma, and appearance.

This particular Eel River Brewing Company aged beer is a two-time medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival; last year it received a bronze medal in the Aged Beer category. And it's the only beer to win in three different categories at the Festival: aged, barrel aged, and strong ale.

The two medal-winning brews from Humboldt County (Mad River Brewing Company won a gold medal for its Steelhead Extra Pale Ale) were among a total of a record number of 4,338 beers judged at the 2012 GABF. 185 judges from 11 countries were assisted by more than 100 competition volunteers in deciding the winners.

”There's a lot of camaraderie there among northern California breweries,” Frigon said. “We had a lot of fun talking to people, and to come home with a silver medal is icing on the cake.”

In all, 666 breweries participated in the festival from 48 states, Washington D.C. and Guam. California breweries claimed the top number of GABF medals, bringing home 49 (including Eel River and Mad River brewing Companies) of the 254 that were awarded.

Eel River Brewing Company opened its doors on Alamar Way in Fortuna in December 1995. Two years later, the brewery won its first GABF award, a silver medal for its Ravensbrau Porter. Over the years Eel River Brewery has won hundreds of medals and awards from The Great American Beer Festival, Australian International Beer Festival, European Beer Star, World Beer Championships, Los Angeles County Fair, California State Fair, and Humboldt County Fair.

photo caption:

Photo by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

Eel River Brewing Company owners Ted Vivatson and Margaret Frigon returned home with a silver medal in the Aged Beer category for the 2004 Triple Exultation, from the Great American Beer Festival held in Denver. Vivatson and Frigon are pictured here with the silver medal in front of the sign at their Fortuna Brewing Company.