During the heart of hop harvest, the GABF wrapped up its 2021 award ceremony in a live stream on September 10th. In the past few years, The Brewers Association expanded the IPA/Pale Ale categories to include esoteric categories such as New Zealand IPA and Australian Pale Ale that emphasize southern hemisphere hop profiles. One thing is clear about the style expansions and it's that IPA still remains the most popular beer concept, and interest in brewing with hops at high rates remains stable.
Curious to see what the variety trends were in the winning beers, medal winning hop blends in 15 categories were looked at (as shown in the image). Of these winners, unique instances of each hop variety were counted (using 3 letter grower codes) based on published hop blends. The spreadsheet of these beer styles in details can be seen in the excel file here. As is the standard, mostly West Coast breweries dominated these styles, likely due to easier logistics for transporting fresh hoppy beer to Colorado.
Unsurprisingly, Citra® (18 instances) and Mosaic® (15 instances) dominated the medal winning beers. Simcoe® (8 instances), Amarillo® (5 instances), and Motueka (4 instances) rounded out the top 5 varieties used with 12 instances of unknown hop blends (???). Of these, Motueka is an interesting one being the most frequently used southern hemisphere surpassing Nelson Sauvin and Galaxy®. Per the USDA hops report, the top 5 US varieties strung for 2021 were Citra®, Mosaic®, CTZ, Cascade, and Simcoe® so some of the most popular hops are also being used by technically proficient brewers who have earned GABF medals. The chicken or the egg question remains: are hop forward medal winners dictating variety trends or does using popular hop blends increase chances of medaling due to ingrained flavor/aroma preferences in these beers? The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but it does appear that the newest varieties did not medal as much (Idaho 7®, El Dorado®, Strata®, Azacca®, etc.). We can only speculate on the reasons that could be, but brewers seem to still prefer the classics (Simcoe®/Amarillo®) and the new classics (Mosaic®/Citra®) that make contemporary hop forward brewing what it is.