The James Beard Award is a competition that celebrates the very best of the culinary arts. For chefs and restaurants, it’s the very pinnacle of success, and as it has grown over the years, the organization has extended beyond the kitchen into other areas where food is celebrated and cuisine is pushed to new boundaries. This includes beer, and in announcing its 2019 semifinalist list in the Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Producer category, the organization singled out five member of the beer community.
This list, which includes some previous nominees as well as new entrants, signals the increasingly important role beer and its ingredients are playing in shaping America’s fine dining scene.
The semifinalists from the beer space are:
An Bui, Mekong and The Answer Brewpub, Richmond, Virginia
Dave Green, Skagit Valley Malting, Burlington, Washington
Sean Lilly Wilson, Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, North Carolina
Jeffrey Stuffings, Jester King Brewery, Austin, TexasADVERTISEMENT
Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Company, Portland, Maine
On various social media platforms, all of the semifinalists chimed in with excitement and admiration for fellow nominees.
Sean Lilly Wilson, the founder of Fullsteam Brewery, has been nominated in the past and within minutes of this year’s announcement chimed in with his thanks.
“I’ll just say this: I’m in the company of people who inspire me daily, and today’s recognition pushes and encourages me to serve more and take on even more risk,” he said.
Jeffrey Stuffings, An Bui, and Rob Tod have been nominated in the past. The addition of a craft maltster to the lineup is impressive and shows that beer’s raw ingredients, something long celebrated in both wine and spirits, are getting a closer look from more than just brewers and enthusiasts.
The beer semifinalists join fifteen others from the wine and spirits world, including Yoshihiro Sako, the head brewer at Den Sake Brewery in Oakland, California.
Monk’s Cafe of Philadelphia, often considered one of the best beer bars in the country (and with good reason) was named a semi-finalist in the Outstanding Bar Program category.
Previous winners of the award in the beer world include Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales (Milton, Delaware) and Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, New York).
Final nominees will be announced on March 27, and the 2019 James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 6, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
"I think it's a testament to all of the hard work and passion that everyone at the brewery has for our beer," said Tod.