Hop’in Around: Blue ribbon beers

By on January 9, 2019

Winning brewers display their ribbons Jan. 5 at the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Cheryl Cook (far right) stands next to Dain Shirey of St. Boniface after the presentation. St. Boniface took home a blue ribbon for its Hegemony Stout.


Beer has been an agricultural commodity for thousands of years. It is only natural the fermented beverage has a place at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. And while you still can’t grab a milk stout alongside a milkshake, 2019 marks the first time beer has been judged at the commonwealth’s premiere agricultural competition.

In December, a team of “expert judges” (including Hop’in Around friends Brandalynn Armstrong of Zeroday Brewing and the Queen of Hops herself, Carol Stout) evaluated 152 beer entries in 14 categories from 28 craft breweries across the state. Winners were announced Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Farm Show. Lancaster County breweries made a good showing with six awards.

Hegemony Stout, the first beer created by Ephrata brewery St. Boniface, holds the honor of also being the first stout to win a blue ribbon at the PA Farm Show

“The feedback we get from our customers is enough for us, this is just a little extra on top,” said Dain Shirey, co-owner of St. Boniface Craft Brewing Company. “It’s pretty cool to be recognized in the state for the quality product we are putting out.”

Hegemony, the historic, first beer ever tapped by St. Boniface back when they operated a nano-system in downtown Ephrata, brought home a first-place blue ribbon in the Stout and Porter category. The brewery submitted a combination of beers they had canned and available at the time.

“We don’t enter (competitions) often,” said Shirey. “But it’s nice to get some feedback from some judges and hear what they think of our beer…. When we got a request to attend (Saturday’s ceremony) we had an idea we had won some sort of award.”

Despite being confident with their product, the folks at Boniface didn’t really expect to walk away with a blue ribbon. And don’t look for a revamping of the Hegemony label to include a blue ribbon, they aren’t going to go there. But if you do want to see the prize, it is hanging on the Hegemony sign in the taproom.

Swashbuckler Brewing Company (a.k.a. SBC), Manheim, won twin blue ribbons: one in the Amber Lager category for their Oktoberfest, and the other in the Wheat Beer category for their Hefeweizen.

St. Boniface (who also took second place in the Pale Ale category with Paideia) wasn’t the only Lancaster County brewery to bring home a blue ribbon (or other accolades). SBC (a.k.a. Swashbuckler Brewing Company) of Manheim — on the grounds of Mount Hope Estate — reigned in blue ribbons for their Oktoberfest (Amber Lager category) and Hefeweizen (Wheat Beer category). Lancaster County had a firm grasp on the Stout and Porter category as SBC’s Irish Dry Stout placed as runner up to Boniface’s Hegemony. Stoudts Brewing Company’s Gold took second place in the Pale Lager category.

Nearby Berks and York Counties each placed four breweries in medal positions while Dauphin County racked up seven awards, including Best of Show by Tröegs Independent Brewing Company for their LaGrave Triple Golden Ale.

I heard Saucony Creek Brewing Company first place, barrel-aged Oaked Tripel is one awesome brew! A trip to Kutztown may be in order.

Here are some facts from the fair to help you at beer trivia. Pennsylvania ranks first in the nation for barrels of craft beer produced — 3.9 million barrels per year. The state’s brewing industry accounts for more than 60,000 jobs and provides a $1.1 billion impact on the economy.

A complete list of PA Farm Show beer winners can be viewed at farmshow.pa.gov.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

Gold Lager from Stoudts Brewing Co. in Adamstown won a second place ribbon in the Pale Lager category at the 2019 PA Farm Show.

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