Three local breweries, Thin Man Brewery, 42 North Brewing Company and Eli Fish Brewing Company, took home medals at the fourth annual New York State Craft Beer Competition, which took place virtually for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, there were 130 breweries in attendance for the awards ceremony, which was streamed to the public on Facebook and YouTube.

This year, 36 awards were presented across 13 categories, with a total of 889 entries, the most the competition has ever received, from 175 breweries. Judging was limited to perishable beers like IPAs, pale ales, wheat beer and sours. Beers that would hold up over time may be judged later. A second Governor’s Cup could also be awarded.

The 2020 NYS Governor’s Excelsior Craft Beer Cup was awarded to Long Island City’s Big aLICe Brewing for their ‘The Many Lives of Our Lives,’ a Mixed Culture Blended Sour brewed with 100% NY State ingredients and aged in Red Wine Barrels and Neutral Oak with New York State cherries and blueberries. It also won gold in the Fruit and Spice Beer – Sour category.

“While we cannot celebrate together in person, we still wanted to honor the high-quality beers coming out of New York State,” said Paul Leone, executive director of the New York State Brewers Association. “The virtual ceremony allowed us to not only connect with breweries across the state but also consumers, who normally don’t get to see the awards being announced. We hope it will further encourage consumers to support these and other New York State breweries.”

Thin Man’s flagship haze bomb Trial By Wombat IPA took home the Gold medal in ‘Hazy IPA,’ beating out 87 other breweries. Brewed with copious amounts of Galaxy hops and flaked oats, Trial By Wombat has quickly become a Thin Man favorite, known as much for the can art as the liquid inside. Wombat’s artwork, which features an extreme close-up of a wombat face with its mouth agape showcasing its teeth, pointy snout and beady eyes, was designed by Thin Man Art & Marketing Director Peter Cahlstadt.

“It’s obviously a huge honor for Thin Man to win a Gold Medal and especially in the category with the most submissions, Hazy IPA,” Thin Man Brand Ambassador Mike Shatzel says. “This just shows that the quality of beer being made in Western New York is right up there with the best around. Also, this is great recognition for Rudy and his brewing team, who week in & week out are purely dedicated to their craft. Hopefully after the COVID shut down is over we can properly celebrate.”

42 North scored a Silver medal in the ‘American IPA Variations’ category for their White Oak Borderland IPA, the oak aged version of their flagship Borderland IPA. It was their first ever New York State Craft Beer Competition award.

“We did win, if you recall, the Brewing News National IPA Championship back in 2017 with White Oak Borderland, so we figured let’s put our best foot forward,” 42 North Owner John Cimperman says. “This beer has always been a fan favorite. This is great for us, but it’s also great for Buffalo. It really helps reinforce what’s going on here. This award isn’t about 42 North, it’s really about Buffalo. When we win an award, or Big Ditch or Community Beer Works wins an award, it’s good for all of us. Awards like this keep Buffalo on the map.”

“[It’s also] great to be recognized with the award and great to represent all the great breweries and beers being produced in Buffalo Niagara region,” he adds. “High five to our friends at Thin Man on the gold as well.”

Batavia’s Eli Fish nabbed Bronze in the New York State Beer section for Champagne Guapi: Red, a kettle-soured Gose with Frontenac and Marquette Grapes.

“It was a great sour, and fitting that I brewed it to be toasted over New Years, because this is a celebration for us,” Eli Fish Head Brewer Adam Burnett says. “This award means a lot as it’s my first since moving home. The owners have joked all year that I better win one, so now I get that off my back (laughs).”

Last year, nine area breweries took home 11 medals (seven breweries won 12 medals in nine categories back in 2018), including two, Resurgence Brewing and Big Ditch, who took home gold medals.

To see all of the winners from this year’s NYS Craft Beer Competition, click here.

Brian Campbell is co-founder and Brand Manager of the Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), and Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague).