Fantasy FoBAB 2021: Power Rankings
It’s kind of hard to believe, but FoBAB is back! Even though the venue has changed, and there will be a heightened focus on safety protocols both for Covid-related reasons and for improving the safety of all attendees through the use of the #NotMe platform (read more here), the list of breweries is giving us that warm feeling already without all the barrel heat. So what could possibly increase your enjoyment of the best barrel-aged fest around? Gather up some friends and start a Fantasy FoBAB league!
Starting Your Own Fantasy FoBAB League
Want to run your own Fantasy FoBAB draft? Here’s what you need to know:
- The Simple Concept: Draft breweries who you think have the greatest chance to win medals at FoBAB this year. Each medal win translates to points. The team(s) with the top points win.
- Gather Teams: Our league is 10 teams, but this can certainly be done with fewer or more. We draft six breweries each, and that can also be adjusted based on the size of your league.
- Draft: We did this: we randomly generated a draft order using a free online draft generator. We did an email draft amongst 10 team managers, with “awake” hours from 8AM to 10PM. Each manager had a four-hour window to make their selection, and if they did not pick within that window, they would have a brewery auto-drafted for them based on our FoBAB Fantasy Power Rankings. Teams were still welcome to draft outside of the “awake” hours if they chose, but no team would be penalized for not selecting during that time.
- Scoring: The scoring works like this: a gold medal is worth 3 points, a silver is worth 2 points, and a bronze medal is worth 1 point. If the brewery wins Best of Show or Runner-Up, that will be an additional 3 points or 2 points respectively.
- Prizes: For our league, we are pitching money into a pool that will then be used to purchase gift cards for the 1st and 2nd place winners from local small businesses or breweries of their choosing.
Here’s a Fantasy FoBAB Master Draft Spreadsheet for a 10 team, 6-pick league that you can copy and modify for your own league. And because I seriously want people to do this, if you want to reach out to us directly for help with starting your own league, email at email@example.com, and we will help you. I promise.
If you’re playing along at home with your own FoBAB Fantasy Draft for the 2021 season, we the non-experts at ABV Chicago have chalked up our Power Rankings for your draft preparation.
The list was prepared by two people using their arbitrary opinions and limited experience, so take it for what it’s worth. To be honest, it’s probably a lot more fun if you don’t base your picks off of our silly Power Rankings, as you will definitely disagree with many parts of the list. And since there are 168 participating breweries listed on the FoBAB website, this list overlooks many breweries – so we undoubtedly missed a lot of great stuff.
The rankings were made based on a combination of several factors:
- Medal history: Using our master spreadsheet of Medal History, we gave higher placement to breweries that have won the most medals, but especially if those medals have come over the last few years. Previous Best of Show and Runner-Up awardees were valued somewhat highly.
- Multiple locations: For simplifying our Fantasy Draft, each team manager is only allowed to pick one brewery that has multiple locations. As far as we understand, multiple locations means more entries which of course means a higher chance to win. We also didn’t want to bog down the draft with separating out each location. So, they are drafted as a collective. This gives great value to picking Haymarket or Off Color or any other multiple-location brewery. (They are marked in the rankings with a double plus (++) sign.)
- Style variance: Some breweries enter beer in multiple, distinctly different categories, while others focus primarily on producing beer that fits in just one or two of the categories. Though, the number of categories are pretty split in terms of “sours” vs. “stouts”, which we know is reductive. But certainly, choosing a cider-producer or mead maker has its limitations, as there’s really only one category for those to compete. But the number of competitors is much smaller as well, so choosing a cider or mead producer might be a late-round value pick.
- Reputation: A combination of our subjective experiences and recent wins in other prestigious beer awards, a brewery that has a reputation for excellent barrel-aged beers will be pushed up the list. There are also some breweries that have never medaled but may have gained a strong enough reputation whether through a brewer’s history or through word-of-mouth that might be a fun and risky pick, so we pushed them up as well. (Breweries that have never medaled at FoBAB are marked with an asterisk.)
- Our Subjective Personal Experience: We are not beer judges or experts in any way, but we do drink a lot of beer critically and have been for many years, so I guess we’re allowed to have an opinion. Some breweries may have been pushed up the list because we arbitrarily decided that their barrel-aged beers are better than other breweries’ barrel-aged beers without having tried all breweries’ barrel-aged beers. Makes sense, right?
So we present to you the Power Rankings without further defending our choices. We’re in a time where the smallest unknown brewery can out-barrel the 30-year pros. FoBAB is almost more fun when a list like this one turns out all wrong. I’m raising my tiny taster glass to the return of a safe FoBAB and the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.
ABV Chicago’s Fantasy FoBAB 2021 Power Rankings
++ = Multiple Location Brewery | * = Never medaled at FoBAB
1. The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, CA)
Don’t be shocked by this one. The Lost Abbey has won Best of Show two times and Runner-Up twice – most recently in 2019. But it’s that combined with their consistency that puts them just above Rev: they have medaled in 8 of the last 10 years of FoBAB, with multiple medals in four of those years. Tomme Arthur and crew are a lock for fantasy points.
2. Revolution Brewing (Chicago, IL)
One thing that hurt Rev’s status as the reigning champ of the power rankings is that they are only entering as one location this year, compared to previous years’ use of both the production facility and brewpub. The other reason they dropped below The Lost Abbey is due to no Best of Show or Runner-Up designations in their history, which is kind of shocking. It’s all but certain, though, that they’ll nab one any year now. Plus, they are the most consistent of any brewery on this list – 2012 was the only year they didn’t receive at least one medal. This is much more of a 1A/1B ranking between 1 and 2 here, and you wouldn’t really be wrong to swap them on your draft board.
3. Off Color Brewing – Mousetrap & Production (Chicago, IL)++
Off Color again enters as a Multiple Location Brewery (MLB), but even if they didn’t, they’d probably still bring home a medal or two. They’ve won eight medals since 2013, and they’re also overdue for a top award. They’ve also never won a bronze – only gold and silver for these cats.
4. Werk Force Brewing Co. (Plainfield, IL)
Ignoring last year’s rare absence from the (virtual) podium, Werk Force has six medals in six years – all in the fruit beer category. But they also have some of the best barrel-aged adjunct stouts around in their Sleepy Bear series, so they could easily pick up one in another category for the first time.
5. More Brewing Company (Villa Park, IL & Huntley, IL)++
Recency bias is at play here, but you can’t ignore the FoBAB hot streak that More’s Mehndi has had – winning a gold in 2018, a bronze in 2019, and a silver in 2020. It might be risky to base this high of a pick on one highly successful beer, but they’ve got the talent and the resources to put another beer name on that FoBAB board this year.
6. Pollyanna Brewing Company (Lemont, IL & Roselle, IL)++
It’s hard to ignore one of the most decorated breweries in Illinois. Not only is Pollyanna a GABF darling, they’ve had plenty of success at FoBAB with five medals in the last four years. They’ve been hard to beat in the Strong Pale Beer category, but they can do just about anything.
7. Half Acre Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)
Though they’ve (sadly) been reduced to a single location, Half Acre has taken giant leaps to being one of the best barrel-aged breweries in a town full of incredible ones. They can really medal in any category, and they’ve taken home six since 2015 – including two last year.
8. Bottle Logic Brewing (Anaheim, CA)
Even after winning no medals last year, it’s hard to overlook the brewery that won Best of Show in both 2018 and 2019. They’re still certainly in the conversation for a Round One pick, but I’d understand why some might hesitate.
9. DESTIHL Brewery (Normal, IL)
Recapturing a gold medal last year for an Oud Bruin, DESTIHL is primed to score some more points this year. Their Dosvidanya stout was a Best of Show and Runner-Up in consecutive years, but they’re also a decorated sour brewery as well. They have the history to back up a confident late first round/early second round pick.
10. Phase Three Brewing (Lake Zurich, IL)*
Although Phase Three has never medaled at FoBAB as a brewery, Shaun Berns is no stranger to winning big prizes for his barrel-aged stouts. I could definitely see them going higher in the first round, but if they somehow slip to the second, you absolutely have to grab this one. Does anyone do chocolate in barrel-aged stouts better than Phase Three?
11. Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (Columbus, OH)++
With three medals in the last four years, including gold in the highly competitive Strong Porter/Stout category, Wolf’s Ridge is one of those solid second round picks that should bring great value. And if they enter the fantastic Terre du Sauvage Green again, the Brett beer category is theirs for the taking. Plus, with two locations, their chances are even better.
12. Tin City Cider (Paso Robles, CA)
Last year’s surprise Best of Show winner, Tin City is really only eligible in one category. But if you want a lock for a medal in the much smaller Cider/Perry category, go with the reigning champs.
13. Whiskey Hill Brewing (Westmont, IL)
Knowing Whiskey Hill’s fan presence online, they’ll be extremely pissed they weren’t in the top 5. But hey, they did make last year’s top beer and earned a Runner-Up spot for a big adjunct stout. No one would look at you funny for taking them late 1st or early 2nd, but you have to wonder if they’ll be able to repeat.
14. Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)
The much-maligned (and many times rightfully so) innovators of barrel-aged stout should always be in the conversation for FoBAB glory – though it has evaded them as of late. Although they had an unparalleled streak of yearly multiple wins from 2007 to 2013, they’ve only medaled once since – in 2018 for a Wheatwine that they no longer make. But everyone knows how large their barrel house is, and no one would be surprised if they took home a medal or two this year.
15. The Hopewell Brewing Company (Chicago, IL)
With three medals across three years, culminating in 2018’s Runner-Up designation, Hopewell is so good with so many styles that a two-year absence from the podium should be quickly forgotten.
16. Cruz Blanca Brewery (Chicago, IL)*
This is another brewery that is overdue, as head brewer Jacob Sembrano has hung a few FoBAB medals around his neck from back in his Clybourn days. If you’ve been following their Luchador series, you know damn well that they are doing some of the most ambitious barrel blends and style experiments with a consistency most other breweries would die for.
17. Church Street Brewing Company (Itasca, IL)
You want consistency? Church Street’s Holy Moly has medaled for three straight years in Classic Styles, and you can likely bet it will again.
18. Cellar West Artisan Ales (Lafayette, CO)*
We’re trying not to be biased here, as we’ve been fortunate to talk with the owner/head brewer Zach and try a bunch of his beers. This brewery makes incredible barrel-aged saisons and could take the spot vacated by Afterthought this year.
19. Old Irving Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL)*
Another brewery that has found success in other competitions with non barrel-aged beers, Old Irving is also doing exciting things with big dark beers in barrels that could easily translate to their first FoBAB medal this year.
20. Nebraska Brewing Company (La Vista, NE)
This might be a sleeper pick – one that’s kind of hiding in plain sight. Although Nebraska has been entering FoBAB for well over a decade, it’s their three medals in the last four years that catches our attention – along with a Gold in Classic Beer Styles in 2020.
21. Dovetail Brewery (Chicago, IL)*
22. Derive Brewing Company (Columbus, OH)
23. Verboten Brewing and Barrel Project (Loveland, CO)
24. Haymarket Brewery (Chicago, IL & Bridgman, MI)++
25. Horse Thief Hollow Brewing Co. (Chicago, IL)
26. Spiteful Brewing (Chicago, IL)
27. Jackie O’s Brewery (Athens, OH)*
28. Mikerphone Brewing (Elk Grove Village, IL)
29. Sun King Brewery (Indianapolis, IN)++
30. Wellspent Brewing Company (St. Louis, MO)
31. Cerebral Brewing (Denver, CO)
32. Oozlefinch Beers and Blending (Fort Monroe, VA)*
33. Other Half Brewing Company (Brooklyn, NY)++*
34. Misbeehavin’ Meads (Valparaiso, IN)*
35. Rhinegeist Brewery (Cincinnati, OH)++
36. Milwaukee Brewing Company (Milwaukee, WI)
37. Odd Side Ales (Grand Haven, MI)*
38. Riverlands Brewing Company (St. Charles, IL)*
39. Upstream Brewing Company (Omaha, NE)
40. Noon Whistle Brewing (Lombard, IL & Naperville, IL)++*
41. Wren House Brewing Company (Phoenix, AZ)*
42. Angry Orchard (Walden, NY)
43. MobCraft Beer (Madison, WI)
44. Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)
45. 10 Barrel Brewing (Bend, OR)++
46. Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co. (Lafayette, CO)*
47. Open Outcry Brewing (Chicago, IL)*
48. Blue Island Beer Co. (Blue Island, IL)*
49. Imperial Oak Brewing (Willow Springs, IL)
50. Virtue Cider (Fennville, MI)
51. Streetside Brewery (Cincinnati, OH)
52. Shoreline Brewery (Michigan City, IN)
53. Second City Meadery (Chicago, IL)*
54. Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)
55. Blackberry Farm Brewery (Maryviille, TN)
56. New Belgium Brewing (Asheville, NC)
57. Roaring Table Brewing (Lake Zurich, IL)*
58. Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (St. Louis, MO)++*
59. Around the Bend Beer Co. (Chicago, IL)*
60. Avery Brewing Company (Boulder, CO)
61. Ravinia Brewing Company (Chicago, IL & Highland Park, IL)++*
62. Miskatonic Brewing Company (Darien, IL)*
63. Flossmoor Station Brewing Co. (Flossmoor, IL)
64. Art History Brewing (Geneva, IL)*
65. Penrose Brewing Co. (Geneva, IL)
66. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA)++
67. 3 Floyds Brewing (Munster, IN)
68. Oswego Brewing Co. (Oswego, IL)*
69. Maplewood Brewery & Distillery (Chicago, IL)
70. Hacienda Beer Co. (Baileys Harbor, WI)
71. Lil’ Beaver Brewery (Bloomington, IL)*
72. Urban Brew Labs (Chicago, IL)
73. Soundgrowler Brewing Co. (Tinley Park, IL)
74. Grimm Artisanal Ales (Brooklyn, NY)*
75. Alter Brewing Company (Downers Grove, IL)
76. Foreign Exchange Brewing Co. (Aurora, IL)*
77. Metropolitan Brewing (Chicago, IL)
78. Creature Comforts Brewing Company (Athens, GA)*
79. Tangled Roots Brewing Company (Ottawa, IL)
80. Midwest Coast Brewing (Chicago, IL)*
81. Zaftig Brewing Co. (Columbus, OH)
82. Pipeworks Brewing Co, (Chicago, IL)
83. Rock Bottom (Chicago, IL & Lombard, IL)++
84. Short Fuse Brewing Company (Schiller Park, IL)*
85. Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA)
86. Arclight Brewing Company (Watervliet, MI)
87. Tighthead Brewing Company (Mundelein, IL)
88. Black Horizon Brewing (Willowbrook, IL)
89. Prairie Artisan Ales (Tulsa, OK)*
90. Casa Humilde Cerveceria (Chicago, IL)*
91. Transient Artisan Ales (Bridgman, MI)
92. Lake Effect Brewing (Chicago, IL)
93. Forbidden Root (Chicago, IL)*
94. Wild Mind Ales (Minneapolis, MN)*
95. Temperance Beer Co.(Evanston, IL)
96. Breakside Brewery (Portland, OR)
97. Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)
98. 4 Hands Brewing Company (St. Louis, MO)
99. Resident Culture Brewing (Charlotte, NC)*
100. Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. (Evanston, IL)