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John Pinkerton is The Bomb
John Pinkerton (left) and Adam Mathews

It's one thing to know you've brewed a great beer. But it's something really special to have it judged as best in the craft beer world.

John Pinkerton of Moon River Brewing Company just brought home the gold, winning first place in the Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout category at the World Beer Cup with a new brew called The Bomb.

The international competition is held every two years and this year’s winning announcements came at the close of the Craft Brewers Conference. Pinkerton helps organize the conference, which brings together nearly 9,000 attendees to celebrate all things craft beer.

“I have Scottish ancestry, so I’ve always seen it as the gathering of the clans,” is how Pinkerton romantically described the occasion while back home in Savannah, relaxing in the beer garden at Moon River Brewing Co., his pub on Bay Street.  “These are my people.”

The World Beer Cup competition was a conference highlight, and Pinkerton has entered Moon River beers for numerous years. He’s even served as a judge since starting the brewery in 1999. It’s a truly international competition, striving to recognize the best beers according to established style guidelines and includes participants and judges from around the globe.

Breweries could only submit four bottles for judging. Moon River sent Apparition, their flagship pale ale; Marmota, a Belgian pale ale; Belly Washer, a golden ale; and The Bomb, a dry Irish stout. While he had high hopes for several of the beers, he wasn’t so sure about sending The Bomb.

“I didn’t think it even had a chance, but Adam really wanted to enter it  so I said okay.” Brewer Adam Mathews was onto something.

The key to winning beer competitions is to match your beer’s appearance, aroma, mouthfeel and taste to predetermined official style guidelines. For a dry stout, the guidelines call for a low ABV beer with an “emphasis of coffee-like roasted barley.”

Including The Bomb, there were 36 beers in this category at the 2014 World Beer Cup. All went through a series of elimination rounds, finally yielding three final beers which would be awarded gold, silver and bronze awards.

Pinkerton describes Moon River’s take on the style to have a “tight, clean roastiness” using a lighter-colored roasted barley, along with a base malt and UK Target hops meant to “sting just a little bit.”

Pinkerton recalls the awards ceremony as a gathering of “just me and 4,000 of my closest friends.” When the stouts were awarded, Pinkerton remembers drinking beers and socializing when “all of a sudden people are screaming and pulling on me. Everyone was freaking out. I could see out of the corner of my eye ‘Moon River’ on the screen and it was a big thrill.”

Savannahians looking to get a taste of the city’s gold World Beer Cup brew will have to wait a week or two as the brewery is busy preparing a fresh batch. While Pinkerton is a leader on the national craft beer stage, he’s also active in Georgia’s emerging brewing renaissance.

Not missing a beat, he transitioned from the Craft Brewers Conference to hosting a state-level symposium a few days later for the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, which he serves as president.

Pinkerton says Georgia’s craft beer scene is seeing phenomenal growth. Depending on how you look at the numbers, Georgia has “tripled or quadrupled its number of breweries since 2010,” says Pinkerton.

In addition to the Georgia Guild symposium, which featured workshops on how to transition from homebrewing to opening a commercial brewery, the organization also put together a beer festival featuring more than 20 Georgia breweries.

You don’t have to work for a brewery or be in the brewing industry to be a member of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. They offer an “Enthusiast Membership” that allows you to show your support for local beer. Your donation goes toward helping the Guild promote state breweries and support their agenda of making Georgia a premier destination for craft beer. Find out more at