If we asked, “where do you think the best porter in the nation is made?” what would you say? A long-standing beer city like Milwaukee? An up-and-coming trend-setter like Asheville? A place with a lot of potential test subjects like New York or Chicago? Well, this year, you’d be wrong. 


Every year, expert brewers (and regular people who just like beer) gather in Denver, Colorado to decide who does it best at an event called The Great American Beer Festival (GABF). As you might expect, winners hail from far and wide across the country. Judges from around the world are brought in for a blind taste test to decide which brewery makes the best product. 



And the awards aren’t some cakewalk. The judges have strict criteria, and if they think there aren’t any entrants worthy of a gold medal, they just won’t give one. It’s serious business.


So when a small brewery from central Missouri enters the competition, you might think their chances are slim. Until they come home with the gold.



Enter Logboat Brewing. Situated on the north side of Columbia, Missouri (opposite the University of Missouri), the independent craft brewery has been a watering hole for locals and Tiger fans since 2014. When they first opened, they only were brewing four beers, but added a seasonal offering the first winter: Dark Matter, the porter that would go on to win gold at the 2023 GABF.


We took a visit to Logboat to try the award-winning beer and chat over a pint with Logboat’s founding brewer Josh Rein, and production manager Mike Ivancic. 


The first thing you should know: the Dark Matter porter? It’s really good. But the crew at Logboat wasn’t ever really set out to win an award.


“Our mindset is that we have these beers, we really like them, we think they taste great, so let’s go get some feedback from our peers,” Rein explained. 


At the competition, the certified judges critique the entrants, talk to each other, and give the brewers pages of notes about what they tasted, good and bad. That expert feedback is invaluable to a brewer. Those pages are still sitting on Rein’s desk, despite the competition ending months ago.


“Even when we don’t medal, getting that feedback from competitions is always good,” Ivancic said. “We learn from that and we adjust. It’s easy in your town to have regulars who love your beer, but to have someone across the country tell it like it is is so worthwhile” 


In years prior, Dark Matter had been sent to the judges table for consideration and not been selected. The team calls it a work-in-progress. Over the last nine years the recipe has been tweaked fairly substantially at least four times. This year, it was the winning combination.


“It was pretty f*cking cool,” Rein said. “Really awesome that it was recognized. But, it’s a little bit of luck, you know. Thousands of beers are entered, and it’s all phenomenal beer. As brewers, we know it’s a shot in the dark.” 


That’s not to say that the team didn’t celebrate the win accordingly. On the day of the awards, they had a watch party at the Logboat taproom with the staff.


“The categories are numbered and Dark Matter was up in the 80s, it was our last entry,” Ivancic recalled. “At that point we were all thinking, ‘ah bummer,’ but then sure enough, it was the gold. We all just lost it for a minute, at noon on a Saturday, with like four other people in the bar and all of us freaking out. I almost fell off my barstool.”


The win marks a real boost for Logboat. The publicity that comes from winning GABF gold means more people coming into the taproom, being listed in Forbes, and generally increasing sales. Not bad for a college town operation.


“Getting recognized is a source of pride,” Rein said. “It’s great for the company and the marketing. Being able to put a shelf tag on a crowded supermarket aisle saying that says ‘gold medal winner’ is an easy way to stand out from a massive selection.”


And the future looks bright for the Logboat crew. Last year, the brewery underwent an addition that more than doubled its square footage, and added an extra outdoor bar and double decker patio. When Rein and the team look forward to what’s next, they’re excited to say the least:


“We’ll be making a hell of a lot more beer, that’s the plan.”