QUAFF dominates local homebrewing melee

Local homebrew club takes nearly half of total medals at 2024 America’s Finest City competition

Last Tuesday night, while the 2024 San Diego Beer News Awards Ceremony was in full swing in Point Loma, winners from another big brewing-related contest were being announced less than three miles away at The Gärten in Morena. That annual affair was the America’s Finest City Homebrew Competition (AFC). Organized by local recreational brewing club, QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity), it’s a staple event dating back to 1994, which draws entries from across the country.

AFC is part of the Master Homebrewer Program circuit, a national program encouraging amateur brewers to submit entries in competitions across the country in order to increase their overall ranking. As is tradition, certified beer judges analyzed hundreds of beers in 40 different beer, mead and cider style categories. That group included professional brewers from AleSmith Brewing, Burning Beard Brewing, Duck Foot Brewing, Gravity Heights and Societe Brewing, a number of whom competed in the AFC before ascending to the professional fermentation ranks.

Of the 120 awards that were handed out this year, 70 winners were from California, 66 hailed from San Diego and 59 of them were QUAFF members. The club’s members swept three categories – Amber Bitter European Beer, Smoked Beer and Strong Belgian Ale – while a pair of QUAFFers combined with a member of the Brewing Barrachos to take first-through-third in Spiced Beer.

The San Diegan to garner the most medals was Doug Brown with nine, four of which were gold and the rest bronze. It’s nothing new for Brown, who amassed 15 medals at the 2021 AFC. Benjamin Frymark came in second with seven (two gold, five bronze), while Eli Palma was third with four (one gold, two silver, one bronze). Also impressive were Jason Justeson’s three first-place beers. 

I’ve long viewed AFC as being the preeminent regional homebrew competition in the Southwestern United States, and so winning a medal at AFC always brings a sense of accomplishment.  With the increase in the level of competition, I felt especially fortunate with each of the medals I won this year.”

Doug Brown, Homebrewer & QUAFF Member

Zooming out from the locale for which the competition is named, a Grodziskie (Polish-style smoked beer) from Kansans Mike & Stephanie Butler shared best-of-show honors with an American light lager from Curtis Ritter of Irvine, while Georgian Bill Boyer‘s melomel (fruited farmhouse-style mead) took top honors among meads.

The following is a full list of beers from local homebrewers which medaled at this year’s competition, including homebrew-club affiliations…


  • Amber Bitter European Beer: Allan (Altbier), Brent Krohn (QUAFF)
  • Amber & Brown American Beer: What’s that Red Dot on Your Sweater? (American Amber Ale), Brent Krohn (QUAFF)
  • Alternative Fermentables Beer: Mud Bug Rye Amber, Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • British Bitter: ESB, Jason Justeson (Brewing Borrachos)
  • Dark British Beer: Black Abyss Stout, Kevin Holt with Brandon Holt (QUAFF)
  • European Sour Ale: Gueuze, Curt Wittenberg (Societe du Lambic)
  • Fruit Beer: Earl Grey Cold Crush Cream Ale, Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • German Wheat Beer: Dick’s Harold (Weissbier), Matthew Dick (QUAFF)
  • IPA: Stingray IPA, Kevin Holt with Brandon Holt (QUAFF)
  • Monastic Ale: Dubble3, Jim Connor (QUAFF)
  • Pale American Ale: Pale Borracho, Jason Justeson (Brewing Borrachos)
  • Pale Commonwealth Beer: Man Hands (English IPA), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • Scottish Ale: Kilt Dropper (Scottish Export), Ernest Hedberg (QUAFF)
  • Smoked Beer: Sneaky Peat’s Been in the Whisky, Doug Brown with Barry Baldwin & George Stephanos (QUAFF)
  • Specialty Mead: Kramerica (Braggot), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • Spiced Beer: Imperial Stout with Nibs, Jason Justeson with Gabe, Ralph, Erick & Dennis (Brewing Barrachos)
  • Spiced Mead: Chocolate Raspberry Bochet, Melissa Greenfield (QUAFF)
  • Standard Cider & Perry: Eve’s Temptation, John Bell with Rosemarie Bell (QUAFF)
  • Strong Belgian Ale: Disquiet (Saison), Eli Palma (QUAFF)
  • Strong British Ale: Peacoat Buttons (Old Ale), Patrick Leon (QUAFF)
  • Traditional Mead: New Bee, Jeff Case (QUAFF)
  • Wood Beer: Barrel-aged Ball Drop Barleywine, Doug Brown (QUAFF)


  • Amber Bitter European Beer: Tnza (Vienna Lager), Eli Palma (QUAFF)
  • American Wild Ale: The Leftorium (Mixed-Fermentation Beer), Jeff Case (QUAFF)
  • Dark European Lager: Duncan’s Dunkel, Brian Taylor (QUAFF)
  • Fruit Mead: The Green, David Baillie (QUAFF)
  • Historical Beer: Duke of Bavaria (Roggenbier), Mike Page (QUAFF)
  • International Lager: Cuello Azul, Eli Palma (QUAFF)
  • IPA: Haze Free, Chris Skalka (Big Grainy Triumphant Bastards)
  • Irish Beer: Page’s Irish Red, Mike Page (QUAFF)
  • Monastic Ale: Dark Lords (Belgian Dark Strong Ale), Sean Gardinier with Paul Rubens (QUAFF)
  • Smoked Beer: My Lawnmower Beer’s Smoke, Richard Bagnell (QUAFF)
  • Specialty Beer: Kiwis & Meat Pies (New Zealand Pilsner), Cyrus Baluyot (QUAFF)
  • Specialty Mead: Num Num, Karl Kahleck (QUAFF)
  • Spiced Beer: Rusty Razor Christmas Ale, Christopher Johnson (QUAFF)
  • Strong American Ale: The Old Man & the Sea Barleywine, Kevin Holt with Brandon Holt (QUAFF)
  • Strong Belgian Ale: Hair Metal (Belgian Blond Ale), Todd Higginson (QUAFF)
  • Strong European Beer: Exalted Baltic (Baltic Porter), Sean Gardinier with Paul Rubens (QUAFF)
  • Traditional Mead: Coffee Blossom Traditional, Melissa Greenfield (QUAFF)


  • Alternative Fermentables Beer: Giddy Up (Alternative Sugar Beer), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • Amber Bitter European Beer: I’ll Go if I Don’t Have to Talk (Altbier), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • Amber & Brown American Beer: Corey’s Copper Ale, Brian Taylor (QUAFF)
  • American Porter & Stout: Porter & Dolly, Josh Akin (QUAFF)
  • Belgian Beer: Del Boca Vista (Witbier), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • British Bitter: My Best Buddy Bitter, Josh Akin (QUAFF)
  • Brown British Beer: Peter Porter, Dan Stoneman with Rudy Acevedo (QUAFF)
  • Dark British Beer: Ohana Stout, Allan Polk (QUAFF)
  • Dark European Lager: Schwarzbier, Matthew Richard (Big Grainy Triumphant Bastards)
  • European Sour Ale: Handgeplukt (Fruit Lambic), Chad Stevens (QUAFF)
  • Fruit Mead: We Jammin’ – Peach Melomel, Ryan Fowler (QUAFF)
  • German Wheat Beer: Hugh Hefe, Josh Akin (QUAFF)
  • Historical Beer: Golden Age Helles Kellerbier, Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • Kölsch: Kölsch, Scott Rauvola (QUAFF)
  • Pale Commonwealth Beer: Pride of the Pride of Ringworm (Australian Sparkling Ale), Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • Pale Malty European Lager: Husky Helles, Nick Nguyen (QUAFF)
  • Scottish Ale: Braveheart? More Like Cowardly Liver (Scottish Heavy), Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • Smoked Beer: Smokey the Beer, Jeff Case (QUAFF)
  • Specialty Beer: Wine Barrel Aged Eis-Porter, Matthew Richard (Big Grainy Triumphant Bastards)
  • Spiced Beer: The P.S.L. B.O.S.S. (Autumn Seasonal Beer), Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • Spiced Mead: Mango Vanilli, Ryan Fowler (QUAFF)
  • Standard American Beer: Vandelay Industries (American Wheat Beer), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • Standard Cider & Perry: Outrage Truffles, Doug Brown (QUAFF)
  • Strong Belgian Ale: Goldie (Belgian Golden Strong Ale), Richard Bagnell (QUAFF)
  • Strong British Ale: Fitted Hat Day (British Strong Ale), Benjamin Frymark (QUAFF)
  • Strong European Beer: Doppelbänger (Doppelbock), Eli Palma (QUAFF)
  • Wood Beer: Black Swans a Giving, Matthew Smiley (QUAFF)
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