Every year, the Great American Beer Festival brings hundreds of breweries from all over the country to the Mile High City to duke it out over who creates the best ales, IPAs, lagers, German beers and more.
And while the real winners are those who …
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And while the real winners are those who were lucky enough to score a ticket, being awarded a medal in one of the festival’s 96 categories is quite the feather in the cap of any brewery. The 2017 event ran from Oct. 5-7 at the Colorado Convention Center.
“When our name was announced, my wife screamed, and I looked over at our brewers like, ‘Did that just happen?’” said Chris Hill, who runs Arvada’s Odyssey Beerwerks with Deana, his wife.
The brewery received a silver medal for its Woods Monk beer in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer category.
“It’s so humbling to win a medal, especially when you consider there are like 800 breweries and 3,900 entries.”
Metro area breweries fared well in this year’s competition.Lone Tree Brewing Co. scored a gold medal, while breweries from Arvada, Castle Rock, Golden, Lakewood, Littleton and Parker also earned medals.
“This years festival was nothing less than magical,” said Josh West, head brewer at Lone Tree. “To be the only brewery in Colorado to win two medals this years is a huge accomplishment not to mention becoming the first craft brewery to ever win a gold in the American Lager category.”
However, it’s not all about the competition for attendees — the festival is also an opportunity to meet customers and fans, as well as fellow brewers.
“Much of GABF is about what goes on around the convention. We were busy as ever giving tours at our brewery and hosting ‘meet the brewer’ tasting events downtown,” said Todd Usry, president and brewmaster at Breckenridge Brewery, headquartered in Littleton. “This year we hosted concerts at our brewery Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday’s show was a hurricane relief concert to provide support for victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Saturday’s show featured hometown favorite Big Head Tod and the Monsters.”
The brews that are entered in the competition are often group choices, as both Hill and Josh Robbins, president and brewmaster at New Terrain, said their staffs discussed what should be entered in the competition.
“Most entries are judged on how it fits the style guidelines for specific types of beers,” Robbins explained. His brewery’s Suntrip took silver in the Belgian-Style Witbier category. “We often don’t follow guidelines, but we entered Suntrip because we thought it would fit.”
Beers are judged by a panel of industry professionals from all over the world, and evaluated without knowing the brand name. Eventually, all the entries are whittled down to three that best exhibit their category.
“Beating all the macro breweries in the American Lager category is nothing less than a monumental accomplishment,” West said. “It proves that us craft beer guys can do it just as good if not better than them and that we are relevant, consistent and here to stay.”
The bronze Breckenridge received for its Mountain Series: Maibock this year was the brewery’s fifth medal, and both Odyssey and New Terrain received their first-ever medals.
“Suntrip is one of our most popular beers that’s not an IPA,” Robbins said. “The win helps us to expand on our reputation for having great beer and atmosphere.”
It’s not unusual to get a run on winning beers after the results are announced, which means those interested in sampling all the winners should hurry.
“Maibocks are traditionally brewed in the late spring and early summer, but we brewed a special small batch just for GABF,” Usry said. “We have it on tap now at our Farm House restaurant, and it’ll be bottled again for our Rocky Mountain Sampler Pack in the spring.”
The festival is as much fun for the brewers as it is for visitors, and everyone comes away inspired for the next year.
“Just like everyone else, we come back to our booths really excited,” Hill said. “The goal is to tell someone, ‘You have to try this beer I just had.’”
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