Colorado’s craft brewing industry left the 2017 Great American Beer Festival well-decorated, flexing its muscles across an assortment of beer-style categories.
The state’s breweries won 38 medals — including 14 golds and three medals in the Pro-Am competition — at this year’s GABF. The largest commercial beer competition in the world drew 8,100 entries from 2,290 breweries and doled out awards in 98 categories representing 160 different beer styles.
Colorado swept the separate Pro-Am competition, in which professional and amateur brewers are paired. Homebrewer Doug Thiel and Denver Beer Co. brewmaster Jason Buehler won gold, with the pro-am pairings involving Fort Collins breweries Black Bottle Brewery and Odell Brewing Co. winning silver and bronze, respectively.
Colorado’s 38 medals, which tied the state’s total from last year, showcased the versatility of local beer makers. The Centennial State’s hardware spanned categories such as American-Style Black Ale; Brett Beer; English-Style India Pale Ale; German-Style Altbier, Koelsch and Pilsener; Herb and Spice Beer, Session IPA, Smoke Beer, South German-Style Hefeweizen, a collection of Wood- and Barrel-Aged offerings, and, fittingly, Experimental Beer.
“We have a great, passionate group of people that know how to make all kinds of beers,” said James Howat, brewer and owner of Black Project Spontaneous Ales in Denver. “We are spoiled here.”
Black Project won its third medal in four years in the Experimental Beer category. This year, the brewery snagged a silver for its Roswell: Grudge, a Lambic-inspired beer made with six pounds of raspberries in each gallon.
“It’s definitely a beer that … is strongly flavored,” Howat said.
The GABF stage featured several first-time winners among Colorado’s brewing industry, including Arvada-based Odyssey Beerwerks; Denver-based CO-Brew; and Boulder-based Cellar West Artisan Ales.
Boulder’s Finkel & Garf Brewing Co.’s brought home a gold for its first GABF medal.
The brewery, which opened in the summer of 2014 touting the motto of “play often,” features collection of games, toys and beer flights paired with treats.
The GABF-winning Oatmeal Milk Stout is traditionally paired with a Twinkie, said Mychal Johnson, Finkel & Garf’s head brewer.
Longmont-based Wibby Brewing Co.’s first GABF win — the Moondoor Dunkel took the silver in the Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager category — was uniquely memorable:
While he and the Wibby Brewing crew stood on stage to receive the medals, Ryan Wibby asked his girlfriend, Robin, for her hand in marriage. She gleefully and tearfully accepted.
In Colorado’s sundry showing at GABF, the state also showed off its chops in the traditional.
The American-Style Lager category has long been dominated by brewery industry stalwarts — Pabst Brewing, the hometown Coors Brewing, Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch.
Not this year.
Lone Tree Brewing’s Mexican Lager toppled the giants, landing a gold. Bookending Pabst Blue Ribbon was another craft creation: Sun Grown Fresh Craft Lager, a creation of the Sycamore Brewing Cannery in Charlotte, N.C.
“I’m out of this world,” said Josh West, Lone Tree’s head brewer. The brewery also won silver in the Imperial Red Ale category with its Hop Zombie.
Two years ago, Lone Tree’s Summer Siesta Mexican Lager finished second in the category, behind the venerable Coors Banquet.
“It’s really great to be the best American lager in the country,” West said. “It proves us little craft guys can hang with the guys doing it forever.”
Colorado breweries that won medals at the 2017 GABF
The following are the medal winners from Colorado, including the name of the beer, the brewery, city and style:
F-Town Amber — Copper Club Brewing Co., Fruita, American-Style Amber/Red Ale
Fancy Pants — Jessup Farm Barrel House, Fort Collins, Brett Beer
Galaxy Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch — Wiley Roots Brewing Co., Greeley, Mixed-Culture Brett Beer
(Pro-Am)Just Another Pretty Face — Doug Thiel, Denver Beer Co. brewmaster Jason Buehler, Denver Beer Co., Denver
Medianoche — WeldWerks Brewing Co., Greeley, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout
Mexican Lager — Lone Tree Brewing Co., Lone Tree, American-Style Lager or Malt Liquor
Oatmeal Milk Stout — Finkel & Garf Brewing Co., Boulder, Sweet Stout or Cream Stout
Punjabi — CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing, Fort Collins, English-Style India Pale Ale
Plum Creek Sour — Rockyard American Grill & Brewing Co., Castle Rock, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer
Razz Against the Machine — Little Machine, Denver, American-Style Fruit Beer
Saison — Funkwerks, Fort Collins, Classic Saison
So long and thank’s for all the (smoked) fish! — The Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field, Denver, Smoke Beer
Waverly Tulip — Square Peg Brewerks, Alamosa, Historical Beer
Black 28 — Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden, American-Style Black Ale
Hilltopper’s Pride Kentucky Common Ale; Ironworks Brewery & Pub, Lakewood, Historical Beer
Hop Zombie — Lone Tree Brewing Co., Lone Tree, Imperial Red Ale
Lemon Rye — 105 West Brewing Co., Castle Rock, American-Style Wheat Beer
(Pro-Am) Lichtenhainer — Daniel Tomkins, Black Bottle Scuba Squad, Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins,
Make Hay — Cellar West Artisan Ales, Boulder, Specialty Saison
Moondoor Dunkel — Wibby Brewing, Longmont, Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager
Patio Pounder — Twisted Pine Brewing Co., Boulder, Session India Pale Ale
Peacekeeper — Launch Pad Brewery, Aurora, Session Beer
Pilsner — Dry Dock Brewing Co. South Dock, Arvada, German-Style Pilsener
Roswell: Grudge — Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales, Denver, Experimental Beer
Saison Trystero — Our Mutual Friend Brewing, Denver, Brett Beer
Suntrip — New Terrain Brewing Co., Golden, Belgian-Style Witbier
Woods Monk — Odyssey Beerwerks, Arvada, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer
5th Anniversary Tequila Sour — Loveland Aleworks, Loveland, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer
Blackberry Table Sour — Baere Brewing Co., Denver, Berliner-Style Weisse
Downhill Kolsch — Elk Mountain Brewing Co., Parker, German-Style Koelsch
Dunkel — Pug Ryan’s Brewing Co., Dillon, Munich-Style Dunkel or European-Style Dark Lager
(Pro-Am) Eluxansis — Mark Boelman, Odell Brew Team, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins
Farmhouse Saison — Co-Brew, Denver, Specialty Saison
Hefeweizen — Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Broomfield, South German-Style Hefeweizen
India Spring Honey Cream Ale — Broken Plow Brewery, Greeley, Herb and Spice Beer
Little Red Cap — Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland, German-Style Altbier
Mountain Series: Maibock — Breckenridge Brewery, Littleton, Bock
Woody Pils — Bull & Bush Brewery, Denver, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer