The first Great American Beer Festival (GABF) was held in the Harvest House Hotel in Boulder in 1982. The motley collection of 22 breweries brought 40 beers, and the 800 people in attendance can say they sampled the beginning of the craft beer revolution.
But 33 years later, now that the GABF has swollen to include more than 1,300 breweries, 5,500 beers and 49,000 attendees, it’s safe to assume brewers in Boulder County (BOCO) realized the bar was set pretty high when they headed to the competition in Denver on October 2.
But that made the 10 medals BOCO brewers brought home all the sweeter.
It also restated the obvious to beer lovers everywhere: We live in a beer nirvana. Only four states earned more medals.
Left Hand Brewing, led the way for a second straight year, hauling in an impressive three silver medals and tying for most medals overall. The brewery was not named champion in the midsize brewery category, but were one of three runners up. Over the last two years, the brewery has won six medals (three gold in 2013), and nine in the last five years. Blackjack Porter and Smokejumper Smoked Imperial Porter joined the perennial favorite Milk Stout on the podium this year.
Emily Armstrong of Left Hand summarized it this way: “Lately, we keep winning for our darker styles. Obviously we must be onto something. Our brewers have unique skills at creating balanced, flavorful beers.”
There were four first-time winners from the area. Fate Brewing led the way, winning the only gold medal of the bunch for its Laimas Kolsch in the German-style kolsch category.
“My head brewer Jeff Griffith and I visited Cologne, the birthplace of Kolsch, this summer to see where our beer rated against Germany’s best,” says owner Mike Leawinski. “We both agreed ours was as good as any we had. We knew we had to enter it in the GABF. I am still in shock ours was ranked best in America.”
Bru Handbuilt Ales brought home silver for Loch in the Scotch ale category.
“It’s a seasonal beer we have on tap in fall and winter, but I decided to brew it a bit earlier due to customer comments last year. They loved it,” says owner Ian Clark. “So when we heard our name, it was so sweet. The shock is still setting in. This is a lifetime goal.”
In its first ever
GABF, The Post Brewing brought home silver for Howdy Beer in the American-style and international-style pilsner category. The beer is one of their core offerings and is described as “a revisionist American pilsner.”
“We have worked hard on this beer,” says Brian Selders, head brewer. “I think too many brewers tend to ignore American pilsners due to mainstream commercial breweries. We wanted to redefine pilsners using the freshest ingredients and create a full flavored beer. We are so happy to see that others love it too.”
Along with Shine Brewing winning its first medal for Liberation Gluten Free in the gluten-free category, Boulder County mainstays Upslope Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewing and Avery Brewing all brought home medals also.
It’s good to see BOCO still leading the way. And even better to have these award-winning beers available to all of us daily.