Originally published in MMAC Monthly, October 2013
By Jeffrey V. Smith
PEAK TO PEAK
The Great American Beer Festival is one of the most renowned competitions in the craft brewing industry and recognized worldwide as a symbol of brewing excellence. The GABF competition honors 84 beer style categories with gold, silver and bronze medals and in 2013, an estimated 4,600+ beers will be judged by close to 200 judges from around the world. Many of the breweries along the Peak to Peak attend the event and enter their brews into the competition. It can be good for business to take home an award, but more than anything, the breweries go to raise awareness of their beer and hype their hometowns.
The Estes Park Brewery is sending its top brands like Stagering Elk Lager, Chocolate Moose Chocolate Stout, Stinger Wild Honey Wheat, a Scotch ale and their wet hop IPA, which uses 100 pounds of fresh Chinook hops from Pagosa Springs and has an “in your face” hop aroma and taste.
“We attend the festival to get our name out there,” Estes Park Brewery’s Main Brewer Ben McCleary said, “and promote Estes Park a little bit. We want people to know if they are visiting the National Park, they can stop in for a cold one and kill two birds with one stone.”
Oskar Blues Brewery, founded in Lyons, is a massive sponsor of the event and always does GABF in grand style. They purchase an oversized booth, have giveaways and otherwise heavily promote their canned beers. The brewery also has a bus tour from the Denver event to its Boulder County locations. Unfortunately, the Lyons location is no longer involved because the town is inaccessible and without utilities through October. Read about other Oskar Blues events and flood assistance in this paper.
The Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland celebrates its first year in business by attending its first GABF with its Gruit Ale and Steffie’s Heffie.
Greener’s Gruit Ale is a unique, ancient style. Little known about it and it is being reinvented rather than brought back, according to Brewer Jeff Green. It pre-dates the use of hops in medieval Europe and is only bittered with herbs. Steffie’s Heffie, on the other hand, is a light, crisp beer brewed with wheat and complimented by Pilsner malt.
Attending the GABF is “the realization of a dream” for the Greens. “We have both been volunteers at GABF, as pourers, and to attend as brewers is a validation for us that following one’s passion is possible,” owner Susan Green said. “Of course we would be elated to win a medal, but just being there and exposing as many folks possible to what we are passionate about is, in itself, a huge gratification. Sharing our beer with those who are so in love with the craft is a privilege and an honor and we could not be any prouder to do it in our home state.”
Dostal Alley in Central City is another long-time attendee. Unlike many, brewers Buddy Schmaltz and Dave Thomas always pour their own beer at the event. “We like to hear comments from people that have never tried our beer,” Thomas said. “Many people don’t know Central City has a brewery, and promise to come up to visit.”
This year they are taking their Pub Ale, which won a silver medal in 2001; Summer Ale; Shafthouse Stout, which is a double medal winner from 2008 and 2011; 1874 Smoked Porter; and “Lew,” a first-time German Altbier entrant named for Lew Cady who passed away Aug. 4. It has triple the amount of Central City wild hops, many picked from the hillside in front of Lew and Leslie Cady’s home.
“This beer is an improvement of our local-favorite Jacob Mack Brown Ale recipe and was renamed ‘Lewis Cady Mack Get Well Altbier’ while Lew was in the hospital,” Thomas explained.
In Idaho Springs, Tommyknocker is also preparing for the event. They, too, get a large booth and really promote their beers. The brewery is taking its Jack Whacker Wheat, Butt Head Bock, Black Eyed Pea and the latest batch of IPA Nouveau.
“Winning medals is good for marketing, but we also work on exposing the brewery to people to increase beer tourism and excitement for our brands,” Director of Brewing Steve Indrehus said.