The Great American Beer Festival, hosted by the Brewers Association, was held this year September 24-26th. It is the largest of 4 commercially-held beer festivals and determines the standard for the best beers in America by featuring 92 categories. Three new categories this year are: Chili Pepper, Session IPA, and Mixed Culture Brett Beer. The GABF competition is highly regarded and drives the quality of craft beer to the limit. The festival itself is a byproduct to the competition and was able to house 750 breweries offering 3,800 beers to 60,000 guests in 2015.*
The festival grew 20% from 2014. Over 6,400 beers from 1,552 breweries were judged in the competition, with 242 total medals awarded. 31 medals found homes with Colorado breweries. 18 medals went to 15 unique breweries in Northern Colorado, including City Star Brewing in Berthoud, Dry Dock in Aurora, Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern, Left Hand, and Greeley breweries Wiley Roots and WeldWerks.
Eric Wallace of Left Hand told The Pint in regards to the NoCo craft brew scene, “It’s an old club (Odells, and New Belgium). Back in the day we were the ones going to the beer festivals, and now were the ones on the top of the pyramid. We are linked by a similar philosophy [ESOP: employee stock ownership plan.]” The comradery between brewers in the industry was seen, felt, and heard loud and clear at 2015’s Great American Beer Festival. It is evident that Northern Colorado breweries are rising to the top, and cheering for each other along the way. Neil Fisher, co-owner and head brewer at WeldWerks, said of their first visit, “The competition was really secondary to our focus on making a good impression at the festival.” The marketing, and name recognition is an important aspect of GABF.
WeldWerks Brewing Company was one of 38 “new” breweries to take home a medal. Fisher said “Winning a medal at GABF is a huge honor and one of the biggest accomplishments for any brewery. The fact that this was our first time entering the competition and that we have only been open seven months is incredible and somewhat surreal.”* WeldWerks was one of 100 breweries randomly selected to serve their beer in the Brewers section of the festival.
Both Wiley Roots and WeldWerks medaled in wheat beer categories. Wiley won gold for their 2013 GABF bronze medal winner Super 77 Wheat in the American-Style Wheat category. Weldwerks took silver for their Hefeweizen in the American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast category. Miranda Carbaugh, co-owner of Wiley Roots, proudly mentioned that “Greeley had total wheat beer domination.”
Julia Herz, Craft Beer Director for the Brewers Association, told the media that $101 billion of the market are from beer sales and although “Things [in the craft beer industry] are changing, things [breweries] are still very local.” That could not have been more true at GABF 2015 as The Pint roamed the gigantic festival hall filled with loving fans of their favorite hometown brewery while experiencing the best America had to offer.
Wiley Roots Brew Co., Greeley Colorado “Super 77 Wheat”
Gold Medal, American style Wheat Beer
WeldWerks Brewing Co., Greeley Colorado “Weldwerks Hefeweizen”
Silver Medal, American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
Grimm Brothers Brewing Co., Loveland Colorado “Snow Drop,” “Fearless Youth”
Bronze Medal, Historical Beer
Silver Medal, European-style Dark beer
Dry Dock Brewing Co., Aurora, Colorado “Pilsner
Bronze Medal, German- Style Pilsner
Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern, Fort Collins Colorado “Oktoberfest”
Gold Medal, Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest
Coors Brewing Co., Golden Colorado “Coors Banquet”
Gold Medal, American-Style Lager
Lone Tree Brewing Co., Lone Tree, Colorado “Lone Tree Mexican Lager”
Silver Medal, American-Style Lager.
Black Bottle Brewery, Fort Collins Colorado “Friar Chuck”
Bronze Medal, German-Style Kolsch
Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden Colorado “Featherweight Pale Ale”
Bronze Medal, American-Style Pale Ale
CODA Brewing Co., Aurora Colorado “Via Chicago”
Silver Medal, American-Style Strong Pale Ale
Bootstrap Brewing Co., Niwot Colorado “Wreak Havoc”
Silver Medal, Imperial Red Ale
Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont Colorado “Sawtooth Ale,” “Black Jack Porter,” “Fade to Black Volume 1”
Bronze Medal, Ordinary or Special Bitter
Bronze Medal, Brown Porter
Gold Medal, Export Stout
Liquid Mechanics Brewing Co., Lafayette Colorado “Altbier”
Bronze Medal, German-Style Altbier
Avery Brewing Co., Boulder Colorado “White Rascal”
Silver Medal, Belgian-Style Witbier
City Star Brewing, Berthoud Colorado “Night Watchman”
Bronze Medal, Robust Porter
*Information/Statistics from the Brewers Association, and WeldWerks 2015 Press Release from GABF 2015.