August 19 was the deadline for breweries across the country to submit samples of their beers to the Boulder-based Brewers Association for judging at this year's Great American Beer Festival, which will be held September 16-18 at the Colorado Convention Center.
And the pressure is on -- especially for Dry Dock Brewing, an Aurora beer maker that unexpectedly won three medals last year, along with the highly-coveted Small Brewing Company of the Year award, and was launched into stardom locally.
"It's going to be hard to follow," says Dry Dock founder Kevin DeLange. "We have high expectations, but not that high. As long as we don't get shut out. That is the key."
Dry Dock entered ten beers for judging this year, DeLange says, including Bismarck Altbier (which won gold in 2009), U-Boat Hefeweizen (silver) and Reines Marzen (silver). "Those three all turned out really good again, especially the Marzen," he adds.
Only eight of the ten are used in the Small Brewing Company of the Year contest, and DeLange knows that repeat wins will be difficult. "You can have a great beer, but there are so many other great beers there. It's just hard to know."
In the meantime, Dry Dock has enjoyed so much attention over the past year - whether it was the award, its quick growth or its repeat appearances on NPR - that DeLange (profiled in Westword's Best of Denver last April) is planning a new expansion and is buying a new bottling machine so that it will be able to sell some of its beers in 22-ounce bombers in liquor stores.
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The first beer the company will bottle for wider distribution is Seven Seas Double IPA, a powerfully hopped beer that it also entered into the GABF competition. "Fifteen minutes after we sent out a newsletter about it, we had a liquor store call and order ten cases, so we'll just be trying to keep up with demand," DeLange says.
DeLange also plans to expand his tasting room this spring into a soon-to-be vacant hair salon next door (pending approval from the city of Aurora). And if things go well, he is also considering a much larger production facility somewhere in the metro area that would leave the current brewery available for smaller batch beer.