In a presentation before a group of journalists in town for the Great American Beer Festival last Friday, Tony Simmons, the owner of Pagosa Springs Brewing Company, pointed out that brewpubs often get short shrift. Since most don't package their beers in bottles and cans, beer writers -- and sometimes drinkers -- have a tendency to forget about them. That shouldn't be the case, he said, since brewpubs make beer that's every bit good as the breweries that make their product shiny and available in stores.
On Saturday, the GABF judges poured on exclamation points to that sentiment, especially when it came to the awards they handed out to Colorado breweries.
In-state brewers here took home 39 medals. Of those, 29 went to independently owned Colorado companies; the rest were awarded to MillerCoors-brewed beers or beers made by local outlets of the Rock Bottom and C.B. & Potts chains. (For a full list of Colorado winners, look below.) Of those 29 medals, twelve were for beers made by breweries who do no packaging whatsoever, while eight went to beers made by breweries that only can or bottle a small amount of beer and only distribute in Colorado.
"For brewpubs to do that well, I was really impressed," says Simmons, who won a silver in 2010 for his Coconut Porter. "There are some really great beers being made nowadays. Just because you can't make them in a mass situation doesn't mean they aren't as good."
Kristen Kozik, who owns Denver's Copper Kettle Brewing with her husband Jeremy Gobien, says it was fun to watch the small brewers rake in the medals. "You usually see a couple of small guys win, but not as many as this year. There were so many new breweries that opened in 2011, so it was a pretty revolutionary year for that."
Copper Kettle, which has only been in business for five months, won the gold for its Mexican Chocolate Stout, a beer that has quickly gained a buzz in Denver.
Other award winning breweries that have been open for a year or less include Equinox in Fort Collins, which won gold for its O'Rion Irish Red; Denver Beer Co, which took home a bronze for its luscious Graham Cracker Porter; Funkwerks, also in Fort Collins, which garnered a silver for its Saison; and Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, which walked away with a gold medal for its Little Red Cap, a German-style altbier.
"Everyone was happy on the same level for each one of us," Kozik says. "I thought it would more competitive. But it felt like more like a true community of beer lovers."
Simmons calls brewpubs and non-packaging taprooms "the front lines of education to the public. You can go to liquor stores, but who do you talk to?" he asks. "Your education comes from talking to the brewer, the owner, the server."
See the list of winners by clicking below.
AC Golden Brewing, Golden Silver: Colorado Native Bronze: Schwarzbier
Amicas, Salida Bronze: Ute Trail Pale Ale
Backcountry Brewery, Frisco Silver: Saison du Summer
Blue Moon Brewing, Golden Bronze: Vintage Blonde Ale
Bull & Bush, Denver Silver: Release the Hounds Bronze: Turnip the Beets
C.B. & Potts Restaurant & Brewery, Fort Collins Gold: Pavlov's Pils
C.B. & Potts Restaurant & Brewery, Westminster Gold: Before Capone
Colorado Boy Brewing, Ridgway Bronze: Colorado Boy Irish Ale
Coors Archive Brewery, Golden Silver: PrePro Bock
Copper Kettle Brewing, Denver Gold: Mexican Chocolate Stout
Crabtree Brewing, Greeley Gold: Berliner Weisse Silver: Oatmeal Stout
Del Norte Brewing, Denver Bronze: Órale
Denver Beer Co., Denver Bronze: Graham Cracker Porter
Dostal Alley Brewpub & Casino, Central City Bronze: Shaft House Stout
Dry Dock Brewing, Aurora Gold: Hefeweizen Bronze: Coffee Milk Stout Bronze: Kriek
Durango Brewing, Durango Gold: Durango Dark
Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Gold: O'Rion Irish Red
Funkwerks, Fort Collins Silver: Funkwerks Saison
Glenwood Canyon Brewing, Glenwood Springs Gold: Dunkel Lager
Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland Gold: Little Red Cap
Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery, Boulder Silver: Colorado Kind
New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins Gold: Le Terroir
Odell Brewing, Fort Collins Gold: Friek
Oskar Blues, Longmont Silver: Mama's Little Yella Pils Bronze: Old Chub Bronze: Deviant Dale's IPA
Rock Bottom Brewery, Westminster Bronze: Molly's Titanic Brown
The SandLot, Denver Gold: Move Back dortmunder Silver: Wild Pitch Hefe Weizen
Ska Brewing, Durango Gold: Steel Toe Stout
Strange Brewing, Denver Gold: Gluten Free Lemon Pale
Upslope Brewing, Boulder Gold: Upslope Pumpkin Ale
Wynkoop Brewing, Denver Bronze: B3K Schwarzbier Bronze: Belgorado