Beer Man

Colorado's 21 GABF Medals Cap a Weird Year in Beer

Ska Brewing won for True Blonde.
Ska Brewing won for True Blonde. Ska Brewing
Colorado breweries won 21 medals at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival competition on Friday, the state's lowest total since 2004, when breweries here took home the same number of awards. A third of those wins came from just three categories: Fruit Beer, Historical Beer and Chili Beer. Colorado won 26 medals in 2020 and a thrilling 40 medals the year before that.

Just as notable, however, was that the judges gave fist bumps to some tried-and-true workhorse beers.

These included: Ska Brewing's oldest beer, True Blonde, which won silver for English-Style Ales; Telluride Brewing's Face Down Brown, a repeat winner that took bronze for American-Style Brown; Bootstrap Brewing's Stick's Pale Ale, which nabbed a gold in American-Style Pale Ale; Grimm Brothers Brewhouse's Snowdrop, which has been on tap since the brewery opened in 2010 and nabbed a bronze; and Ratio Beerworks' Domestica, which won gold in the Golden/Blonde Ale category. Domestica is one of Ratio's oldest flagships.

The results were a little strange — but then again, all of 2021 has been strange for craft brewers, who have had to deal not just with the effects of the continuing pandemic, but also with a staffing shortage, a can shortage, social issues and festivals that have been canceled, rescheduled and then canceled again.

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Ratio Beerworks won for Domestica.
Ratio Beerworks
All told, the BA awarded 290 medals to 265 breweries in 97 beer categories covering 175 different styles. There were a whopping 9,680 beers entered by 2,192 breweries from all fifty states.

In addition to the beers mentioned above, Ratio's new head brewer, Phil Joyce, also won a medal for his side project, Amalgam Brewing, which makes very small batch beers in Denver. Amalgam got bronze in the experimental category for Skins, a bright-red sour ale aged in Cabernet Franc barrels with cherries.

The other big Colorado winner of the evening was Our Mutual Friend Brewing, which gathered up two medals and was the only Colorado brewery to take home more than one prize. OMF won gold for Inner Light in the Australian Pale Ale category and a silver for Biere Ovale, a mixed-culture Brett beer. It was the second year in a row that Inner Light got to stand in the winner's circle.

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Lone Tree Brewing took bronze in the American Fruit Beer category.
Lone Tree Brewing
Fruit beers also squeezed out some flavor as Colorado swept the American Fruit Beer category, with gold for Crystal Springs Brewing's Blood Orange Kolsch, silver for Great Divide Brewing's Wild Raspberry Ale and bronze for Lone Tree Brewing's Peach Pale Ale. Peak View Brewing, meanwhile, won silver for its Blood Orange Wheat in the Fruit Wheat Category. Colorado also scored two spots in the Chili Beer category (and yes, chile is a fruit, not a vegetable), with a gold for Cerebral Brewing's Humo y Espejos With Fuego, a barrel-aged imperial stout, and a silver for Steamworks Brewing's Prescribed Burn.

Other notable medals this year:

Cannonball Creek Brewing collected a gold for Vladimir Brutin in the Experimental IPA category, the third time this beer has won a GABF award. In fact, Cannonball has now won medals for eight years in a row for a total of fourteen awards in nine years. It's no wonder, then, that the brewery keeps a life-sized cutout of Brewers Association founder Charlie Papazian on hand for its annual fist bump. (And by the way, this is the first year that Papazian was not on stage to fist-bump each and every winner; he retired from the BA in 2019, and the awards weren't held live in 2020.)
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Cannonball Creek keeps a cutout of Charlie Papazian on hand for its annual fist bumps.
Cannonball Creek Brewing
Strange Craft Beer Company, meanwhile, added a fifth medal to its running tally with a silver for Silverbrick Norwegian Farmhouse in the Historical Beer category. This beer was brewed as part of a special project that Strange owner Tim Myers worked on with Guanella Pass Brewing in Georgetown.

Grimm Brothers' bronze, for its Snow Drop Köttbusser Ale, also came in the Historical Beer category — which has been something of a specialty for Colorado, as Seedstock Brewing won in that category in 2020. This is the second time that Snow Drop has won a medal at GABF.

B.J.'s Brewhouse in Boulder continued its recent success by winning gold for its Barrel Aged GOT Beer in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer Category.

The remaining Colorado medals were:

Silver
Avery Brewing, Stampede, American-Style Lager
Crooked Stave, Stay the Funk In, Belgian-Style Sour Ale

Bronze
12 Degree Brewing, Treachery, Belgian-Style Strong Specialty Ale
Holidaily Brewing, Big Henry Hazy IPA, Gluten-Free Beer
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes

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