Beer Man

In an Off-Year, a Few Big Flexes for Colorado GABF Medalists

GABF was virtual, but Ratio Beerworks's medal is real.
GABF was virtual, but Ratio Beerworks's medal is real. Ratio Beerworks
Colorado won just 26 medals at the virtual 2020 Great American Beer Festival — an almost staggeringly low total compared to the previous five years, when our state's powerhouse breweries collected between 35 and 40 each time. In fact, the tally for 2020 was the smallest number of awards for the state since 2004, when Colorado garnered just 21 medals.

On the other hand, the breweries that won in 2020 made some serious statements about their abilities — either by earning much-deserved recognition for stellar beers or by continuing commanding winning streaks.

The two sexiest flexes came from Cannonball Creek Brewing in Golden, which won three medals, and Denver Beer Co./Cerveceria Colorado, which also raked in a combined three medals.

Cannonball continued its seven-year win streak by taking home gold for Featherweight Pale Ale and bronzes for Vladimir Brutin, an experimental IPA, and Let's Talk About Mex, a cream ale. Cannonball has now won thirteen awards in just eight years, including previous medals for Featherweight and Vladimir Brutin.

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Denver Beer Co. kept is streak alive.
Denver Beer Co.
Denver Beer Co., meanwhile, kept its own streak alive by winning two medals for barrel-aged beers, Amburana Graham Cracker Porter (silver) and Amburana Dream (gold — for the second year in a row). DBC offshoot Cerveceria Colorado also won an award for Poblano Pils in the chili beer category. DBC has now won at least one medal every year since 2015 — a stat that dares anyone in the state to challenge its skills on the brew deck.

Dry Dock Brewing also dropped the mike, taking silver for Coconut Bligh's Barleywine. Since it opened in 2005, Dry Dock has won at least one award every year (except 2018).

Coors-owned Blue Moon Brewery shocked the system by winning gold in the hot Juicy/Hazy Pale Ale category for Moon Haze, a collaboration with Georgia's Terrapin Brewing, also owned by Coors. The juicy/hazy style is typically the purview of small and independent breweries across the country, so Blue Moon's win was undoubtedly satisfying for the local brewers here, who operate with an independent spirit within a corporate structure.

Four underappreciated lager specialists also heard their names called (though two of them won for their ales). Prost Brewing in Denver won silver in the highly competitive German-Style Pilsener category, and Wibby Brewing in Longmont took gold for its Volksbier Vienna amber lager. The Post Brewing grabbed a bronze for its Dry Stout Ale, and Seedstock Brewery won its first GABF medal, a silver, in the Historical Beer category for its Gratzer. Seedstock has established itself lately as a master of obscure historical styles.

Comrade Brewing has super powers when it come to winning GABF medals.
Comrade Brewing
One of Denver's best breweries, Ratio Beerworks, finally won a long overdue medal for one of the city's best beers, Dear You, an earthy, dry-hopped French saison, while another standout beer maker, Comrade Brewing, showed its muscle by defending the honor of its flagship IPA, Superpower, by winning silver. (It took gold last  year.)

Moving down the list, two Colorado Springs breweries proved a point by winning medals for the same beers two years in a row. Red Leg Brewing, which is getting ready to open a huge new complex near Garden of the Gods, hit gold for its Howitzer Amber, the same beer that won a silver medal in 2019. And Goat Patch Brewing nabbed a silver for It Takes a Tribe Red Ale; Goat Patch got bronze for that beer a year earlier.

Mirror Image Brewing in Frederick successfully defended its crown as well, taking a gold for Balefire Irish Red just a year after taking a silver medal for the same beer.

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This blueberry bomb from Steamboat's Storm Peak Brewing scored bronze.
Storm Peak Brewing
The rest of the Colorado medals:

Sanitas Brewing in Boulder won its first-ever GABF medal for Deluge, a barrel-aged sour.

Irwin Brewing in Crested Butte grabbed gold in German-Style Maerzen for Amber's Lager Amber Lager.

Avery Brewing, now owned by Spain's Mahou San Miguel, took gold for Liliko'i Kepolo, a fruit wheat beer that was a highly sought-after rarity when it debuted years ago and is still delicious.

Storm Peak Brewing in Steamboat Springs won bronze in the same fruit wheat beer category as Avery for Afternoon Delight, made with blueberry purée, vanilla and lactose.

New Belgium, a subsidiary of Japan's Kirin, took bronze for its Sour IPA in the American-Style Sour category.

New Terrain Brewing in Golden also scored in the American-Style Sour category by winning silver for Mirage, a lower-ABV sour that is dry-hopped with Mosaic hops.

Living the Dream Brewing got a bronze for Powder Run, a vanilla cream ale.

Our Mutual Friend won its third award, taking bronze for Inner Light, an International-Style Pale Ale.

Zuni Street Brewing won silver for Justin's Easy Going Amber.
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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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