Colorado cleans up at the Great American Beer Festival

It really shouldn't come as a surprise that Colorado was the top winning state during this year's Great American Beer Festival, which wrapped up on September 26: after all, the hundred or so brewers here make the best beer in the world.

What was a surprise were the breweries that actually won the awards. Congratulations go out to Coors Brewing Company (and its buddy, Miller), which won fifteen medals, including Large Brewing Company of the Year, and tiny Dry Dock Brewing Company of Aurora, which took home the Small Brewer of the Year prize, along with three other awards.

It looks like I'm going to have to get over my fear of Aurora and make a stop at the corner of Hampden and Chambers, where four-year-old Dry Dock is located.

"We were stunned and happy and we're still pretty happy," Dry Dock head brewer Bill Eye said Monday. "It's a huge deal for us." Dry Dock won gold for its Bismarck Altbier, and silver for its Reines Marzen and U-Boat Hefeweizen; all three are German-style ales.

Dry Dock doesn't can or bottle its beers, so the winning brews - and the rest of the breweries creations - are only available at the tap room and in growlers to go, but Eye said the brewery is going to figure out a way to capitalize on the win and the attention and that bottling is one of the things Dry Dock is thinking about. The business brewed 500 barrels of beer last year and plans to double that in 2009 in an expanded facility at 15120 East Hampden Avenue.

And Dry Dock wasn't the only small Colorado brewery to win: Back Country Brewery in Frisco took silver for its May Bock; Glenwood Canyon Brewery in Glenwood Springs won gold for its Cardiff strong ale and bronze for its Carbonator dopplebock; while Colorado Boy Pub and Brewery in Ridgeway won for its ESB and Irish style red.

Other multiple award winners from Colorado included Great Divide Brewing of Denver, Ska Brewing of Durango and upstart Upslope Brewing from Boulder.

For a complete list of winners, check out the Great American Beer Festival website.

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes