Copper Kettle Brewing had only been open five months when it won a gold medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival for its Mexican Chocolate Stout. Owners Kristen Kozik and Jeremy Gobien were ecstatic, but they didn't let the honor go to their heads. Instead, they've been turning out new beers all year, and a steady stream of new and old customers has allowed them toexpand their brewing capacity twice.
As part of our series of beery Q&As this week, we talked with Kozik about her win and got some advice for other breweries.
Westword: What advice would you give an out-of-town beer tourist visiting Denver for the first time for GABF?
Kristen Kozik: Just do one night at GABF, and then focus on the smaller breweries or local beer bars to get more of an intimate feel for what Denver has to offer in the craft beer industry. There are events all over Denver beyond GABF. Maybe walk around GABF, writing down what you do like and don't like from breweries, especially in the Rocky Mountain region; then try going to those places for the remainder of your days here, as most breweries have special offers during this time anyway, and you might get some one-off that you normally wouldn't get.
What advice would you give a local who wants to enjoy their own city during GABF?
Determine what they like from craft beer week. Do they want to hit sours, IPAs, wood-aged? Do they want to hit breweries or beer bars that they haven't had a chance to see yet? Focus on what they want to experience that week and go from there. I think people have to have an agenda, though, because there is so much going on.
What advice would you give to a brewery entering their beers into the judging for the first time?
Set the bar high, but don't let yourself get disappointed if you don't win anything. There are some amazing breweries and beers out there, but just because you have a great beer doesn't mean that it will judge well. The point of GABF, to some extent for local breweries in the Denver area, is to gain exposure. We have gained some full-time regulars who found out about us solely from GABF. We even have customers who come to see us for the first time almost a year later after trying our Mexican Chocolate Stout from 2011. If your beer stands out to them at the booth, they will check you out further and support your brewery. Point being, you don't need to have a medal on your wall to have great beer. Also, take the advice that they give you once you get your notes back. Don't get a big head and clamp down on chance. If there is something that really stands out with all of the judges that was "wrong" with your beer, then perhaps make the change. They might be right. What effect, if any, did winning a medal at GABF have on your business or your attitudes?
Winning a medal definitely redefined our brewery by the winning beer. Plus, we were so young when we won, I think our customers thought that was the best part for us. Customers were very happy for us being a very small business and winning gold like the "big guys" do. People from all over came to try our medal-winning beer solely because they felt that it has more credibility in it since it won gold. Whether or not that is true is to be determined. We went from a very small nanobrewery to somewhat being defined by that one beer. People expect it to be on tap, and whether or not they like that style or not, people want to try it sometimes solely because it won a medal, and [they] appreciate it more, even if it is not their favorite of our tap lineup.
What event are you most looking forward to outside the convention center?
We will unfortunately not be able to attend many events this year, because we want to be at the brewery for newcomers and out-of-town folks to explain the beers, tell our story and find out their impressions of our beers. Since we are still so small, having the owners there to greet new people who have tried our beers at GABF is really important.
What's the one beer or brewery you are most looking forward to trying?
The Bruery's Black Tuesday is such a kick-ass beer, and having it on tap is even better. Even if there is a line out the door for it!
Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan
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