Colorado breweries won fewer awards at this year's Great American Beer Festival (39) than they did last year (41), but the bling was spread out more evenly between corporately owned companies, big-name independents and small or new breweries.
But the biggest winner was Longmont-based Oskar Blues, which won three awards: a silver for Mama's Little Yella Pils, a bronze for Old Chub Scotch Ale and a silver for Deviant Dale's IPA. The brewery hadn't taken home a GABF medal since 1999 (it's sole victory) and, astoundingly, had never won for one of its signature canned beers.
"The coolest part was that Mama's and Old Chub are just regular production beers for us -- the same beers you can get on the cooler shelves," says Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis. "A lot of people make special batches and take extra precautions to win medals."
The Mama's entry was taken from an August 29 batch, while the Old Chub was made on August 26. Both are part of the brewery's year-round lineup of canned brews.
Melis says the award for Mama's "makes the most sense" because it's the beer that most closely fits into the style guidelines that GABF judges use. The rest of the brewery's beers fall somewhere in between styles, which is why Melis believes they haven't won GABF awards in the past.
"Deviant was a surprise, though, because American IPA was such a large category," he adds. There were 176 beers entered into the American Style Indian Pale Ale category, making it by far the most competitive category in 2011.
And Deviant (which made a splash at the Old Chicago restaurant chain earlier this year) will make even more news early next year. A few days before winning the award, brewery owner Dale Katechis announced that Deviant will be the first beer that Oskar Blues puts into a sixteen-ounce can. Deviant is a twice-as-hoppy version of the brewery's flagship beer, Dale's Pale Ale. Brewed with four kinds of hops, Deviant is then dry-hopped with a fifth.
"It's a great beer and an exciting style, and it fits with what we do," says Melis, adding that the cans will probably be sold as single-serve tallboys. "It's a badass beer."
Of course, Aurora's Dry Dock Brewing didn't do half bad itself. The 2009 Small Brewing Company of the Year winner took home three medals this year: a gold for its amazing Hefeweizen, which it recently began bottling; a bronze for Coffee Milk Stout; and a bronze for a its Pro-Am entry, Kriek, brewed by Ted Manahan.
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Other multiple award winners were: Bull & Bush, which won a bronze for Turnip the Beets and a silver for Release the Hounds; Crabtree Brewing in Greeley, which won gold for Berlinerweiss and silver for Oatmeal Stout; the Wynkoop, which scored bronze for Belgorado and B3K Schwarzbier; the Blue Moon Brewing Company @ the Sandlot, which scored a gold for Move Back dortmunder and a silver for Wild Pitch Hefe; and AC Golden, which won silver for Colorado Native and bronze for its schwarzbier.
For the full list of winners, in Colorado and otherwise, go to the Great American Beer Festival web site.