Beer Man

Oskar Blues has never won a Great American Beer Festival medal for its canned beer

Oskar Blues is one of the fastest-growing craft brewers in Colorado and makes some of the most sought-after, buzzworthy beers in the country. The Longmont brewery started the canned craft beer revolution in 2002, and it still leads the way in the market.

But there's one thing the brewery is missing: Oskar Blues has never won a Great American Beer Festival medal for a single one of those canned beers. In fact, its only GABF hardware is a bronze that Oskar Blues took home in 1999 for something called Reverend Sandi's Sinful Stout, which is poured at its original Lyons restaurant, which opened in 1997.

The lack of medals is especially shocking given the fact that Oskar Blues earned five gold medals in the 2010 World Beer Championships (one for every beer it submitted), a prestigious international contest. The five beers were Mama's Little Yella Pils, Dale's Pale Ale, Ten FIDY Imperial Stout, Old Chub Scotch Ale, and Gordon Imperial Red Ale (now called G'Knight Imperial Red Ale).

"GABF's categories are based on traditional styles, and that is pretty typical. They have to have some standards to judge on," says Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis. There will be 79 categories judged at GABF this year, the same number as last year.

"But it doesn't really align with what we are trying to accomplish here. We don't brew a beer to any category guidelines. We want to blur those lines and break the boundaries and create something exciting rather than stay behind those boundaries," explains Melis.

And some of the brewery's beers certainly have broken those boundaries -- and not just because they're all packaged in aluminum. G'Knight, for example is one of the hoppiest tasting beers made in Colorado, but it's not an IPA or even a double IPA. It's an amped-up red ale. And Gubna, which actually is an imperial IPA, has a a tangy, spicy element that comes from Dark Munich and rye malts that you might find in a barleywine.

This year, Oskar Blues has entered all six of its canned beers -- Dale's, Mama's, Old Chub, G'Knight, Gubna and Ten FIDY -- as well as two others, barrel-aged Old Double Bagger Barleywine and Deviant Dale's IPA.

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