Small, non-packaging Colorado breweries score big at the Great American Beer Festival

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In a presentation before a group of journalists in town for the Great American Beer Festival last Friday, Tony Simmons, the owner of Pagosa Springs Brewing Company, pointed out that brewpubs often get short shrift. Since most don't package their beers in bottles and cans, beer writers -- and sometimes drinkers -- have a tendency to forget about them. That shouldn't be the case, he said, since brewpubs make beer that's every bit good as the breweries that make their product shiny and available in stores.

On Saturday, the GABF judges poured on exclamation points to that sentiment, especially when it came to the awards they handed out to Colorado breweries.

In-state brewers here took home 39 medals. Of those, 29 went to independently owned Colorado companies; the rest were awarded to MillerCoors-brewed beers or beers made by local outlets of the Rock Bottom and C.B. & Potts chains. (For a full list of Colorado winners, look below.) Of those 29 medals, twelve were for beers made by breweries who do no packaging whatsoever, while eight went to beers made by breweries that only can or bottle a small amount of beer and only distribute in Colorado.

"For brewpubs to do that well, I was really impressed," says Simmons, who won a silver in 2010 for his Coconut Porter. "There are some really great beers being made nowadays. Just because you can't make them in a mass situation doesn't mean they aren't as good."

Kristen Kozik, who owns Denver's Copper Kettle Brewing with her husband Jeremy Gobien, says it was fun to watch the small brewers rake in the medals. "You usually see a couple of small guys win, but not as many as this year. There were so many new breweries that opened in 2011, so it was a pretty revolutionary year for that."

Copper Kettle, which has only been in business for five months, won the gold for its Mexican Chocolate Stout, a beer that has quickly gained a buzz in Denver.

Other award winning breweries that have been open for a year or less include Equinox in Fort Collins, which won gold for its O'Rion Irish Red; Denver Beer Co, which took home a bronze for its luscious Graham Cracker Porter; Funkwerks, also in Fort Collins, which garnered a silver for its Saison; and Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, which walked away with a gold medal for its Little Red Cap, a German-style altbier.

"Everyone was happy on the same level for each one of us," Kozik says. "I thought it would more competitive. But it felt like more like a true community of beer lovers."

Simmons calls brewpubs and non-packaging taprooms "the front lines of education to the public. You can go to liquor stores, but who do you talk to?" he asks. "Your education comes from talking to the brewer, the owner, the server."

See the list of winners by clicking below.

AC Golden Brewing, Golden Silver: Colorado Native Bronze: Schwarzbier

Amicas, Salida Bronze: Ute Trail Pale Ale

Backcountry Brewery, Frisco Silver: Saison du Summer

Blue Moon Brewing, Golden Bronze: Vintage Blonde Ale

Bull & Bush, Denver Silver: Release the Hounds Bronze: Turnip the Beets

C.B. & Potts Restaurant & Brewery, Fort Collins Gold: Pavlov's Pils

C.B. & Potts Restaurant & Brewery, Westminster Gold: Before Capone

Colorado Boy Brewing, Ridgway Bronze: Colorado Boy Irish Ale

Coors Archive Brewery, Golden Silver: PrePro Bock

Copper Kettle Brewing, Denver Gold: Mexican Chocolate Stout

Crabtree Brewing, Greeley Gold: Berliner Weisse Silver: Oatmeal Stout

Del Norte Brewing, Denver Bronze: Órale

Denver Beer Co., Denver Bronze: Graham Cracker Porter

Dostal Alley Brewpub & Casino, Central City Bronze: Shaft House Stout

Dry Dock Brewing, Aurora Gold: Hefeweizen Bronze: Coffee Milk Stout Bronze: Kriek

Durango Brewing, Durango Gold: Durango Dark

Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Gold: O'Rion Irish Red

Funkwerks, Fort Collins Silver: Funkwerks Saison

Glenwood Canyon Brewing, Glenwood Springs Gold: Dunkel Lager

Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, Loveland Gold: Little Red Cap

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery, Boulder Silver: Colorado Kind

New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins Gold: Le Terroir

Odell Brewing, Fort Collins Gold: Friek

Oskar Blues, Longmont Silver: Mama's Little Yella Pils Bronze: Old Chub Bronze: Deviant Dale's IPA

Rock Bottom Brewery, Westminster Bronze: Molly's Titanic Brown

The SandLot, Denver Gold: Move Back dortmunder Silver: Wild Pitch Hefe Weizen

Ska Brewing, Durango Gold: Steel Toe Stout

Strange Brewing, Denver Gold: Gluten Free Lemon Pale

Upslope Brewing, Boulder Gold: Upslope Pumpkin Ale

Wynkoop Brewing, Denver Bronze: B3K Schwarzbier Bronze: Belgorado

Follow Westword's Beer Man on Twitter at @ColoBeerMan
and on Facebook at Colo BeerMan.

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