GABF 2017: A recap

The Great American Beer Festival has come to represent a benchmark for our entire organization. Each year, the brewers get an opportunity to submit their beers for professional judging. What’s more, we get to send a group as diverse as Pub Servers, Staff Brewers, and HR Managers to go to Denver and feel the immense power of the craft beer industry first hand.

GABF 2017 is the largest in it’s storied history. As craft beer continues to grow, this festival will surely keep growing too!

For us, 2017 is about our own growth, as well. With the addition of our 10bbl Brewery and Pub, we have another location to create beers from. Per festival guidelines, each brewing location can submit 4 beers apiece, and so we sent our full 12. We relish the opportunity to send more beers, because it closes a feedback loop for us. Specifically, we get notes from the judges on each beer sent.

The culmination happened on Saturday, October 7-the date of the awards ceremony. With 7,923 beers judged, we felt our 12 might have a small chance of placing. Our group was a bunch of nervous Nellies! Relief came quickly, as we took Bronze for our Rye Curious? in the 14th category: Rye Beer. This beer is brewed in our Dekum brewery and has become one of our more decorated beers. We love to brew this beer at our Dekum location because of the advantages of brewing on a direct-fire system. In short, we see a little more caramelization on the malts we use here.

Not long after, we took a second Bronze for our Passionfruit Sour! This beer competed in the 25th category: Fruited American-Style Sour Ale. The Passionfruit Sour has come a long way: it started as a Berlinerweisse, but we’ve come to want more tart! Our first batch was only 7 barrels. Within a couple years, we scaled it up to a quarterly draft release, and then added 22 oz bottles. Nowadays, you can find Passionfruit Sour on draft and in 22s for six months out of the year. Lacto fermented beers and Passionfruit, what a great combo!

Feeling good now, we watched many of our friends and brewers we admire walk on stage to shake hands with “the rock star”. The real story of this festival is about the growth of our industry, nation-wide. Styles are evolving, new categories are being added, and the creative spirit in American brewing is at an all time high. When we look at the success of our company, we’re often reminded of the rising tide that lifts all boats.

As the festival moved from Lagers to Ales, we ran into a stretch where we had a higher frequency of contended categories. Between category 52 and 60, we had 4 beers entered. It was category 59 that saw our first medal from the new brewery: American-Style Strong Pale Ale- A bronze for Stay West. Wow! Stay West is our homage to the Southern California IPA. We truly feel that the first world class IPA’s were born in and around San Diego. This medal validates much of the hard work that we’ve put into developing this recipe. We plan to release this beer to six-packs within the next month, or so.

The mother of all categories at GABF is the American India Pale Ale. It’s the 60th category in sequence, but the festival announces it last. This year, 408 beers were submitted to judging. When the category was called the first word was Breakside- we won a bronze! Until today, the biggest day in our history was the day that our flagship IPA took gold at GABF in 2014. That year, there were 215 contestants. As you might guess, we’ve brewed that beer A LOT over the years. It’s burned into the bedrock of what we do as a brewery. Every person in our company has a hand in this beer. And so, to get a medal in this very prestigious category is a medal for our whole crew. This is why we do what we do.

 

When we first started going to GABF, we sent 2 or 3 people to represent our company. As we’ve grown, we have learned that this is a perk for the company. Work for us for 2 years, and you have eligibility to go to GABF. It doesn’t matter if you wash dishes for us, or if you are the CEO- you get the chance to go. It gives each year its own story. Its own personality. And just as much as the medals give us a sense of accomplishment, seeing the joy of our hard-working people share in that is worth its weight in gold (or bronze as it may be!).