Colorado breweries won 21 medals in the 2021 Great American Beer Festival competition on Friday, the lowest total in the state since 2004, when breweries here took home the same number of awards. A third of those wins came from just three categories: Fruit Beer, Historic Beer, and Chili Beer. Colorado won 26 medals in 2020 and an exciting 40 medals last year.
Just as remarkable, however, was that the judges fist banged on some tried and true workhorse beers.
These included: Ska Brewing’s the oldest beer, True Blonde, which won silver for English-style Ales; Telluride Brewing’s Face Down Brown, a repeat winner who took bronze for American-Style Brown; Bootstrap Brewing’s Stick’s Pale Ale, which took gold in American-Style Pale Ale; Grimm Brothers Brewery Snowdrop, which has been available since the brewery opened in 2010 and earned a bronze; and Ratio Beerworks‘Domestica, which won gold in the Golden / Blonde Ale category. Domestica is one of Ratio’s oldest flagships.
The results were a bit strange, but again, all of 2021 has been strange for craft brewers, who have had to deal with not only the effects of the continuing pandemic, but also staff shortages, a shortage of cans, social issues, and festivals that have been canceled, rescheduled, and then canceled again.
In total, the BA awarded 290 medals to 265 breweries in 97 beer categories covering 175 different styles. There was a whopping 9,680 beers entered by 2,192 breweries from all fifty states.
In addition to the beers mentioned above, Ratio’s new head brewer Phil Joyce also won a medal for his side project, Elaboration of Amalgam, which brews beers in very small batches in Denver. The amalgam earned bronze in the experimental category of Skins, a bright red acidic beer aged in Cabernet Franc barrels with cherries.
The other big Colorado winner of the night was Our mutual friend crafting, which earned two medals and was the only Colorado brewery to take home more than one award. OMF won gold for Inner Light in the Australian Pale Ale category and a silver for Biere Ovale, a mixed culture Brett beer. It was the second year in a row that Inner Light managed to make it into the winner’s circle.
Fruit beers also squeezed in some flavor as Colorado swept the American Fruit Beer category, with gold for Crystal Springs Brewing’s Blood Orange Kolsch, Great Divide Brewing’s Wild Raspberry Ale silver and Lone Tree Brewing’s Peach Pale Ale. Peak View Brewing, meanwhile, won silver for its blood orange wheat in the fruit wheat category. Colorado also earned two spots in the Chili Beer category (and yes, chili is a fruit, not a vegetable), with a gold for Smoke and Mirrors With Fire from Cerebral Brewing, a barrel-aged imperial stout, and a silver for the prescribed burn from Steamworks Brewing.
Other notable medals this year:
Cannonball Creek Brewing picked up a gold for Vladimir Brutin in the Experimental IPA category, the third time this beer has won a GABF award. In fact, Cannonball has won medals for eight years in a row for a total of fourteen awards in nine years. It’s no wonder, then, that the brewery has a life-size cutout of the Brewers Association founder Charlie Papazian on hand for its annual fist bump. (And by the way, this is the first year Papazian wasn’t on stage to hit each and every winner; he dropped out of the BA in 2019, and the awards weren’t held live in 2020) .
Strange Craft Beer Company, meanwhile, added a fifth medal to their checking account with a silver for Silverbrick Norwegian Farmhouse in the historic beer category. This beer was brewed as part of a special project that Strange owner Tim Myers worked with Guanella Pass Brewing in Georgetown.
The Grimm Brothers bronze, for their Snow Drop Köttbusser Ale, also came in the historic beer category, which has been a specialty for Colorado, as Seedstock Brewing won in that category in 2020. This is the second time Snow Drop has won. . a medal in GABF.
BJ’s Brewhouse in Boulder continued its recent success by winning gold for its GOT barrel aged beer in the wood and barrel aged strong beer category.
The remaining Colorado medals were:
Avery Brewing, Stampede, American Style Lager
Crooked Stave, Stay the Funk In, Belgian-style Sour Ale
12 proof beer, betrayal, Belgian-style specialty strong beer
Holidaily Brewing, Big Henry Hazy IPA, gluten-free beer