Left Hand Brewing, Avery Brewing and Twisted Pine Brewery all won medals Saturday morning at the Great American Beer Festival at the Colorado Convention Center.
More than 700 breweries from 49 states submitted 4,809 entries in the 84 categories. Twenty-four first-time entering breweries took home hardware. But locally it was three breweries founded in the early and mid 1990s that highlighted the day for what is now Boulder County’s exploding craft beer scene.
Longmont-based Left Hand led the way with three gold medals, tying Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles, California for the most top prizes. Avery and Twisted Pine won a bronze each.
Left Hand won for its original flagship beer, Sawtooth Ale, and its current flagship beer, Milk Stout. The brewery also won for Fade to Black in the Foreign Style Stout category. Sawtooth won in the Ordinary or Special Bitter category, while Milk Stout won in the Sweet Stout or Cream Stout category.
The three medals brings Left Hand’s lifetime total at the festival to 22 medals, and ties its most at a single GABF since 1994.
“Winning gold on those it definitely proves we’re keeping quality out there,” Left Hand lead brewer Matt Scholbrock said of Sawtooth and Milk Stout. “This was a big year for us.”
Boulder’s Twisted Pine, founded by Gordon Knight in 1995 and purchased a year later by Bob Baile, won its ninth medal in 18 years, a bronze for West Bound Braggot in the Specialty Honey Beer category.
“We’re the statesmen now,” Baile said. “The old guard it still putting it out. It’s neat to see.”
Boulder-based Avery, founded in 1993 the same year as Left Hand, took a bronze in the Fruit Wheat category for its Lilikoi Kepolo. Avery is looking to begin construction by the end of this year on a new facility in Gunbarrel that marketing director Joe Osborne said the company hopes will be brewing beer 12-18 months after that.
“The cool thing is we’re all still doing groundbreaking enough stuff to still be relevant,” Osborne said.
The day wasn’t completely owned by the established Boulder County players.
Upslope Brewing took bronze in the ProAm competition for an Oatmeal Stout recipe by Fort Collins home brewer Derek Ordway. Ordway had won a home brewer competition with the beer, and he worked with Upslope and head brewer Alex Violette to ramp up the beer to commercial scale. Upslope has now won five medals since its founding in 2009.
“This was kind of like a best in show competition,” Violete said, referring to the fact that the pro-am competition had beers of all styles. “There were great companies in there … some of the breweries that I really respect.”
New Planet Beer Co., which is based in Boulder but brews in Fort Collins, won bronze for its Gluten-Free Brown Ale in the Gluten-Free category. Frederick’s Echo Brewing, which is opening a second location in Erie soon, won bronze for its Echo Amber in the German-Style Altbier category.
The other big local winner Saturday was Rock Bottom Brewery, which started in Boulder with the Walnut Brewery and has mushroomed to 70 brewpubs nationwide. Rock Bottom is now based in Chattanooga, Tennessee after merging with Gordon-Biersch, but bases its brewing operations in Broomfield. Rock Bottom’s LaJolla, California brewery won three medals, while its King of Prussia, Pennsylvania brewery won one. As an organization, Rock Bottom won the Brewpub Group and Brewpub Group Brewer of the Year award.
“It’s good,” Rock Bottom director of brewing Kevin Reed said. “We’ve got a lot of folks who work hard and brew good beer.”