Over 6,700 beers were judged at the Great American Beer Festival this year and seven of our local breweries took home medals for their brews.
Schell's took home Bronze in the Vienna-Style Lager category for Firebrick. This beer has won multiple awards over the years and with good reason.
Fulton earned Bronze for the locally popular Lonely Blonde in the English-Style Summer Ale category. This is the quintessential summer brew. Crisp, clean, refreshing, and now award-winning. Ryan Petz and crew have been producing great beer since 2009, a few years ahead of the MN craft beer boom.
So how does it feel to win a medal for the first time? "We've never entered before so we had no expectation. It took us all by surprise but we are very happy" says Petz. When asked who the first person he called was, he quickly responded that it was his wife. "It took two hours because the reception was so bad in (the theater) there." Ryan was wearing a smile that could be seen from a good distance which is to be expected when you win your first GABF medal. "We don't rely on winning awards, but it sort of validates what we are doing at Fulton."
Bemidji Brewing won Silver for their Double Porter in the Baltic-Style category. This is a brewery that is producing some great beers up in northern Minnesota and it would make for a great weekend adventure. Road trip anyone?
Bent Paddle Brewing earned a Silver medal for ⁰14 ESB in the Extra Special Bitter category. Not many local breweries are producing beers of this style anymore, but this is a great example of an ESB. One gets the feeling that they're going to need a trophy case soon—there aren't many better breweries in the state.
Fitger's Brewhouse was honored with a Silver for their Procrastinator Dopplebock in the German-Style Doppelbock category. A changing of the guard is happening up at the little brewpub on the North Shore where co-owner Tim Nelson and head brewer Dave Hoops are leaving amicably. Needless to say it was good to see Hoops go out with a bang.
Mankato Brewing took home Silver for Pumpkin Grinder in the Pumpkin Beer Category. There were 56 entries in this category and it was the only one that didn't award a Gold medal.
Steel Toe Brewing won Silver for Size 4 in the Session India Pale Ale category. There were 161 entries which was a record for a first year category. This speaks volumes to what Jason and his crew are doing in St. Louis Park.
This is their second and surely not their final time of being called up onto the stage to accept a medal. "It was fantastic. It reminds me of the days of playing in a band" says Jason. With 161 entries the odds of winning a medal are slim, especially in an IPA category. "Anytime you win in an IPA category it's difficult. It was very special."
Steel Toe was not pouring at the festival but that may soon change. "It's an option. I see us doing that eventually, maybe once we get everything dialed in (taproom construction) at home. Many of the breweries at the festival had volunteers pouring without any brewery representation, which can be frustrating, especially for journalist. Jason seemed to agree. "I believe if you are going to have a booth, the brewers should be there." Somehow this writer gets the feeling that they'd better get used to going up on stage.