Saturday, April 12, 2014

Colorado is the King of the Beer World

It had been nearly an hour since Scott Witsoe, owner of Wit's End Brewing, has won his World Beer Cup medal by the time I caught up to him last night to interview him for the Denver Business Journal. He was still so excited and downright shocked that many of the words coming out of his mouth couldn't end up in my article.

"It's completely surreal," he said of taking a bronze medal in the Belgian-style blonde/pale ale category for his Jean-Claude Van Blond - despite having brewed it on a one-barrel system. "I turned to my wife and I said, 'Did I just hear that right?'"

A lot of Colorado brewers may have been asking that Friday night, because a lot of them - 20 altogether - took home medals in the competition that involved beers from 58 different countries. But what may have made the biggest statement about the state's up-and-coming beer scene is who took the medals home - a lot of smaller and newer breweries.

Wit's End, Strange Craft Beer, Cannonball Creek Brewing, Aspen Brewing and 11-month-old Riff Raff Brewing all took home awards - and none of them distribute outside the state. Hell, Verboten Brewing of Loveland nabbed two awards.

You can check out the full list of winners here, but the story line running through them - at least through the Colorado group - was that the beers people were talking about got the credit they deserve. Strange's Cherry Kriek, one of the best combinations of sweet and tart in this state, won a gold. Left Hand's Sawtooth Ale, maybe the standard bearer for easy-drinking ales, won a gold. Odell Brewing's Runoff, it's hop-heavy new red ale, won a gold.

Yes, there was audible booing when George Killian's Irish Red took the gold for Irish-style red ale. But for the most part, there was jubilation and acknowledgement that, hey, this was a good night for good beers.

If you don't believe me, just look at these photos, taken by Jason E. Kaplan and provided by the Brewers Association, after the show. You might even be able to see Witsoe (above) or Strange owner Tim Myers (below) mouthing "Holy #*$!, I won!" And if you can't, you should swing by their breweries in the coming days, celebrate with them and hear it in person.

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