Great American Beer Festival
We brought home a silver medal for the Rolling Thunder Dortmunder from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF)!! The GABF is the largest and most competitive beer festival in the United States. There are public tasting sessions and educational seminars, as well as private judging of competition beers. This year, the public tickets for the festival sold out in 32 minutes- for all 4 sessions! The competition gets tougher every year, so we are super excited about our medal! This year there were 268 medals awarded out of 5,507 entries in 90 categories, and only 234 out of 1,309 breweries that won a medal! That means that less than 5% of all beer entries won an award, and only 18% of the breweries won an award. (I know what you’re thinking, “shouldn’t they have awarded 270 awards if there were 90 categories?!?! 90 x 3 = 270!” Well sometimes the judges don’t award one of the medals in a category if they don’t feel like they have a beer that deserves it, so there were 2 instances of that this year.) Here is a full list of all the medal winners in case you’re curious.
The Snake River Brewing team left Jackson for Denver at 7am Wednesday morning. On our way down south, we stopped in Ft. Collins for a New Belgium tour. They are one the biggest and well known craft breweries around, and checking out their massive brew house was wild! They have a 200 bbl brew house- compared to our 14 bbl brew house. [1 bbl = 1 beer barrel = 31 gallons] And they brew 24 hours a day with 3 main shifts- we brew 3 times a day in the summer time but those days normally start at 5am and end at 10pm, so not quite round the clock. They have 10 1,700 bbl bright tanks (flat bottom conditioning tank) and 64 fermenters (conical bottom tanks where the beer ferments) that hold 850 to 1,700 bbl. Just to put things in perspective, we brew about 8,000 bbl a year, so just their bright tanks can hold 17,000 bbl of beer at any one time- that is more than 2 times the amount of beer we can brew a year. Their brewing capacity, and therefore their system and machinery, is on a different scale than us, which makes it really fun to see! They also wood barrel age some of their beer, just like we do. Except the barrels we use for aging are about 1.5 bbl, whereas the New Belgium barrels (Foeder) are 100 to 200 bbl.
Thursday we set up our booth, and got ready for the madness to begin. There are over 10,000 people at every session, so it can get pretty crowded and crazy! GABF also provides volunteers for all those breweries out there that either a) can’t attend, b) can only bring 1 or 2 brewery representatives, or c) just want to roam the hall drinking beer! We always bring at least 8 people from Snake River Brewing, so first thing we do is send the volunteers away. We love having people who are knowledgeable about out beer pouring samples to the masses. There are always people who come up to us with stories of their favorite ski trip with their bros to Jackson or their family camping trip through Grand Teton. It’s awesome to live in place that is so beautiful people feel compelled to share with you that one time that got to see it. Of course, great beer is not the only attraction at the GABF sessions. The American Cheese Society had a very large table (of which I might have eaten far too much), there was a Farm to Table section with local chefs pairing delicious food to local beer, and the silent disco (at which we danced our faces off- seriously watch the video at that link. It is hilarious…).
Friday morning we went to the Sandlot Brewery, which is at the Coors Field. While they do brew Blue Moon, this brewery also gets to brew some experimental German-inspired small batch brews that are very delicious. The sun was shining, corn hole and giant jenga were being played, and food trucks were lined up near by. It was a great way to spend an afternoon- attempting to network while day drinking and playing yard games! After destroying my pallet with beer and spicy food, I went to the Siebel’s sensory course. It was a course on the causes and tastes of off-flavors in beers- part lecture, part tasting. I learned a lot, and I’ll do a longer post just on the course in the next couple weeks. Friday night it was back to GABF to pour beers, taste beers from all over the country, eat cheese, and dance dance dance at the silent disco.
Our crew awoke early (9ish) Saturday morning to don our matching GABF 2014 mechanic shirts, and head to the awards ceremony. The ceremony was held in a large theater with plenty of coffee and beer available. We brought a couple Snake River Brewing cans for good luck (and because we know what we like to drink). We anxiously waited to hear the medal winners in the 5 categories we entered beer. Stress levels rose as the first 3 category announcements passed by without a mention of our beer (or maybe that was because we drank all our beer?), but then the 4th category was called. As soon as we heard the “R” in Rolling Thunder Dortmunder we were out of our seats whooping, hollering and waving our Wyoming flag!!! We won the silver in the Dortmunder or German-style Oktoberfest! The panic was over, we were going to dinner (tradition dictates that if we win a medal we go out to a fancy dinner, but if we don’t win… we eat taco bell). After dinner, we headed back to the last session of GABF to pour beer and pack up our booth. It was a bit of a rough drive back to Jackson on Sunday… The GABF is simultaneously fun and exhausting, so we were all grateful to be home! Diet and Detox starts now! (until Oktoberfest? which is today… only 4 days after we got home! rough life.)