In case you haven't heard, the Great American Beer Festival is coming up at the end of September, and Colorado Springs will be represented by Bristol Brewing Co., Black Fox Brewing Co. (via Bristol's entry), Trinity Brewing Co., Rocky Mountain Brewery and Colorado Mountain Brewery.
We spoke with everybody except Rocky Mountain (those guys are pretty busy, I guess) to get an idea of what they're bringing to the festival.
Bristol Brewing Company: Red Rocket Pale Ale, Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, Oktoberfest, Old No. 23 Barley Wine, Cheyenne Cañon Pinon Nut Ale, B-6000 Dubbel (judging only, meaning it won't be available to taste on the floor) and Bristol Wit (judging only).
Black Fox Brewing Company: Faust Part 2, and Wild in the Streets (both sour ales)
Trinity Brewing Company: Pappy Legba Imperial Saison, Soul Scottish Ale, Double Rainbow, The Flavor Sour Ale, Provisional Farmhouse (brett-laced saison), Brain of the Turtle (sour), Slap Your Mammy Imperial IPA and Old Growth Belgian Sour Ale.
Colorado Mountain Brewery: Ole 59er Amber Ale, Panther IPA, UniBrau Hefeweissen and 7258 Blonde Ale.
CMB brewer Andrew Bradley says that while he'd like to medal at the competition, he's looking for something else.
"This is going to be our first GABF. I’ve attended tons of them over the years at my other brewery, but this will be the first time that CMB’s representing," he says. "And the reason we’re kind of sending up our more traditionals is, I want to see how they stack. If I medal, that would be delightful, but really I’m just wanting to get the judges' replies back, see what’s going on."
Bristol's Laura Long says the brewery's as excited as ever for the GABF, but there's always a little ambivalence about the judging process — even for the brewery whose Laughing Lab has become the most decorated microbrew in the state.
"Well, we win about half the time, [and] the fact that it only wins half the time, really, I think, speaks to the inherent subjectivity of that process — ’cause it’s people, with taste buds," she says. "So they’re trying to determine how well it fits into a style category, but clearly they’re bringing, at times, they’re own bias or particular taste to it."
Each brewer spoke about the rigidity of the festival's style rules; for instance, Bristol's Beehive Honey Wheat can't compete in the American-style wheat beer category, because the honey addition disqualifies it.
That puts a brewery such as Trinity at something of a competitive disadvantage.
"Most of the categories we do enter are 'catch-all' categories," writes brewer Jason Yester in an e-mail. "We don't like brewing our beers by a set of rules and we rather brew from inspiration and passion. Therefore, a lot of our beers don't fall into traditional definition."