If you’ve been in Colorado for longer than a week or two, you know Northern Colorado (and Fort Collins especially) is a haven for craft beer lovers, craft beer drinkers and craft beer award winners. This was proven once again at this year’s Great American Beer Festival, a festival and competition held annually each fall in Denver, Colorado.
In 2017, Fort Collins breweries took home five medals and Northern Colorado as a region took home ten! The surprise showing came from the hidden craft beer destination that is Greeley. Breweries from the humble NoCo city brought home two golds and one bronze medal — and one of those winners caused a stir that even GABF doesn’t often see (we’re looking at you, WeldWerks).
Check out the list of local winners below to learn more about their award-worthy brews. Then, check out all of Fort Collins’ breweries using our interactive map — because if you ask us, they’re all winners! You’ll also find Loveland and Greeley (as well as other Colorado GABF winners) represented on The Best Local Beers in 10 Colorado Cities.
Gold medal, Brett Beer
Funky Brett styles are named after the organism that gives them their unique wild sour flavors: Brettanomyces. Brewer Jeff Albarella at Jessup Farm Barrel House brewed an oak-aged, dry-hopped Brett IPA which landed them the gold medal in the category at this year’s GABF! Stop by the taproom in Fort Collins’ Jessup Farm Artisan Village and sample 15 other original beers.
Gold medal, Classic Saison
Photo courtesy of Funkwerks
It’s no surprise to see this Saison on the gold medal list. After all, there’s a reason it’s one of Fort Collins’ favorite local brews! This beer is heavily reliant on flavors and aromas generated by Funkwerks’ house yeast that showcases care in every aspect of the brewing process. The flagship Saison pours with a beautiful orange hue and effervescence. Aromas of passion fruit, tangerine and black pepper on the nose and notes of orange, lemon verbena, clove and pepper lead to a dry finish. The flagship Saison has been winning GABF awards for years — and stealing hearts in FoCo even longer.
Gold medal, English-Style India Pale Ale
The always trendy IPA is characterized by stiff English-style hop character and increased alcohol content for a fully rounded out flavor. Coopersmith’s Punjabi Pale Ale has a malty body, and a huge Cascade hop flavor and aroma — which makes it a hallmark of the style. Working with the Cascade hops, Centennial hops give this beer an American flare that we (and the GABF judges) love.
Bronze medal, German-Style Altbier
Originally from the Düsseldorf area of Germany, the German-Style Altbier is as historic as it is balanced. Hop and malt flavors and aromas are characteristic, but the style can also feature fruity, peppery and floral hop aromas. At Grimm Brothers, they brew Little Red Cap with Cascade hops to give it an American twist while maintaining the beer’s German heritage. Stop by the taproom to taste the award-winning beer year-round or track down the cans in a nearby liquor store!
Bronze medal, Herb and Spice Beer
An herb and spice beer is a lager or ale that contains flavors derived from flowers, roots, seeds, or certain fruits or vegetables. Beers of this style are often low in hop character so those flavors can shine through. At Broken Plow, their India Spring Honey Cream Ale is a seasonal favorite that is soft, sweet and always delicious. We look forward to it every year, but no matter when you stop in this Greeley brewery, you’ll find all their beers are gluten-reduced!
Gold medal, Mixed-Culture Brett Beer
Photo courtesy of Wiley Roots Brewing Co.
Mixed culture fermentation is any fermentation consisting of a combination of brewer’s yeast, wild yeast, lactic acid bacteria and lactic acid bacteria — or other unconventional microbes. To make a Mixed-Culture Brett Beer, brewers must use a wild yeast, AKA Brettanomyces. As a world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the style, Wiley Roots’ Galaxy Dry Hopped Funk Yo Couch excelled in taste, aroma and appearance, according to the GABF judges.
Silver medal, Pro-Am
The GABF Pro-Am competition is a chance for homebrewers to team up with commercial breweries and compete against the best in the country. Fort Collins’ Black Bottle Brewery teamed up with homebrewer Daniel Tomkins this year to take home the silver medal! Lichtenhainer is a Smoke Kettle Sour with as much flavor as it has unique character.
Bronze medal, Pro-Am
Another GABF Pro-Am entry came from Odell Brewing and homebrewer Mark Boelman. They took home the bronze medal for Exulansis, a raspberry brown sour with a fruity tang and plenty of flavor!
Bronze medal, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer
Photo courtesy of Loveland Aleworks and Zach Andersson
A wood- or barrel-aged sour is any lager, ale or hybrid beer that has been aged in a wooden barrel or has been in contact with wood. Loveland Aleworks’ entry was originally brewed for the brewery’s annual Fest of Ale in July 2017 with help from the Larimer Humane Society. The result was a blend of two barrel-aged golden sours and the flagship Saison aged in a first use tequila barrel — for a beer reminiscent of a margarita.
Gold medal, Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout
Photo courtesy of WeldWerks Brewing Co. and Miguel Rivas
In a standout win, Greeley’s WeldWerks took home the gold medal for their Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout, Medianoche. Already famous at the festival for Juicy Bits, a New England-style IPA, the WeldWerks line got even longer when people began clamoring for the winning Strong Stout. Throughout the weekend, this small Greeley brewery claimed one of the longest lines and most talked about booths at the festival. Follow the brewery on Facebook to find out when you can get a taste of the next Medianoche release. You may be competing with beer-lovers across the country for a bottle, but you can always stop in the NoCo taproom!
Add a little philanthropy to your NoCo beer tour with the free Fort Collins Ale Trail app. Learn all about the story, the participating breweries and the charities here: Everything You Need to Know About the Fort Collins Ale Trail.
And don’t miss our other local craft beer round-ups, The Ultimate Guide to Fort Collins Craft Breweries and The Best Local Beers in 10 Colorado Cities.
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