Denver’s Great American Beer Festival made a welcome return over the weekend, bringing with it about 40,000 drinkers to sample beers in person at the Colorado Convention Center for the first time since 2019.
The public-facing portion of the event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19. But through the pandemic, GABF’s esteemed beer competition continued in either a virtual or hybrid capacity with limited, masked attendance. For 2022, brewers returned in force to the convention center’s Bellco Theater to celebrate one of the beer industry’s highest accolades.
“It’s so awesome to be back in person and be able to cheer with everybody,” said Shawnee Adelson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild. “People are stoked to be here.”
Even if the festival’s footprint was smaller this year — about 389,000 square feet, down from about 584,000 square feet because of construction at the venue — the awards were among GABF’s biggest. Judges evaluated 9,904 beers from more than 2,100 breweries nationwide.
Colorado beer makers collected 27 medals, including five gold, in a diverse range of categories, from American wheat beer to imperial stout and a variety of European styles. That’s up from the 21 medals the Centennial State garnered in 2021.
Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Co. was the biggest winner of the day, earning two medals — silver for its Milk Stout in the oatmeal stout category and bronze for its St. Vrain in the Belgian-style strong specialty ale — plus the coveted title of Brewery of the Year in the production range of 15,000 to 100,000 barrels.
Denver’s Our Mutual Friend Brewing Co. also won two medals in Brettanomyces specific categories, including a gold for its Trystero Brett saison. And Comrade Brewing Co. of Denver dominated the most competitive category, earning a gold for its More Dodge Less RAM in the American-style India pale ale out of a total 423 entries.
Golden’s Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., which has won at least one GABF medal every year since opening in 2013, continued its streak with a bronze in the specialty saison category.
“Colorado is still an industry leader in craft beer, and we just proved that with all the medals we just won,” Adelson said. “Multiple breweries (won) awards for the same beers that they’ve won in the past, which shows we brew consistent beer.”
“Laughing Lab (from Bristol Brewing Co.) is the most decorated craft beer in Colorado. They just won their 10th medal for that beer,” she added. “It was also awesome to see so many lager styles that Colorado brought home.”
See the full list of winners at greatamericanbeerfestival.com. Here’s a list of the 2022 Colorado winners:
American-style India pale ale — More Dodge Less RAM, Comrade Brewing Co., Denver
Belgian-style sour ale — Stay the Funk In, Crooked Stave, Denver
Brett beer — Trystero, Our Mutual Friend Brewing Co., Denver
International dark lager — El Corn, The Post Brewing Co., Lafayette
Wood- and barrel-aged beer — Barrel-Aged Soft Skills, Jessup Farm Barrel House, Fort Collins
American fruit beer — Black Razz Blonde, Joyride Brewing Co., Edgewater
American sour ale — Mirage, New Terrain Brewing Co., Golden
Classic saison — Saison, Baere Brewing Co., Denver
Collaboration Competition — Chicago Peaks Kolsch, Westbound & Down Brewing Co. and Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Idaho Springs/Denver
English ale — Citronaut, Launch Pad Brewery, Aurora
English India pale ale or New Zealand India pale ale — Spirit of the West, Westbound & Down Brewing Co., Idaho Springs
German-style Doppelbock or Eisbock — Execrator, Resolute Brewing Co., Centennial
German-style Maerzen — Docktoberfest, Dry Docking Brewing Co. – North Dock, Aurora
Gluten-free beer — BuckWit Belgian, Holidaily Brewing Co., Golden
Mixed-culture Brett beer — Biere Ovale, Our Mutual Friend Brewing Co., Denver
Pro-Am Competition — Sticky Fingers Saison, CooperSmith’s Pub and Brewing and homebrewer Mark Pennick, Fort Collins
Oatmeal stout — Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont
Other strong beer — Hello Darkness, River North Brewery, Denver
Rye beer — Rockin’ Roggen, Twisted Pine Brewing Co., Boulder
Scottish-style ale — Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs
American wheat beer — Agave Wheat, Breckenridge Brewery, Littleton
Belgian-style strong specialty ale — St. Vrain, Left Hand Brewing Co., Longmont
Chili beer — Fuego Reserva, Cerebral Brewing, Aurora
German wheat ale — Wild Pitch, SandLot Brewery, Denver
Imperial stout — Dark Hamlet, Odell Brewing Co. – Sloan’s Lake Brewhouse, Denver
Specialty saison — Rosemary Sourdough Saison, Cannonball Creek Brewing Co., Golden
Wood- and barrel-aged strong stout — Wooden Mayhem, Rock Cut Brewing Co., Estes Park
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