As much as anything, medaling at the Great American Beer Festival is about bragging rights. Putting together a beer that fits a particular style—especially when that style is being attempted by another four or five dozen brewers around the country—and having it judged to be among the top three imparts a clank and swagger to a brewer’s step.
So imagine running a popular homebrew supply shop in a strip mall in Aurora and deciding to kick your hobby up a notch. You take over an adjacent space, knock down some walls, plunk down some serious coin for some serious equipment, including a copper boil kettle, and launch yourself a microbrewery. And you call it Dry Dock Brewing because names for beers (and tap room décor) are fun and easy (U-Boat Hefeweizen, Yellow Submarine Munich Helles, Bismark Alt).
So you do this in 2005 and, buried in paperwork, you hire a ringer, Bill Eye—a guy who brews with his nose buried in a hops, his tongue wrapped around the latest batch of wort and his eyes glued to the yeast dancing on a microscope slide. Sure, Eye comes from a pizza/brewpub chain, C.B. & Potts, but they know their barley and are no strangers to the GABF podium.
“Bill was laid off from C.B. & Potts three months ago; it was perfect timing,” said Dry Dock owner, Iowa native and former brewer Kevin DeLange. “He loves German beers and we have a German brewing system. It was like a perfect storm.”
So imagine the massive stoke when the little-brewery-that-could wins a gold and two silver medals with its Bismarck Altbier, U-Boat Hefeweizen and Reines Märzen, respectively. And as if that weren’t enough, Dry Dock was also named the 2009 Small Brewing Company of the year.
“I tried to explain to my parents how big this is,” DeLange said. “This is THE biggest award we can get.”
Dry Dock has only been in its new space since July and it’s already getting crowded with equipment and patrons. And the awards have just added to the madness.
“I thought I would stop here; I’ll get in this space and be content,” DeLange said. “I’m trying not to grow too fast. But you win awards like this and distributors start breaking down your door.”
To meet the sudden demand, DeLange is toying with the idea of contract brewing his popular beers and medal winners because his 1,700-barrel capacity just won’t cut it.
More Local Beer Greatness
Certainly Dry Dock was this year’s shining star at the GABF, but collectively, the whole state kicked some major brewing ass. Coors and its newly acquired competitor, Miller, killed it by sweeping the American Style Specialty Lager category and collectively winning 11 medals. Coors was also named Large Brewing Company of the Year for 2009. Overall, Colorado took home the lion’s share of medals (45), leaving California (with 39) sucking dust.
Even with 121 breweries, brew pubs and micro-breweries, Colorado doesn’t come close to California’s more than 300 fermenting establishments, but thanks to Miller/Coors and Anheuser-Busch, we brew more beer. And amid that staggering quantity is some damn good quality, too.
Other Gabf Medal Winners Of Note Include:
Upslope Brewing, bronze, Dunkel Weizen; bronze, Time of the Season (Pro-Am Competition)
SandLot Brewery at Coors Field, gold AND silver, Oktoberfest; silver, Munich Style Helles
New Belguim, silver, German-Style Sour Ale
Lefthand Brewing, gold, Smokejumper Imperial Porter smoked beer
Great Divide Brewing, silver, Imperial Stout; bronze for rye beer and barley wine
Gordon Biersch, silver, Bohemian Style Pilsner and European Style Dunkel; bronze, German Style Altbier and Munich Style Helles
Boulder Draft House (formerly Red Fish), silver, American Style Pale Ale
Avery Brewing, gold, German Style Dopplebock; bronze, experimental beer (Brabant barrel-aged wild ale)