The Grapevine | The Beerhive State | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Grapevine | The Beerhive State 

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When the Great American Beer Festival—North America’s most important beer competition—wrapped up about 10 days ago, Utah breweries walked off with a number of prestigious awards, including one of the most sought after at the event.

At the 26th Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver, viewed by most brewers as the Olympics of American beer, 107 judges evaluated 2,793 beers in 75 different beer-style categories from 473 breweries over a three-day period to pick the country’s top brewers and breweries. More than 46,000 beer nuts attended this year’s GABF, and more than 25,000 gallons of beer was poured. When the suds had settled, Salt Lake City’s Red Rock Brewing Company walked off with one of the top five awards given at the GABF. These top five awards are designed to recognize small, medium and large breweries, and small and large brewpubs. At the 2007 GABF, Red Rock (54 S. 200 West, 521-7446) earned the award for large brewpub and large brewpub brewer of the year. That’s quite a feat, and a first for Utah.

But Red Rock brewer Kevin Templin and his team wasn’t ready to stop there. The Red Rock Brewing Company crew also won five GABF medals, including its first-ever gold medal for an organic pilsner called Organic Zwickel Bier. In addition, Red Rock was given three silver medals for its Black Bier, Nut Brown Ale and Red Rock Reve (the latter a barrel-aged Trippel that will be available for the first time at the Red Rock brewpub next month). Finally, Red Rock’s Munich Dunkel won a bronze medal in the European-style dark lager category. Regarding Red Rock’s big win in the top five brewpub/brewery category, Kevin Templin says, “It was definitely the best day in my entire brewing career!” That’s probably an understatement.

Squatters (147 West Broadway, 363-2739) and the Utah Brewers Cooperative also fared well at the GABF, winning two medals. In the prestigious and competitive English-style India pale ale (IPA) category, Squatters beat out 38 other entrants and won the gold medal for Squatters India Pale Ale. Squatters IPA is an authentic IPA with 6 percent alcohol and is sold in Utah liquor stores. This was the fifth medal Squatters IPA has won in five years.

Some of the fastest growing areas of brewing at the GABF are organic, fruit and vegetable beers. In the category of Bitter or Pale Mild Ale, Squatters Organic Amber Ale— a USDA certified organic beer—was among 43 entries and was given the silver medal. According to Squatters’ Brew Master Dan Burick, “We’re really proud of these two-star beers—and this was the first time our new Organic Amber has ever competed!”

But Utah wasn’t quite done yet. In the popular English-style dark mild ale or English-style brown ale category, Midvale’s own Hoppers Grill & Brewing Company (890 Fort Union Blvd., 566-0424) won the GABF gold medal for its Lil’ Pip’s Mild Ale, a light and smooth session beer.

We should be especially proud of our Utah brewers since this year’s GABF was particularly competitive, with a record number of beers and beer categories. And don’t forget that most of those Utah beer medals were won with 3.2 alcohol brews. It’s easy to hide brewing defects with alcohol, which makes Utah’s showing at the GABF that much more impressive.

The Great American Beer Festival is sponsored by the Boulder, Colorado-based Brewers Association. For more information and a complete list of GABF winners, visit BeerTown.org.

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