For homebrewers, one of the highlights of the Great American Beer Festival in Denver is the Pro-Am Competition.
Homebrewers from across the U.S. who are members of the American Homebrewers Association team up with professional brewers and scale up homebrew recipes on professional brewing systems. In its seventh year, the 2012 competition earlier this month saw a record number of entries, with 94 different beers. All the beers were served over the three days at GABF, and many of the homebrews were really fantastic.
I was lucky enough to enter this year’s competition with Memphis’ Ghost River Brewing, and my Red Hop Ale was served on the first night of the festival. (Click here to read all about my awesome brew day at Ghost River’s sister brewery, Boscos Squared.)
And while that’s me in the photo above with the pitcher, I didn’t actually get to serve my beer at GABF. The photo, sadly, was staged before the doors opened. Only volunteers were allowed to serve beers at the homebrew booth, a policy I really don’t understand. I was told by the Pro-Am organizer that the presence of homebrewers serving their beers somehow overshadowed the other beers at the booth whose brewer could not make it to Denver — a really lame excuse. I was told I could stand in front of the booth, if I really wanted to.
One of the main reasons I like brewing for festivals is the opportunity to get immediate feedback — good and bad — from folks who try my beer. And what better setting to get feedback from beer lovers than the Great American Beer Festival? Making it all the way to Denver and being told I couldn’t serve my beer was a real disappointment. Brewers from professional breweries are encouraged to staff their booths and pour beer at the festival, and I hope the Pro-Am organizers re-think this policy for the Pro-Am booth. Homebrewers stand to learn a lot from those brief interactions with beer drinkers.
Anyway, I was thrilled to be at the festival. And to the winners below, cheers!
Gold: More Fun Blonde, New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, Colo.
Brewmaster: New Belgium Brewing Co., AHA Member: Jay Shambo
Silver: Pointon’s Proper – An English Mild, RAM Restaurant and Brewery – Wheeling, Ill.
Brewmaster: Lanny Fetzer, AHA Member: Scott Pointon
Bronze: Classic American Pilsner, Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Minneapolis, Minn.
Brewmaster: Mike Hoops, AHA Member: Kyle Sisco