Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Call for 2016 Beerdrinker of the Year Applicants

The Beerdrinker of the Year competition is back!  It took two years to recover from Marty Jones’ departure for the Wynkoop to regroup and rebrand, but the event is thankfully back on track.

The format of the finals is largely the same, and so are the prizes; national recognition and bragging rights, a beer brewed in the winner’s honor, and free beer for life at Denver’s oldest brewpub - the Wynkoop.   

Welcome Back Party

Right before the GABF kickoff in September, the Wynkoop hosted a nice welcome back party for previous BDOY winners.  Beer legends Warren Monteiro (2013), J. Wilson (2012), Phil Farrell (2011), Tom Ciccateri (2005), Ray McCoy (2003), Gary Steinel (2002), and Cornelia Corey (2001) were in attendance.   (Yes, I made it too...) It was a great reunion with plenty of Koop-GABF speciality beers on tap, as well as some friendly beer-related challenges to pit the former winners against each other.  

The reunion officially kicked off the PR campaign and search for the 2016 Beerdrinker of the year.  (I've posted the official press release below for your reference.)

Now the question is, are you ready to throw your hat in the ring for the 2016 title?

The prizes will be the same as years past, but there is a new twist to the application process.  In addition to a written essay (“beer resume”) free-beer-for-life-seekers can also submit a two-minute video application.  Either option will suffice.  There are samples on the web site if you want to see how the video works.

Apply Now

With that said, time is running out.  Here are some key dates to remember:

  • Applications are due by 12 am on February 1st, 2016.  (Since the general beer-public can vote on the submissions, the sooner you apply the better.  Voting will only be one criteria used to pick the three finalists, but it never hurts to have a strong following.)
  • The Finals will be held on Saturday, April 2nd at the Wynkoop Brewery.  This is where the three finalists will be flown to Denver and a new winner will be crowned.

If you love beer, and I know you do, I encourage you to give it a shot!  I did and it has served me well.

To apply visit   If you want help or have any questions do not hesitate to contact me.

For more information read the official press release:

Wynkoop Brewing Co. announces return of Beer Drinker of the Year competition

2016 marks the contest’s 18th year

DENVER — Oct. 16, 2015 — Wynkoop Brewing Co. has the craft beer community buzzing over its announcement that the Beer Drinker of the Year competition is returning in 2016. After taking a break for the last two years, the popular national contest is back and better than ever.

The Beer Drinker of the Year is not only someone who enjoys, appreciates (and drinks) beer, but knows a great deal about beer, how it's made, its legend and lore and can demonstrate the range and depth of their beeriness.

So let the search for America’s most passionate beer drinker begin. Beer fanatics have until midnight on January 31, 2016 to enter their submissions to vie for prizes like free beer for life at Wynkoop Brewing Co., the chance to work with Wynkoop’s head brewer to have their beer recipe brewed at Colorado’s oldest brewpub, and the serious bragging rights that accompany the “Beer Drinker of the Year 2016” title.

To enter the contest, beer enthusiasts are asked to upload a two-minute video (or written essay/beer-resume) describing why they should be crowned the Beer Drinker of the Year. Videos will be judged based on entrants’ creativity, expressed knowledge of craft beer history, and demonstration of how they live and breathe beer culture.

Applicants shouldn’t wait until the last minute to enter their submissions, though. Video votes will count toward the review and consideration of this year’s submissions, so entrants are encouraged to share their videos on social media using hashtag #BDOY2016 to gain votes.

The video submissions and public voting are a departure from prior years’ written entry contest format. The competition, which started in 1997 and took a break between 2013-2015 for a rebrand, has experienced growing national recognition as one of the country’s top beer competitions.

“We are thrilled to bring back our beloved Beer Drinker of the Year competition in its new form this year,” says Breckenridge-Wynkoop Vice President of Marketing Brooke Salazar. “The contest is intended to give the nation’s biggest beer enthusiasts a platform to showcase their knowledge and passion for beer. By incorporating a social aspect to the competition through video submissions and public voting, we hope our participants will get creative, have fun and tell all of their friends why they should be the 2016 Beer Drinker of the Year!”

The Beer Drinker of the Year 2016 contest is open to U.S. residents ages 21 and older who are available to fly to Denver for the National Finals Feb. 26-28, 2016. Travel expenses will be paid for the top three finalists, who will be announced by the Wynkoop Brewing Co. judging panel by Feb. 1, 2016. The 2016 Beer Drinker of the Year will be crowned at the National Finals event on Feb. 27, 2016, which will be open to the public to attend.

Past Beer Drinker of the Year Cody Christman encourages other beer lovers to apply. “Winning Beer Drinker of the Year was a huge honor,“ he says. “It’s a chance to see what you know and go up against the best at the most prestigious beer competition in the nation with the biggest prize of all (free beer!) at Colorado’s first brewpub. Who wouldn’t want that?”

Visit for more information or to submit an entry.

About Wynkoop Brewing Co:

Wynkoop is Colorado’s O.G. Brewpub, home to tastemakers and rulebreakers, bushwhackers and envelope pushers. For almost three decades we’ve been brewing handcrafted beer in our modest basement brewery underneath Denver’s largest pool hall. Over the years our neighborhood has transformed and Colorado’s craft beer industry has exploded. And Wynkoop is still here, serving cold beer to warm friends. 

Media Contact:
Lizzie Sneed dfine Branding 720.328.6971

Friday, February 13, 2015

Beerdrinker of the Year To Resume in 2016

I wanted to fill you in on the BDOTY event that has been on hiatus since the 2013 National Finals.  We'll I have good news, it is coming back!  See the message below that I sent to friends on an email list I run.


I've got some good news and wanted to give an update about the Wynkoop.  (Sorry Jim - no they are not bringing the Lamb Sliders back.  Not yet anyway!)

Yesterday I met with Lee Driscoll (Wynkoop-Breckenridge CEO), their Director of Corporate Events, the Koop GM, the Head Brewer, and two of their beer sales directors.  We met to discuss the Beerdrinker of the Year event, which is going to come back.

Here is the tentative plan.  As you know there has been quite a bit of investment over the past year.  (bathrooms, etc.)  The Koop has also purchased the former Comedy Works space.  They are turning that room into a barrel aging storage area and private tasting room.  The plan is to have that room open in time for the GABF.

The plan is to have a "former BDOTY winner reception" on the Wednesday night of GABF weekend in conjunction with a grand opening of that barrel room.  This event will re-launch the Beerdrinker of the Year event.  There will be PR, buzz generation, etc.  It will also kick off the calling for BDOTY resumes.

Then the BDOTY National Finals event will be back on track for 2016.  Tentatively scheduled for the Saturday after Presidents' Day next year - February 20th 2016.

So things can change, and nothing is done until it is done, but this is great news.  And as the event dates approach I would appreciate your help in promoting these event.  (You've always been great at that in the past - thanks!)  That will help in maintaining a long term commitment for cool events like this one!

See you tomorrow night at the Koop!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Barrelworks at Firestone Walker

Last summer I received a letter from Frontier Airlines warning that our frequent flier miles were about to expire.  Since Frontier pulled out of Billings we have had little reason to use them anymore.  But Joycelyn had an idea to put our miles to use and take a long weekend trip to Santa Barbara California.  For years we've talked about visiting her cousin and his wife there, so this was a perfect opportunity to take a quick trip to see family and visit some new breweries.

Firestone Walker Brewing

Whenever I travel to a new location I do some searching for breweries in the area.  I knew the Firestone Walker Brewing Company was based in southern California, but did not realize how close they were to Santa Barbara.

I first discovered Firestone Walker beers on a trip to Northern California about six years ago.  Since that time their bottles have become readily available in Colorado.  I really enjoy this brewery because their staples are excellent examples of traditional British Ales.

Firestone Walker was founded in 1996 and has grown rapidly ever since - racking up much praise along the way.  Their accolades include individual & overall brewery awards from The World Beer Cup, the Brewers Association, and the GABF.  It is also worth noting that Firestone Walker is very unique in their production process.  They are one of only two breweries that still employ the famous Burton Union System (from Burton upon Trent north of London) - a barrel fermentation and blow off system that recirculates wort.

Santa Ynez Valley

A short drive from Santa Barbara is the town of Buellton where the Firestone Walker Brewery is located.  (They also have a facility in Paso Robles)  To get there follow highway 154 and climb north out of Santa Barbara up into the mountains.  You will ultimately drop into the picturesque Santa Ynez Valley.

The unique geography of Santa Ynez is created by the only significant stretch of east-west Pacific Ocean coastline between Alaska and Mexico.  This anomaly contributes to the valley's Mediterranean climate.  The rolling hills, orchards, flora and even soil reminded me of the Tuscany region of Italy.

There are a number of quaint villages in the valley.  After you pass the boutique wine tasting rooms in Los Olivos stop in the beautiful Danish community of Solvang and grab a plate of Aebleskiver.  There you can also visit the historic Santa Ines Mission.  But you will eventually make your way to Buellton for a visit of the Firestone Walker Brewery.  The movie Sideways popularized this area for wine lovers, now the rapid rise of FW is doing the same for beer.

The Barrelworks

Firestone Walker's brewery is a large building right off of Highway 101.  You can't miss it.  The facility serves as both a brewery and a restaurant.  When we arrived the place was buzzing with families out for an early evening dinner.  There were numerous kids running around.  This is an ideal spot for locals to sit down with some good food and enjoy fresh, craft beer.

But there was another section of the building walled off from the restaurant called the "Barrelworks." Having an inside tip we passed the main bar and headed right for this not-so-well-marked enclosure.  The Barrelworks offers $3 three ounce samples of a number of special FW offerings.  And it does so in a spectacular setting.

The quaint area is walled off from the restaurant and provides a close up view of FW's barrel storage facility.  There are a number of barrels of different shapes, sizes and origins... even a large foudre.  (I've seen these in wineries near Napa.  Redwood?)  The stainless steel bar and towering wood vessels create the perfect setting to sample some very special ales.

There were about 20 different beers on tap the day we visited.  They were split into two categories: "Wild Ales" and "Strong Ales."  Every beer served had spent at least one year in wood.  In addition, the Barrelworks offered a few verticals allowing the drinker to see how a specific style of beer matured over one, three, or more years.

It was obvious that Firestone Walker takes a lot of pride in this bar.  They had every detail covered down to extensive notes on each beer served.  And the servers were all required to have Cicerone certifications.

There was one thing that surprised me.  It was "happy hour" time on a Friday afternoon, and we were the only patrons in the room.  I was shocked.  This was a beer lover's dream come true and it was like the clientele in the restaurant didn't even know this area of the brewery existed.  Buellton is a small town which may explain the lack of interest in the "beer geek" area.  I thought to myself, if this place was in LoDo Denver, or Santa Barbara's Funk Zone, it would be too packed to get a seat.

Lil Opal 2014

I got the chance to sample four beers in the Barrelworks: the 2013 vintage of their American Wild Red (Agrestic), the Sucaba Barleywine, their XVI Strong Ale, and finally a 2014 Saison called Lil Opal.  I'll share the tasting notes I jotted down on the Saison.

Lil Opal is a brett accented Saison aged for over a year in 75% French / 25% American oak.  It weighs in at a respectable 5.9% abv.  It poured a cloudy pumpkin orange with a tight off-white cap.  The aroma was dominated by fresh oak with a slight pineapple tartness.  The flavor was much more subtle than the nose would suggest.  Lil Opal had a mild, fruity flavor with perhaps a touch of golden syrup character that propped up the body.  It finished quite dry which is to be expected from any beer fermented (wholly or in part) by brettanomyces.  Overall this was an excellent Farmhouse Ale with a distinct cellar character.

The other beers I sampled were equally as impressive.  If you love barrel aged strong and/or sour beers, do not pass by pass this part of California without a visit to FW's Barrelworks!

Figueroa Mountain Brewery

For those that did not get their fill visiting Firestone Walker, there is another brewery in this small town.  Figueroa Mountain is short drive across the 101 located in a light industrial neighborhood.  They make the most of their asphalt and concrete setting.  Inside, at the foot of massive fermenting vessels, they have a small bar and tasting room with about 20 beers on tap.  And on nice days the beer garden outside is a great place to enjoy a sampler or couple of pints.  Their beers range from lagers and Kölsch to wheat beers, and a number of ales - from Pale Ale to Brown.  As the brewery moniker suggests their beers are named after local landmarks.

Figueroa Mountain also has a satellite pub in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone not far off the beach.  They offer a similar selection as the brewery.  Show up early if you want to get a seat however!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

16 Beer Misconceptions (Part 2 of 2)

In my travels and discussions over the years with other beer lovers I've stumbled across some perceptions that are a bit off.   They are all basically harmless, but nonetheless it doesn't hurt to point them out.  Some of the topics on the list are general, some are specific, and others quite random.

This blog takes a look at 16 common beer-related misunderstandings relating to our favorite drink.  I've split this into two posts.  This second entry will discuss the final eight. 

Click here to read Part  1 of 2.

I'm sure I missed dozens.  Do you have any to add?  Feedback is always welcome!

To continue...

9)  All Trappist Ales come from Belgium.  When I think Trappist, I think Belgium.  But not all Trappist beers are from there.  Koningshoeven is brewed north of the border in the Netherlands.  And two years ago a new player entered the market - Stift Engelszell from Austria.  Out of the eight Trappist breweries, the remaining six are indeed from Belgium - three from the French speaking south (OrvalChimay, and Rochefort) and three from the Flemish north (AchelWestmalle, and Westvleteren).  For more about Trappist breweries please reference my blog post from last year.  

(After posting this I was notified by Jim E. that St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts also joined the list.  I knew they were coming, but didn't realize their Spencer Trappist Ale was out yet.  Good catch Jim!  And we can all welcome the USA into the Trappist ranks.)

10)  Wine is harder to make than beer.  I'm not out to start a fight here.  Nor am I saying beer is better than wine.  Nor am I saying fine wine is easy to make.  But fundamentally, wine is fairly simple.  Grapes already contain sugar, and the skins are covered with yeast.  (I know, maybe not the yeast you want, but…)  Press the grapes, and let it ferment!

Beer is produced by the fermentation of sugars derived from starch-based material.  Typically barley, but also wheat, rye, and to a lesser extent other grains.  In other words, a seed needs to be malted and mashed in order to get to the sugars that wine makers start with from nature.  Malt production and mashing take precise conditions such as moisture content, pH and temperature.  It is a fairly complex and scientific process to perfect the production of a good wort.  

Beer may be a commoner's drink, and wine may have an air of nobility, but in reality your Pilsner may have taken more skill to produce than your Pinot. 

11)  Germans drink their beer warm.  The British are famous for drinking "warm and flat" Ales, but the Germans don't drink their beer warm.  I would call it cold/cool.  Not ice cold beer out of a cooler like Americans drink at a tailgate, but definitely not warm.

12)  Brettanomyces is bacteria.  Actually brett is a form of super-attenuating wild yeast.  It is not uncommon for brettanomyces to end up in beers that are also partially fermented by bacteria, so some mistakenly think it falls into this group.  Styles such as Lambic and Sour Red Ales are examples of beers fermented with "traditional" brewers yeast, brettanomyces and acid producing bacteria.  

If you want to learn more about this much loved bug, read my November 2012 entry on Anchorage Brewing and brettanomyces.

13)  Light lagers are not good beers.  I am not the biggest fan of mass-produced light lagers.  (Though I don't object.  My father grows 2-row barley for Coors.)  Light lagers, whether mass produced or brewed by your local craft brewer, are in my opinion the most difficult beers to perfect.  

Think of a delicate Helles, or brilliantly fresh Pilsner.  Those beers need to be clean to allow the yeast to get out of the way and showcase the malt and hops.  Any minor flaw will jump out in these beers.  Dark ales and hoppy beers on the other hand are more forgiving.  Fermentation flaws often get buried underneath stronger flavors.  When is the last time you had a "flawed" Porter?  
Kloster Mülln (Monastery) in Austria

I'm not saying it doesn't take skill to make that over-the-top IPA, I'm just saying light lagers are the most challenging beers to brew.  That is my opinion anyway.

14)  Beer and religion don't mix.  I think this perception comes from religious teetotalers.  We all know one.  But I completely object to this generalization.  If not for the church beer would definitely not be what it is today.  Monks were of the few learned people of their times, and their science, experimentation and documentation helped perfect brewing practices.  We owe our great ales & lagers largely to their effort, trials and tribulations.  And think of the most sought after beers today.  Tops on that list has to be Westvleteren - brewed by monks.

Additionally, religion would not be as strong as it is without beer.  The church (often intertwined with the ruling powers) controlled beer production and distribution in much of the old world.  This strengthened their establishment.  

Throughout history religion and beer have gone hand in hand.

15)  Bock beer comes from the bottom of the barrel.  I've even read this in reputable bar guides.  I don't even really know what it means.  Is the thought that the stronger/thicker beer settles to the bottom?  

Bock beers are simply stronger, higher gravity beers.  They are brewed like any other beer.  (By German law to be classified as a Bock the wort requires a minimun starting gravity of 1.064, and 1.072 for a Doppelbock.)  

The only other explanation for this misnomer that I can think of is that most Bock beers are lagers.  (though there are Weizenbocks)  Germans call lagers untergärig, which means "bottom fermented."  This simply refers to the slow, cool fermentation carried out by yeast that have settled.  In the old days I suppose
"Funky" Cantillon Lambic in Belgium
this would mean settled to the bottom of the barrel.  But the bock beer we drink is racked off this yeast before packaging, just like any other beer.

16)  All sour beers are awesome!  Just because a beer is funky or sour does not mean it is good.  Just like hoppy beers, sour beers still require balance.  And some beer souring bacteria (like enterobacter) are down right sickening.  

Some of the world's greatest beers make use of spontaneous fermentation and/or barrel aging.  These practices lead to inoculation by brettanomyces and other souring microorganisms.  But funk alone does not guarantee greatness - or even drinkability.  Sour beer brewers should prepare to get an ear full if you want a Belgian lambic brewer to critique your beer!

Well that concludes my list of 16.  Did I miss any?  I'm sure you have some to add… please comment!