The big news in beer talk this week was, of course, who-won-what at the Great American Beer Festival’s fierce annual competition. And in Brooklyn, beloved newcomer Grimm Artisanal Ales had much reason to celebrate.
“We were out when we heard,” laughed Lauren Grimm on Sunday, who, along with husband and co-founder Joe Grimm, has owned and operated the nomadic nanobrewery since 2013.
“Yeah,” chimed in Joe, leaning over the bar at Windsor Terrace’s Double Windsor. “We were watching for awhile, and then we were like, ‘Ok, we didn’t win anything,’ so we went for a walk.”
“It seemed like everyone was coming on stage to accept their awards so fast–they must have known ahead of time. And we hadn’t heard anything,” Lauren continued. “And then we saw Chris O’Leary’s (of Brew York) tweet!” She sat back on her barstool and flashed an enormous smile. “And for a minute, I wished we had gone to Denver. It must have been crazy to be there.”
Beer blogger O’Leary had snapped a picture of the ceremony’s announcement, shouting into the Twitterverse that Grimm’s Double Negative had captured the Silver Medal in the coveted Imperial Stout category. Grimm’s response? Fittingly adorable.
Just as the country is ushering in an exciting fleet of craft brewers, the GABF seems to be entering a new era, and at this year’s festival in Denver, a different energy filled the air. The annual three day industry event, which ran from October 2-4, culminates in a style-based competition in which the country’s best breweries battle it out head-to-head, beer-to-beer. In previous years, the awards ceremony listed a surprising number of multinational macrobreweries — yes, Coors’ Blue Moon has been known to take home more than a few of the sought-after Gold, Silver and Bronze medals — and regional brewpubs like national chain Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery and Long Beach, California’s famed Beachwood BBQ & Brewing. However, says Lauren Grimm, this trend appears to be shifting.
“They changed the rules this year,” she explains. “The application rules–opened it up to a lot more breweries. We didn’t even try to get in last year. All the slots filled up in like two hours.”
In response to overwhelming complaints from breweries who were unable to even attempt to enter last year’s competition, the Brewer’s Association, the organization responsible for running the whole shebang, revised the entry process. They lengthened the sign up window and limited each brewery to only five submissions. As a result, big beer companies with massive administrative staffs were no longer able to flood the system with entries, and a multitude of small outfits–13,600, according to the B.A., an impressive 81% increase over 2012’s numbers–finally got their brews in front of the nation’s most established judges.
This year, the Grimms sent in three of their hand crafted offerings, including their tongue-tickling Bees in the Trappe Bière de Miel, a Belgian-style Tripel brewed with local honey, and Cassiopeia, a belly-warming Baltic Porter. In the end, the pair’s fantastic, incredibly balanced high octane stout ranked 2nd out of 78 entries, beating out submissions from the best breweries around the country to claim the title of one of the finest examples of the style. And Grimm wasn’t the only New York brewery raising a glass to themselves that day–our humble state came in 18th amongst the full 50 in total medals won. Bronx rookies Gun Hill Brewing, Cooperstown’s Ommegang and Peekskill Brewery in the Hudson Valley also came home winners.
So what’s the next step for the victorious Gowanus-based brewing team? “Well, we’re definitely going to brew Double Negative again,” said Joe, marking a departure from the brewery’s one-off business model. This time, though, the artist who designs their beautifully distinct labels will have to make room for a new addition — that shiny silver medal.