When all the drinking was drunk and the judges had tallied the votes, St. Louis brewers came up a little short at the annual Great American Beer Fest last weekend in Denver. The Grammies of the brewing industry -- "They don't let you give an acceptance speech, though," qualifies Fran Caradonna, co-owner of O'Fallon Brewery of St. Charles County, "which is probably just as well" -- this year attracted 30,000 makers and lovers of ale, who converged to celebrate the year in beer.
This year 380 American breweries served a total 1,650 different beers in Hall F of the Colorado Convention Center. During the 3-day festival, 100 judges blindly assessed the merits of 2,442 beers in 69 different beer-style categories, and announced their findings on Saturday.
O'Fallon had reason to be confident. The little brewery snatched a bronze last year for its American-style wheat and shocked the oddsmakers in a 2004 with a gold in the Smoked Porter division. This year its hopes were pinned on its newest vintage, O'Fallon 5-Day I.P.A., an India-style pale ale. They also entered their wonderfully rotund (and currently available) Pumpkin ale, their peach-flavored Wheach, and their O'Fallon Gold Pale Ale. But, alas, this year it was not to be. They returned to the 'burbs empty handed.
St. Louis' second-largest brewery, Schlafly, takes a Woody Allen approach to the beer fest and accompanying awards. Believing that quality is its own reward, the brewery doesn't enter its beers, says Schlafly brewer Eric Roy. "As a brewer we get more of an ego boost daily from somebody at the bar telling us we're doing a good job than [a judgment] from a blind tasting."
The Springfield Brewing Company, then, is but a pilot brewery designed to illustrate how it shighly mechanized systems can be utilized to make flawless beer. And year in, year out, they prove it with a few medals in Denver. This year they bested 49 other breweries and won a gold in the South German-Style Hefeweisen/Hefeweissbier category, and took a bronze for their American-style unfiltered wheat.
"People fly in from all over the world to see how our system works," explains Springfield Brewing's Trey Manning, who graduated from the University of California-Davis' lauded brewery school. "We brew the beer to showcase the equipment."
- Randall Roberts
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.