Standing proudly among these select few named the cream of the national beer crop, was a Telluride original, Smuggler Brewpub's Rocky Mountain Rye.
Smuggler's head brew master, Chris Fish, was awarded a gold medal for his Rocky Mountain Rye brew in the rye beer category last Saturday afternoon at the Convention Center in Denver, as thousands of his peers and fellow beer connoisseurs looked on. GABF is the largest beer tasting and judging event in the nation, and Fish said that receiving the coveted gold medal for one of his concoctions was one of the highlights of his eight-year beer-brewing career.
"I'd like to say that I would be just as happy making good beer without winning the medal, but it is pretty cool to get that kind of recognition from people you respect in the business," Fish said. "The judges are people that are making beer all over the world, and by awarding the gold medal to a beer basically says that that is the best example of how that style of beer should be. [Winning the gold medal] is pretty much the highest recognition you can get from your peers."
Every year, close to 100 judges from eight different countries converge on Denver for this annual event. This year, Smuggler's entered five beers in five different categories: Russell Kelly Pale Ale, Powder Night Espresso Porter, Imperial San Juan Sky Hop, Inebriater Dopplebock, and the medal winning Rocky Mountain Rye.
Fish said he had high hopes for the rye in particular, since it received a bronze medal at the festival two years ago.
He was not, however, prepared to take home the gold.
"When they read out the names of the bronze and silver medal winners, I thought it was all over for us in the rye category," he recalled. "So when I went on stage to get the gold, it was pretty overwhelming."
Fish, who has been the head brewer at Smuggler's for the last three years, described his gold medal-winning rye beer as an easy drinking brew that utilizes the spicy and dry flavor of rye, balanced well with a decent amount of hops, which lends the beer a good amount of taste without a heavy body - making it a very "drinkable" beer.
Fish began brewing the Rocky Mountain Rye as a seasonal summer beer two years ago, but after it won the bronze medal in 2003, the Rye claimed its permanent place at the taps at Smuggler's. Now that it has received a gold medal, Fish predicted the rye would become Smuggler's signature brew.
Smuggler's has recently been receiving recognition beyond the judges' table; Ski Magazine 's September issue named the brewpub as one of the top five mountain town breweries in the country. Fish reported that Smuggler's has been receiving accolades for the Ski Magazine designation, and expects more to pour in now that word is spreading about the gold medal-winning Rocky Mountain Rye.
"Winning the bronze two years ago put us on the map, and with the Ski Magazine article and now the gold medal, Smuggler's is definitely in the spotlight," he said. "Everyone wants to drink the gold!"