Tastes like winning

New Helvetia owner David Gull (left), and head brewer Iver Johnson (right) toast to this year’s silver medal win for best Coffee Beer at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

New Helvetia owner David Gull (left), and head brewer Iver Johnson (right) toast to this year’s silver medal win for best Coffee Beer at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

Photo by Daniel Barnes

The 2018 Great American Beer Festival silver medal for best Coffee Beer hangs on the cafeteria-style board inside New Helvetia’s Broadway taproom, right next to the name of the winning brew: Mystery Airship 4.0. A collaboration with Temple Coffee originally created for New Helvetia’s fourth anniversary, this Cascara Golden Ale was unavailable on the day we visited, but we’re assured that a new batch was only a few days away from completion.

An epic three-day event that brings together 800 American breweries and draws about 62,000 attendees a year, the Great American Beer Festival is arguably the most high-profile annual beer event in the country, and a winning medal can dramatically elevate a brewery’s profile.

“We’re sold out of it right now for that reason,” says New Helvetia head brewer Iver Johnson, who was in Denver for the festival along with owner David Gull, and accepted the award onstage from Brewers Association founder Charlie Papazian.

The two are working with Temple again to create one of six collaboration beers intended for New Helvetia’s sixth-anniversary party on November 23.

New Helvetia was one of six local breweries to win a medal at this year’s 32nd annual GABF competition, which saw over 2,400 breweries from all but one of the 50 states (pull yourself together, Mississippi). Roughly 8,500 beers were up for evaluation across 167 categories and subcategories. The highest-placing medal went to newcomer Alaro Brewing, which opened earlier this year in the vacated Rubicon space in Midtown, and which took home gold in the English-Style India Pale Ale category for Castillo.

Other area winners included Davis breweries Three Mile (silver in the Session India Pale Ale category) and Sudwerk (silver in the American-Style Amber Lager category) and Auburn breweries Moonraker (silver in the hotly contested Imperial India Pale Ale category, which had 211 entries) and Crooked Lane, which took home the bronze in the German-Style Kölsch category for Veedels Brau.

Crooked Lane co-owner and head brewer Teresa Psuty was also in Denver to accept her award, and she was particularly satisfied to be recognized for the brewery’s hyper-traditional take on Kölsch.

“It’s very near and dear to our hearts,” Teresa says. “We have really tried to make it the most authentic Kölsch-style beer that we can and having that beer win at GABF was such an honor …”

Teresa was first introduced to the style by her husband, Crooked Lane co-owner Adrian Psuty, whose work for a German biotech company frequently took him to Cologne, where the light, crisp, cold-conditioned beer style was born. Adrian brought his enthusiasm for the beer and its surrounding culture and aesthetics back to the states, where he began experimenting with his brewing partner Teresa.

“We started working on that Kölsch as a recipe as home brewers and went through a bunch of iterations,” she says. “When we started the brewery, that was one of the first beers we had on [tap].”

At the Crooked Lane taproom in Auburn, Veedels Brau is served in the traditional, thin and cylindrical stange glass that holds 200 milliliters. As with Mystery Airship 4.0 at New Helvetia, Crooked Lane customers devoured the newly minted beer as soon as the award was announced.

“The moment we won, we sold out all the rest of the Kölsch that we had, so I was scrambling to make another batch,” Teresa says.