The carnival is hitting full speed. Thousands are whirling through a vast convention hall, many in costumes. A kilted pipe band is squealing and thumping as it marches down the aisles. And lines are forming to taste more than 3,500 different beers at tables for 710 breweries from across the country.
Standing still amid the hyperlapse, Mystery Brewing’s Erik Lars Myers is responding to messages on his phone, wearing a medal around his neck and a grin on his face.
“I’m not going to take this thing off for a week,” he says of the medal. “I’m going to sleep in it.”
Just hours earlier at the Great American Beer Festival this past Saturday, Myers won a silver medal for his La Querelle, a Belgian seef bier. “I knew I should have made a lot more of this beer,” he jokes.
The other news that is making Myers, the president of the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, smile – the six total GABF medals won by the state’s brewers, the most ever in one year.
Three North Carolina breweries won gold: Asheville’s Wicked Weed Brewing for its Mampara in the specialty honey beer category; Black Mountain’s Pisgah Brewing for its Chocolatized in the chocolate beer category; and Morganton’s Fonta Flora for its Irish Table in the classic Irish-style dry stout category.
Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville won two medals, a silver for its Marzen, the popular Oktoberfest style, and a bronze for its Schwarzbier, a German dark lager. The wins make Duck-Rabbit the second most decorated North Carolina brewery at GABF with five medals, behind only the six won in recent years by Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem.
Wicked Weed in demand
The competition is the largest in the world, and its medals are the most coveted prizes in the craft beer world.
“It’s great, especially because we saw some well-established breweries winning, as well as some new guys,” Myers said.
Fonta Flora opened a year ago this month, and Mystery and Wicked Weed opened in 2012.
For Wicked Weed, it’s the brewery’s second gold in as many years. Luke Dickinson, the head brewer, said the first medal helped put them on the national beer map. The lines for Wicked Weed at this year’s festival stretched 50 deep for much of the four sessions at the Denver Convention Center.
“This year has been really amazing and seeing that there are people all over the country hearing about us,” he said on the convention floor. “Last year, not many people knew about us and we were waving at people (on the festival floor) and saying, ‘Hey, we’re here.’ ”
Dave Kunberger, a 34-year-old doctor, said he’s heard about Wicked Weed back home in Indiana. “Everybody is in love with them,” he said from the line at the brewery’s booth.
Fourteen North Carolina breweries and the guild served beer at the festival, the most of any state in the Southeast section. The state’s six medals tied for 11th most in the nation.
Myers said everywhere he went in Denver people said good things about North Carolina’s craft beer.
“Whether in here or in North Carolina, people are saying, ‘Oh you’re killing it,’ ” he said. “You don’t have to convince people anymore. They know.”