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Move over Burton upon Trent, there’s a new pale ale capital

Joel Nosh of the Chicago Tribune explains why it was a coup Chicago-area brewers won all three medals in the American-style pale ale category at the Great American Beer Festival.

First, the Chicago area took the top three spots from among 109 beers entered, one of the most competitive categories at GABF. Also, American-style pale ales and their bold use of hops were pioneered on the West Coast, and the top honors in the category usually go to those brewers. But not this year.

For the record, they were:

– Gold: Brickstone APA, Brickstone Restaurant and Brewery, Bourbonnais, Ill.

– Silver: The Weight, Piece Brewery and Pizzeria, Chicago.

– Bronze: Zombie Dust, Three Floyds, Munster, Ind.

Piece brewmaster Jonathan Cutler was sitting directly in front of me during the awards ceremony. The Weight was brewed as a “tribute and a celebration” after Levon Helm died last spring. When the silver was announced, Cutler stood right up, made a fist, punched a giant hole in something, and shouted (yes, it was pretty loud), “F**k, yeah.” It made everybody around flat out grin, maybe even laugh.

Cutler has won plenty of medals at GABF and the World Beer Cup. Perhaps he was a little more excited because had just won silver after Zombie Dust had won a the bronze. He and Nick Floyd of Three Floyds are the best of friends, but who wouldn’t want to one-up that cult beer?1

In any event, when I saw Cutler in the past I thought first of weiss bier and then about the delicious Piece pizza.

Now, I’ll see him bolting to his feet, bumping his fist, and . . .


1 Zombie Dust is brewed with immensely popular and hard-to-get Citra hops. Certainly part of the reason they are popular is because demand exceeds current supply, and perhaps Alan McLeod is right when he suggests they could be just a fad. But they also have an aroma different than hops that came before. This might be like more than a hundred years ago, when brewers in Britain began using the Fuggle hop. Wow, that’s different. And, despite various agronomic issues, Fuggle is still around. In fact, she’s a great grandmother of Citra.

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7 Responses to Move over Burton upon Trent, there’s a new pale ale capital

  1. brewer a November 8, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Well Doi, right?

  2. Bill November 8, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    While I’m a proud resident of the Chicago area and while I enjoy Josh Noel’s writings, he’s kind of defining “Chicago-area” brewers widely here! I mean, sure, all are probably able to pick up WGN-AM when the conditions are right, but… I guess the good news is there’s ample time to sober up between stops if you tried to do a pub crawl between the three places.

  3. Alan November 8, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    I am not really thinking Citra is a fad due to its inherent nature so much as the hop strain specific branding of beers that is so much the things these days both (i) is the fad and (ii) encourages short attention spans as we look beyond the current favourite for the next big thing currently only known, no doubt, as XJ-47 to some lab tech.

    • Stan Hieronymus November 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      Thanks for the elaboration, Alan. I agree that the “flavor of the week” approach is, well, disquieting. I know of no way to calculate it, but I on an ongoing basis I would say most Citra will be used, like other hops, in blends.

  4. Alan November 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Remember when they used to make beer with Nelson Sauvin?

    • Stan Hieronymus November 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      Another hop that demand far exceeds supply right now. Call it good sense or good marketing, but New Zealand growers aren’t going to turn their future upside down in order to ramp up production of a single hop. A tip for those who have persevered this far – researchers in Belgium recently found that Tomahawk contains many of the same compounds as Nelson Sauvin, including ones that give Sauvin its unique character.

  5. SteveH November 12, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Bill’s right — The Indiana folks are touchy when people start linking them to Chicago.

    Bourbonnais? 😉

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