Hops, Grain, Yeast, Water. A combination of these basic ingredients drives competitive brewers and beer nerds alike to Denver every year for the Great American Beer Festival.
Just as the first snow begins to coat the top of the Rockies, breweries and beer fans from across the country gather at the Denver Convention Center for a three-day beer festival of epic proportions.
By the end of the festival, only a few of the 600+ breweries that formally enter the competition will walk away with a coveted GABF medal.
Bringing home a medal can put a brewery on the map. Just ask Josh Hare of Hops & Grain. In 2012, Hops & Grain brought home a gold medal for their ALTeration, a German style alt-bier.
Yes, bringing gold back to Austin before even celebrating your first anniversary in business buys you instant credibility. This is the level of success Spencer Tielkemeier of Oasis Texas Brewing Company hopes to achieve less than two weeks from now.
Oasis Brewing @ Great American Beer Festival
Oasis Texas Brewing Company has only been around for a few months, but they are already submitting a hefty lineup of session beers for the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Spencer Tielkemeier, Head Brewer, was kind enough to show me around Oasis Brewing’s new facility at The Oasis restaurant compound overlooking Lake Travis. He provided a behind the scenes look into how a new Austin brewery prepares for their first GABF appearance.
“Prep is going well,” Spencer told me. “We decided between many batches, taking the younger of the hoppier beers (for their fresh hop character) and somewhat older of the others (for their clarity).” Oasis is submitting five beers to the competitive portion of GABF. The first three are part of their “All Year” beer lineup and include Slow Ride Pale Ale, Luchesa Lager and London Homesick Ale. The other two include a Porter and an Oktoberfest lager that Spencer will be submitting under the German-Style Märzen category.
Those two styles may sound identical, but the category for which a beer is submitted can be critical. There are over 90+ categories of beer at the festival this year, and any one beer can be considered under multiple categories. However, it is up to the brewery to choose their categories. Spencer felt their Oktoberfest brew would compete better under the Märzen category than the more competitive Oktoberfest style.
Preparing for Great American Beer Festival 2014
While this is Oasis Brewing’s first foray into competition brewing, Spencer has been doing it for years. His previous trips to Denver resulted in one gold medal for the Bottle Rocket Lager with Uncle Billy’s Brewing Company. “There is nothing quite like hearing your name and getting on that stage,” Spencer told me.
Oasis Texas Brewing Company began to prepare for the festival before they even had their official Grand Opening. Launching a brewery and preparing for the Great American Beer Festival at the same time would overwhelm most, but Spencer is taking it in stride. He showed me around the brewery and walked me through the GABF prep with the quiet confidence of a man who has been through this before.
But you can tell this year is different. New beer, new brewery, and a new team to brew with. It’s all on Spencer’s shoulders this year.
Beers that are entered for competition must arrive in Denver no later than four weeks prior to the festival’s beginning. This can present a unique challenge with certain beers, such as an IPA, which thrives off that fresh taste you get straight out of the canning line.
Not only that, but each brewery is responsible for getting their own beer to the festival. Fortunately, Texas Craft Brewers Guild stepped in to help their fellow guild members with transport to Denver. They have two pickup locations in Texas: Austin Beerworks in Austin and Rahr & Sons out of Ft. Worth. Spencer and team had to have their beer packaged and ready to go around mid-August, a full six weeks before GABF.
Austin Breweries Competing at GABF
There are 18 Austin-area breweries going to the Great American Beer Festival 2014…18! Austin is going strong this year with high hopes to surpass the six medals (including two golds) that were brought home last year. The full list of Austin-area 2014 contestants include:
- (512) Brewing Company
- Adelbert’s Brewery
- Austin Beerworks
- Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery
- Circle Brewing Co.
- Flix Brewhouse (Round Rock)
- Hops & Grain Brewing
- Independence Brewing Co.
- Kamala Brewing at the Whip In
- Live Oak Brewing Company
- North by Northwest
- Oasis Texas Brewing Company
- Pinthouse Pizza Craft Brewpub
- Real Ale Brewing Company (Blanco)
- South Austin Brewery (really!?)
- The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company
- Twisted X Brewing Company (Dripping Springs)
- Uncle Billy’s Brewery & Smokehouse
This will be my first trek to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, and I’m grateful to Oasis Brewing for giving me insight into all the hard work it takes to get ready for the festival. When I asked Spencer what else he was doing to prepare for the festival, he replied, “We’re currently eating much kefir and yogurt, stocking up our internal microflora for the onslaught they’ll experience at the festival.” Sound advice for a rookie that could only come from a brewer.
Best of luck to Spencer and the rest of the crew at Oasis Texas Brewing Company, as well as the rest of the Austin area brewers at this year’s Great American Beer Festival!
What is your favorite Austin beer that has brought home a GABF medal?