Ohio will be well-represented at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver next month, with about 20 breweries, including several new names, entered in the high-profile competition.
“If you have that competitive spirit, it’s like the Super Bowl for beer guys,” said Paul Fryman, co-owner and brewer at JAFB Wooster Brewery in Wooster. “I’m really excited. It’s a big deal out there. I look at it as the grand-daddy of all the American beer festivals.”
He’s attended the event while working for other breweries, but this is his first trip with his own brewery, which opened last year. Fryman entered eight beers: a pale ale, India pale ale, wit, pilsner, kolsch, stout, alt and saison.
Other Ohio breweries going are:
• The Brew Kettle in Strongsville.
• Columbus Brewing Co. in Columbus.
• Four String Brewing Co. in Columbus.
• Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland.
• Hoppin’ Frog Brewing Co. in Akron.
• Lager Heads Brewing Co. in Medina.
• MadTree Brewing Co. in Cincinnati.
• Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland.
• Millersburg Brewing Co. in Millersburg.
• Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati.
• Rivertown Brewing Co. in Cincinnati.
• Samuel Adams, the Cincinnati brewery.
• Weasel Boy Brewing Co. in Zanesville.
• Willoughby Brewing Co. in Willoughby.
• Yellow Springs Brewery in Yellow Springs.
Hoppin’ Frog brewer and owner Fred Karm, who has won four medals, including three gold, since 2008, said he doesn’t remember so many breweries from the Buckeye State participating in the past.
“We’re always watching Ohio closely and I don’t think there’s ever been 19,” he said.
Ohio’s beer industry has exploded over the last two years, with the number of breweries climbing from 49 in 2011 to more than 80 today.
In addition to Hoppin’ Frog, The Brew Kettle, Columbus, Fat Head’s, Great Lakes, Samuel Adams, Weasel Boy and Willoughby are previous winners.
As for what it takes to bring home a medal, Karm said: “You have to be in style but you have to have vibrant flavor. It can’t be a run-of-the-mill, in-the-crowd kind of beer. What that equals is a damn good recipe.”
He declined to say which beers he has entered.
Winning a medal is still special, even for a brewery like Hoppin’ Frog that is ranked as the 17th best brewery in the world by Ratebeer.com.
“It’s one of the ways you can prove yourself in an industry flooded with people saying, ‘Look at us,’ ” Karm said.
Overall, there are 4,875 beers competing for gold, silver and bronze medals at the event and beer tasting, which takes place Oct. 10-12 at the Colorado Convention Center. About 49,000 people are expected to attend the festival this year.
“Bringing together brewers and beer lovers of all shapes and sizes, the Great American Beer Festival is a wonderful representation of just how far the U.S. brewing community has come,” Brewers Association Event Director Nancy Johnson said in a prepared statement.
The association estimates that there are about 2,500 breweries nationwide.