The Plan After Having a GABF-Winning Beer

Although they aren’t pinning any hopes to see a massive bump in sales, attaching “GABF-Winning” to any beer label or social media post after the Great American Beer Festival is still a way to be pretty tickled pink.

Short Fuse, which was named Brewery of the Year for 2,001-5,000 barrels, won two Silvers at the annual event and owner Nick Teague said that the Chicagoland-area brewery will put those distinctions to the forefront a tad more to see how it creates a buzz in sales.

“The great thing is Tropical Hurt Locker (Silver for Fruited American Sour) is a year-round beer and our fourth or fifth best-selling beer, so it will be great to attach a silver medal to the label and let everyone know it’s an award-winning beer and see how that helps sales,” he said.

Fellow winner, Vocal Jam, a SIlver in the Experimental category this year, was a once-a-year summer beer the brewery made that has continued to find new fans every year.

“[A] fruited sour with coffee isn’t one that everyone is going to grab off the shelf so I think the publicity on that beer will help the ones wondering if they would like it, to grab it and give it a try,” Teague said. “I expect that will turn into a two-to-three time a year beer now.”

A GABF medal is one the most prestigious awards to win, Teague said, so he admitted they would be lying if he said it’s not important and a great honor to win.

READ MORE: Industry Awards – Are They Worth It?

“It’s great publicity and recognition to have, and hopefully some beer drinkers who haven’t tried our beer — or it has been a while since they had one — will stop in or grab one of our beers at their local store.”

The GABF introduced a new breakdown for Brewery of the Year, moving from size names like “Small” and “Large” to using barrelage numbers.

Teague said the barrelage breakdown creates a more concrete definition rather than breaking breweries/brewpubs into small/large.

“We have a kitchen and a taproom but produce 2,000-5,000 barrels a year as a production facility,” he noted. “However, due to our size, I would say ‘brewpub’ doesn’t fit the definition of who we are as a brewery.”

With the hope to grow every year, the last 18 months have been hard to predict what the future holds for the company, but Teague said they are hiring and looking to increase its distribution footprint by bringing on some more team members.

“We spent the last year making many improvements on the production side and we are well-positioned to capitalize on future growth now,” he said.

Short Fuse is the first brewery in Illinois to be awarded Brewery of the Year since Pabst Blue Ribbon won Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year in 2011.

Behind the Beer

Brewer​ and Cellar Manager​​ ​Craig Kofod​ shared with Brewer the insights into the development of the winning brands.

Vocal Jam is a fruited kettle sour with boysenberry, blueberry, and coffee while Tropical Hurt Locker is a fruited sour made with big amounts of raspberry and passionfruit.

Tropical Hurt Locker​ was one of ​Kofod’s first projects at the brewery​, he said.

“We wanted to create a fan favorite for the sour beer drinkers​,” he said. ​”​My basic criteria for this beer was something in the middle of the road in terms of residual sweetness. Not too cloyingly, dry, and still have some body for the fruit to carry through. I’d found raspberry and passionfruit to be the best fruit combo for our year-round staple.​”​

Tropical Hurt Locker had advanced to the final round of judging at GABF the previous year, so Kofod knew that it had a good chance of doing well​.

“But with such a large category I never really expected it to win​,” he admitted. ​”​But it is our taproom favorite and those who like sours enjoy it quite a bit.​”​

​Due to ​sales taking off from Tropical Hurt Locker, Kofod wanted to try to brew an experimental coffee Sour.

​”​The basic parameters I hoped to achieve were that the beer had to be a little sweeter than Hurt Locker to stand up to the roast of the coffee​,” he said.​ The malt bill consisted of 60% White Wheat and 40% Pilsner from Troubadour Maltings.

​”[It’s] over the top on the wheat spectrum for the style​,” he said. ​Just strictly using puree wouldn’t have been as effective as using a combination of puree and concentrate ​as concentrate alone would’ve been slightly too acidic.

​”​That combo gives it its jammy/ tart consistency​,” Kofod said. ​”Finding the right coffee is also crucial. I knew it needed to be a very berry-forward coffee that is very light on the roast spectrum. Luckily, Middle State Coffee In Denver sent me their Single Origin Landspeed coffee. It came out incredibly aromatic and blended well with the tartness of the fruit/kettle souring regimen. That beer was a tightrope of a balancing act.​”​

Kofod said he made a lot of improvements from Batch 1 to Batch 2 and entered it into Experimental as the deadline for entry grew closer.

“I felt that beer should be a contender for a medal,” he said. “My definition for experimental brewing would be pairing two things together that aren’t typically all that palatable together.

“The marriage of roast and sour in Vocal Jam fit my expectation for that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *