Huntley's Sew Hop'd Brewery strikes gold in nation's largest beer competition

A small Huntley brewery sewed up a big win at the recent Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Sew Hop'd Brewery took home a gold medal in the German-style altbier category. They were one of four suburban beer makers to win a medal in the nation's largest professional beer competition.

"This the one that people shoot for," Terry Hitpas, one of the brewery's three partners, said of the contest. "It's a huge thing, and you don't really have an expectation that your name is going to be called, so when it is, it's really, really cool."

More than 2,000 breweries from all 50 states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico entered more than 9,200 different beers in 175 styles. Medals were awarded to 303 beers from 263 breweries.

"It's a wonderful feeling," said Sew Hop'd partner Lance Lamb. "It makes us feel like all the hard work, especially Doug (Vanderwalker, partner and brewmaster) figuring out all the recipes and brewing the beer, is worth it."

The competition, in its 37th year, was judged by 250 beer experts from 10 countries.

While Sew Hop'd was the only suburban gold medal winner, three other local breweries were awarded for their offerings.

Crystal Lake Brewing won a silver medal for their Boathouse Reserve Imperial Stout in the experimental wood-aged beer category.

Another Huntley brewer, MORE Brewing Co., grabbed a bronze medal with their Lil' Space Booties in the juicy or hazy pale ale division.

Werk Force Brewing Co. from Plainfield earned a bronze for their Barrel Aged Count Chungus in the wood- and barrel-aged strong stout category.

Sew Hop'd, which specializes in German-style beers, opened four years ago in a portion of the Union Special industrial sewing machine manufacturing facility, which Lamb and Hitpas own and where Vanderwalker worked as an engineer.

They've enhanced their footprint a couple of times with a large patio and bigger indoor space, as well as improving their brewing capacity and adding their own canning line.

Their winning Düsseldorf-style altbier is made with Hallertau Mittlefrüh and Perle hops, and is described as crisp and dry with a light taste to match its caramel color.

"To have a German-style beer win, that's special because technically they've got to be just right," said Vanderwalker. "This is vindication for what we do, and it shows we're doing it the right way."

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