Two suburban breweries medal at first virtual Great American Beer Festival
Penrose Brewing Company in Geneva took home a gold medal and Light the Lamp Brewery in Grayslake captured bronze at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival last weekend.
Because of safety concerns, the festival was hosted virtually at several breweries across the country and the winners were announced on a livestream.
Dan Ray, the head brewer at Light the Lamp, said he was watching the stream in the back office with brewery co-owner Jeff Sheppard and Sheppard's wife, Liz. When it was announced their American-Belgo style ale Still Single had won bronze in its category, Ray said, he ran into the brewery's kitchen to shout the good news.
"It was definitely weird this year," Ray said, contrasting the experience with last year when he and the Sheppards went on stage in Denver in front of hundreds of people after they won a silver medal for their cream ale Lite It. "It feels great to kind of be reassured about our process to make beer."
Tom Korder, a co-founder and brewer at Penrose, said he tried to stay away from virtual ceremony and was out playing disc golf. When he got word they'd won a gold medal for Goofy Boots, their juicy Midwest IPA, he said everyone quickly convened at the brewery for a small celebration. The beer won bronze in the same category last year.
"We tweak our beers all the time and it's really just the same recipes with just a couple of fine tune knobs turned," Korder said. "This pretty much nails down what we have going with that beer."
How hard is it to win at the Great American Beer Fest? At this year's competition, the 34th edition, there were 8,806 beers submitted by 1,720 breweries from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The other Chicago-area winners, all of which earned bronze medals, were Pollyanna Brewing Company in Lemont, Horse Thief Hollow Brewing Company in Chicago, Alarmist Brewing in Chicago and Midwest Coast Brewing Company in Chicago. No other breweries in Illinois won this year.
Korder said he hopes to host an event at Penrose where craft beer fans can sample all of the area Great American Beer Festival winners. He said the proceeds will go to local charities. More information will be available in the coming weeks at penrosebrewing.com.