Steamboat’s Butcherknife Brewing earns gold at 2018 Great American Beer Festival competition |

Steamboat’s Butcherknife Brewing earns gold at 2018 Great American Beer Festival competition

The Butcherknife Brewing Co. accepted the gold at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony. From left, are Nate Johansing, Erin Orr, Charlie Papazian, Grant McFarren and David Elrod.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — During the 32nd annual Great American Beer Competition awards ceremony, the Butcherknife Brewing Co. team waited in anticipation as winners were named.

In August, the Steamboat Springs’ brewery submitted head brewer Grant McFarren’s new Sunshine Express IPA in the Australian-style pale ale beer-style category.

At the event on Sept. 22 in Denver, there were 63 categories to sit through before Butcherknife’s category was announced.

AT A glance

Tasting Notes: Sunshine Express IPA

  • 36 on the International Bitterness Units scale, a gauge of beer’s bitterness
  • 5% alcohol by volume
  • Hops: Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, Centennial
  • Malts: “Two Row,” “Munich,” “White Wheat”

An intensely aromatic yet supremely drinkable session IPA. Expect strong notes of tropical fruit, grapefruit, melon, and citrus to burst from your glass. It’s light body, lower alcohol, and reduced bitterness combine to make this the perfect summer crusher.

In all, the Brewers Association awarded medals in 102 categories of beer to 280 different breweries — all whittled down from 8,496 total entries submitted by 2,404 total breweries from across the U.S.

Colorado breweries took home 32 medals from the competition, and Butcherknife Brewing Co. took home one of those — a gold.

“They announced bronze then silver, and our hopes were a little diminished,” McFarren said. “Then, they said Sunshine. I don’t think I even heard the rest of what they said, because it was all a blur and maybe shock.”

Other winners in the category included: the Strata IPA from Worthy Brewing Co. in Bend, Oregon, which took the silver medal, and the Flavor Country beer from Austin Beerworks in Austin, Texas, which took home the bronze.

McFarren’s experience working at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina, provided a foundation for the new recipe creation at Butcherknife.

“I thought there was an opportunity to create something really different and was thinking about creating a beer like this since I started at Butcherknife,” said McFarren, who has been with the local brewery since last fall. “The first batch went well and then we realized there was an opening in our core lineup for another hoppy beer that wasn’t as bitter and big as the Amputator IPA.”

McFarren said the hops in the Sunshine Express gives off different flavors of papaya, mango and grapefruit, which is different than the typical hops taste of pine and weed. Not only is it unique in taste, its alcohol content is only 5 percent.

“Winning a gold medal during this competition is a hard thing to do,” said Chris Swersey, GABF competition manager, who from 1993 to 1995 was the head brewer for the former Heavenly Daze Brewery in Steamboat.

“When you win a medal like this, it’s very affirming – it tells your peers in the industry that you make one very good beer,” Swersey said.

In total, the Australian-style pale ale beer-style category received 46 entries, which were all sent to the Brewers Association anonymously.

“For a gold medal, that beer has to be flawless with zero defects in taste and quality,” Swersey said. “If it meets all of the criteria, it’s an exceptional example of that style of beer and was made with a certain technical perfection.”

“Winning any medal at the Great American Beer Festival is an incredible honor, but for a brand new beer like Sunshine Express to win gold on its first try is unbelievable,” McFarren said.

“Since last Saturday, the dust is still settling,” said David Elrod, brewer at Butcherknife. “Our goal is to always maintain the quality, and due to an award like this, we really need to keep the recipe tight and adhere to doing the process consistently.”

The team plans to host a Sunshine Express Gold Celebration Party starting at noon Oct. 13, at Butcherknife Brewing Co. on Elk River Road. During the event, $1 from each pint will be donated to a local charity.

Beer lovers can expect to see the Sunshine Express IPA in cans this winter.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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