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Beer Town: Lowryeder and Tree Hugger Gold at GABF  

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Sweetwater and Terrapin, Georgia’s two largest and most visible craft breweries brought back gold medals from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in Denver with a pair of fairly new beers.

At awards ceremony on Oct. 12, Atlanta’s Sweetwater won the top honor in the Rye Beer category for Lowreyeder. Originally called Rye’d Ale and brewed as part of Crank Tank series to benefit Camp Twin Lakes, Lowreyeder joined Sweetwater’s year-round lineup in August 2012.

Made with 25% rye malt and brewed with Columbus, Mt. Hood and Centennial hops, then dry-hopped with Centennial and Mt. Hood, its truly a rye IPA with a spicy, hoppy presence that’s very approachable and pairs well with food. In fact, at the recent Atlanta Cheese Festival, it made a pretty close to perfect match with Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.

Athens’ Terrapin won gold in the German-style Altbier beer category for Tree Hugger. Originally brewed for the Decatur Green Fest in support of the Dogwood Alliance, the rather rare style became part of the Terrapin’s year-round lineup in March 2013.

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Not as hoppy as most of Terrapin’s offerings, the malt-forward ale features a blend of German malts, including Munich, CaraMunich III, that impart caramel and toffee notes. Mt. Hood and Vanguard hops give it spicy, herbal aromas and flavors and snappy bitterness. Perfect for fall, pair it with German sausages or cassoulet.

It’s really good to see Sweetwater and Terrapin win awards for these two beers, which certainly aren’t among the breweries bestsellers, but represent the kind of quality GABF judges recognize.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, the GABF is presented by the Brewer’s Association, and the medal competition is something like the Superbowl and Academy Awards of American craft beer. Most small craft breweries don’t have advertising budgets, but medals can make up for that in many cases.

In 2002, Terrapin’s very first beer, Rye Pale Ale, won the gold medal in the American Pale Ale category at GABF, a feat that helped launch its fledgling brewery. In the same year, Sweetwater won Small Brewery of the Year, certainly a milestone in its history, and a pinnacle of the awards.

In 2013, GABF judges evaluated 138 beer styles across 84 categories. More than 3,100 different beers were served at the festival, with 624 breweries in the festival hall. As usual, hoppy beers dominated among brewery entries, with 252 beers judged in the American-Style India Pale Ale category and 149 beers judged in the Imperial India Pale Ale category.

Atlanta Beer Week

In May 2010, Atlanta joined the ranks of major American cities honoring craft beer with a week of celebrations. Four years later, moved from May to October, Atlanta Beer Week survives. But it’s become a much more informal series of events, with breweries, bars and restaurant taking up the cause to present new releases, tastings and dinners, including beer dinners at several fine dining restaurants.

Atlanta Beer Week 2013 runs Oct.19-26. Check the website for all events and updates: 2013.atlantabeerweek.com.

— Bob Townsend, AJC Drink blog.

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