Barley Island brought home the 2009 Great American Gold Medal for Dirty Helen Tavern Style Brown Ale, a copper penny-hued, sweet tasting malty brew with medium hop bitterness, named after a "legendary tavern owner who supposedly could out-swear anybody in town."
"To have our flagship beer recognized is a great thing," admits brewmaster Jon W. Lang. "We've brought it to GABF for four years. We nailed it after making fine adjustments."
Lang thinks dry-hopping made the difference. "For centuries people have enjoyed the robust yet drinkable character of brown ales. Now we're into a new generation of browns." Brown ales go back to 1600s England, died out when pale malts came into fashion, and made a comeback in 1920s England. USA homebrewers brought brown ales to the forefront starting in the 1970s.
Barley Island won a 2006 GABF Silver Medal for Black Majic Java Stout and a Bronze in 2008 for Beastie Barrel Stout. For Lang, "Three medals in four years is nice professionally. From a personal standpoint it's special to be sharing with my dad."
Brugge won 2009 Bronze Medals for Diamond Kings '09 American Style Sour Ale and Bad Kitty German Style Sour Ale.
"Because we are a traditionally Belgium, brewery sours are the new hops for us," explained brewmaster Ted Miller. "Sours are way harder to make because they can go awry quickly." Based on the Flemish red ale, sours are usually fermented with Lactobacillus to produce a sour character and are aged for a year or more, usually in oaken barrels. Special red malt provides its distinctive color. Blending of mature and new brews balances and rounds character for a complex layering of tastes and an aromatic mixture of fruits with vanilla or chocolate undertones. It's a style one grows into. "You can start with Berliner Weisse and Rodenbach, then move to American sours and Lambics, where most people into sours end up," explains Miller. "As our anniversary beer, Diamond Kings keeps evolving. It and Bad Kitty start Brugge's production of sours."
Brugge took home a 2005 GABF Silver Medal for Tripel de Rippel.