Bear Republic Previews 23 Brews for This Year's Great American Beer Fest

Categories: Beer

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Brian Yaeger
Healdsburg's Bear Republic Brewing is entering 23 of its brews in this month's Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
​At last year's Great American Beer Festival, Bear Republic Brewing's Racer 5 IPA took home a gold medal, not for American India Pale Ale, but for American-style Strong Pale Ale. At this year's GABF ― Sept. 16-18 in Denver ― Racer 5 is gunning for its fifth GABF medal. Just how many medals is the Healdsburg brewery shooting for this year? Out of 78 possible categories, 23.

Last weekend, to kick off medal-hunting season two weeks in advance of the GABF, Bear Republic's founding father-son team Richard and Rich Norgrove plus their crack team of brewers welcomed a crowd of about 100 to try this year's entries, on the patio out behind the brewpub.

We weren't able to get through the entire lineup, but we did manage to sample more than half (barely).

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Brian Yaeger
Bear Republic cofounder Richard Norgrove.
​Starting with the lighter lagers, the Volksbier (4.1 percent alcohol by volume but 30 international bitterness units), will attempt to steal the crown from Coors Banquet, last year's winner in the American-style Premium Lager category. Late Harvest, Bear Republic's Oktoberfest-style lager, rocked the fresh, caramel flavor. Bear Republic benefits, awards-wise, by being one of the few American breweries to even do an Oktoberfest, especially one this far west of Milwaukee.

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Brian Yaeger
Bear Republic's putting six IPAs in contention.
​There were six different IPAs (including two ― Racer X and Mach 10 ― vying for gold in category 48, Imperial IPA), including two of its three distinctly different rye ales (Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic's annual lineup, and Ryevalry, which is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain).

The brewing staff were pouring three sour beers, too. Already a love-'em or hate-'em style, the sour we leaned toward was Toyon Brut (aged in French Oak and wine barrels), over the muskier Cuvee de Bubba, a special blend aged in wine barrels. We suspect that the latter will appeal to fans and judges in Denver, since it's more like a Flemish Red, a la Duchesse de Bourgogne. The dark brown Prickly Pear Barrel Aged Grizz (aged 10 months in neutral oak on roasted prickly pears) had wild yeast flavors subverted by roasted malt and fruit.

Finally, there was Clobberskull. Called an "English Estate October Ale," it's brewed with 10 percent split peas. Yeah, it's barrel-aged for 100 days in French Oak barrels, but did you not see the part about adding split peas? What possible category could that fit in? Possibly Vegetable Beers, which is indeed a style, or perhaps a new one, Field Beers. Don't look for that category to be as crowded as American IPAs or Sour Beers. We predict Clobberskull to win, place, or show ... especially in a slot with only three entries.

Stay tuned for a full list of Bay Area winners when we report live from Denver in two weeks.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow Brian Yaeger at @yaeger.
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