CHICAGO — Illinois breweries cleaned up at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, winning 16 medals and continuing the state’s unlikely streak of hazy India pale ale dominance.
Destihl Brewery in Normal was the big winner, scoring medals for its DeadHead series of IPAs in two of the national competition’s most competitive categories.
Destihl won gold in the Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale category — with 427 entries, one of the most crowded contests in the awards’ history — for TourBus hazy IPA, and bronze for Haze of the Dead in the Juicy or Hazy Imperial India Pale Ale category, which had 195 entries.
Destihl CEO Matt Potts said he watched the Friday awards ceremony from a hotel room with his wife in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they took a last-minute weekend trip. Potts said he screamed so loud when hearing Destihl won gold in the jam-packed hazy IPA category that people in the next room came to check on them.
Potts said his wife needed to explain to their neighbors everything was OK.
“I was too crazy to explain to them what was going on,” he said. “It was just disbelief. My wife, Lyn, and I couldn’t stop saying, ‘Holy cow,’ maybe with some expletives in there. I was in a haze — no pun intended. Or maybe pun intended. It’s just so mind-blowing.”
TourBus is a series within a series: a series of hazy IPAs with rotating hops within a series of IPAs that see a new release every three months. Potts said he is prioritizing brewing the medal-winning TourBus, made with fruit-forward Citra and Mosaic hops, again in the next week, and hopes to have it available by October. Haze of the Dead is currently in distribution in Chicago, he said.
Destihl’s two medals in hazy IPA categories continues an unlikely dominance for Illinois breweries when it comes to one of the most popular styles in craft beer in recent years. In 2018, the first year GABF honored hazy IPAs, Chicago’s Alarmist Brewing won gold amid 391 entries. The next year, Chicago’s Old Irving Brewing also won gold, among 348 entries. In 2020, Geneva’s Penrose Brewing won gold in the Juicy/Hazy Strong Pale Ale category amid 145 entries.
The strong showing for Illinois breweries within one particular style of beer with no roots in the Midwest — hazy IPA was pioneered in New England — is difficult to explain. But it could be rooted in Illinois being home to many breweries — 295 according to the Brewers Association, which ranks 13th in the nation — with a deep pedigree.
”There is obviously a long history of craft brewing in Illinois that pushes all of us to keep raising the bar, making all of us better,” Potts said.
Schiller Park’s Short Fuse Brewing also fared well at this year’s GABF awards, winning silver medals in the highly competitive Fruited American Sour Ale category (249 entries) and the Experimental Beer category. The two medals earned Short Fuse GABF’s “Brewery of the Year” for breweries making between 2,001 and 5,000 barrels of beer per year. (One barrel equals two kegs.)
Pollyanna Brewing — which has breweries in Lemont, Roselle and St. Charles — also won two medals: gold for Roselle Red in the Vienna-Style Lager category, and bronze for Party Penguin in the Other Strong Beer category.
Other Illinois winners included gold for Will County Brewing in Shorewood for Bamm Bamm Loves Pebbles, which won in the Fruit Wheat Beer category.
Silver medals went to Tribes Beer Co. in Mokena for Low Country Belgo-American Pale Ale in the American-Belgo-Style Ale category; Sew Hop’d Brewery in Huntley for ALT 140 in the German-Style Altbier category; Old Irving Brewing in Chicago for Della in the German-Style Koelsch category; and the long-running Mickey Finn’s Brewery in Libertyville, whose Dark and Down won in the Rye Beer category.
Bronze medals went to Alarmist Brewing of Chicago for its Midwest Royalty in the American-Style Lager category; Goose Island’s legendary Matilda in the Brett Beer category; Tangled Roots Brewing in Ottawa for Sunkissed Blonde in the Fruit Wheat Beer category; Crystal Lake Brewing in Crystal Lake for Too Much Cologne in the German-Style Koelsch category; and Triptych Brewing in Savoy for Dank Meme in the Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale category.