Last weekend (January 21st-24th), under the calming solar waves of the Aurora Borealis, eager supporters of Anchorage's Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festvial braved the 29 degree temps, to enjoy something warming.
Founded in 1994, the GABBF has remained a destination for craft beer's die-hard supporters. What started as a showcase of locally brewed beer, that didn't want to make the trip to Denver's GABF, has blossomed into a venue, where local and domestic breweries feed over 10,000 eager consumers. Today the festival offers approximately 400 different beers, including it's namesake barleywines, brewed by some 75+ breweries throughout the country, poured over three nights.
For the eager imbiber the festival rewards their willingness to suffer through cold nights, while keeping warm among a few thousand 'friends'.
For the brewery, the Golden Pan is awarded for the most thought-provoking Barleywines. Judged by fellow brewers and respected industry peers, the award is given to the best three beers at the festival. In previous years local breweries like Glacier Brewhouse and Midnight Sun, beat out the likes of Anchor Brewing, or Montana's Big Sky Brewing. Today the list of winners is diverse as the state's people.
This year. Redmond's Black Raven accepted their fourth Golden Pan, taking 2nd Place (and tied with California's Lagunitas Brewing) for their 2012 vintage Old Birdbrain Barleywine. Since the 1st batch of Old Birdbrain Barleywine in 2009, this marks Black Raven's only 2nd place award.
Black Raven Old Birdbrain Barleywine
This robust strong ale features pale malts and generous hop additions. After primary fermentation, several American rye whiskey barrels are filled and cellared to age. The remaining beer is then cellared in a stainless steel tank. After many months of aging, the barrels are then blended into the remaining batch aged in the stainless steel tank. Rare bird, released annually in winter and in limited quantity throughout the year.
Breaking it down here's where Black Raven was awarded for their barleywine.
- 2010 Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival - 1st Place for Vintage 2009 Old Birdbrain
- 2011 Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival - 1st Place for Vintage 2010 Old Birdbrain
- 2012 Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival - 3rd Place for Vintage 2010 Old Birdbrain
- 2016 Great Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival - 2nd Place for Vintage 2012 Old Birdbrain
When asked who deserves the credit between co-owner Beaux Bowman, head brewer Andy Lapworth (now former employee), and Special Projects Coordinator / Brewer Keil Anderson; Beaux would concede it was team effort.
For Bowman, each award is a confirmation that waiting for the beer to 'mature' was the best decision over sending the 'freshest' beer.
Stay tuned in 2017, when the brewery sits down and decides which version of their award-winning Barleywine is sent to Alaska's oldest "Beer and Barleywine Festival".
Ravens have long been held in high esteem by brewers, particularly in the British Isles. A famous London brewery once had a tame “mascot” raven named “Joey” that was thought to bring the brewery good luck. Many years ago while home brewing, our brewer/owner came across an old photo in an online stock photo database entitled “Brewer with tame raven”. That photo was the inspiration for continuing the mystical brewery–raven connection, hence the Black Raven Brewing Company. This photo is now used on the home page of the Black Raven Brewing Company website.
Ravens are common birds in the North Cascade mountain range of western Washington. Black Raven Brewing Company is located in the foothills of the North Cascade mountain range. It is important for us to be a local brewery that puts focus on sourcing Washington grown and produced ingredients. As such, we felt that our brewery name and image should be tied to our state. [more] –source, Black Raven Brewing Co.
Northwest Beer Guide