Piney River Brewing Company

The Behind the Scenes Peek at Our First World Beer Cup Win

In The Beer on April 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I need to preface this blog post by saying that I feel like anything I write here is going to seem much less dramatic than Piney River’s first big win at the Great American Beer Festival.  Even in those moments after we won Gold at GABF last October, I remember thinking, “There will never be another moment like this one.”  There’s only one first time.

Shortly after the 2013 Great American Beer Festival, we were contacted to participate in the largest beer competition in the world–the World Beer Cup.  Also put on by the Brewer’s Association, the World Beer Cup is an international stage for the winning beers.  Gold, silver and bronze “cup” awards are given based on blind taste judging from a panel of judges–mostly from around the world.  A World Beer Cup is held for two years because the competition is only held every other year,  and this year, the World Beer Cup was scheduled to be held in Denver on Friday night following the Craft Brewer’s Conference.

Again, we entered the maximum number of beers–this time it was four styles.  In February, Brian and I sat at the dining room table with four packs of freshly canned beer around us.  We made our selections and sent our beers to Denver about a month ahead of the competition.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that Brian and I had more than one conversation about the possible “huge year” that we could have with a GABF gold followed by a World Beer Cup win.  Was it possible?

We arrived in Denver last Monday evening.  We attended our first Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC) in San Francisco in 2011.  Over the past four years, we’ve watched the conference more than double in size.  The trade show floor has grown too large to leisurely walk through.  But the quality of the programs and the access to industry tools and information is unparallelled.  Although we get up early and stay up way too late every night, Brian and I really enjoy taking a vacation from our day jobs to attend the CBC.

Most importantly, we get to be with “our people“.  The longer we are in the industry, the more people we know.  Sometimes we only see these people once a year, so it’s sort of like a mini-family reunion–with lots of beer!

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Some highlights of the week–Great meal and craft beer at Euclid Hall.  CBC opening reception at Mile High Stadium.  Canarchy at Star BarThe Infamous Stringdusters in concert at the Ogden Theatre hosted by Oskar Blues Brewery.  Interesting seminars on everything from dissolved oxygen in your beer (yes, this is something we do worry about) to forecasting sales of seasonal beers.  We even got to see Andy  featured on the trade show hall floor in the You Tube I made of our labeling machine in action labeling cold, wet cans coming off our Wild Goose canning line.

Friday night and the World Beer Cup Gala rolled around really quickly.  This time there were no dreams of winning gold while sleeping the night before.  No “signs” on the trip to Denver.  Again, we found ourselves sitting amongst a bunch of folks from California.  Charlie Papazian had his tuxedo on.  The lights dimmed.  The awards ceremony began.

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Four-thousand seven hundred fifty-four beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries were included in the competition.  (This was a 21 percent increase over the 2012 World Beer Cup.)  Stiff competition.

I’ve always teased Brian about being an immediate gratification kind of guy, and that’s exactly what we got on Friday night.  American-style wheat beer was the first category.  Bronze and silver were announced and popped up on the large screens in the ballroom.  “And the gold goes to…”

“Float” was all that Chris Swersey was able to say before Brian was whooping and jumping up out of his chair beside me.

Things were moving in slow motion for me.  I remember hearing Brian start getting rowdy, but I sat and watched our name fill the screen.

There it was “Float Trip Ale” in large print with “Gold” right next to it.

High fives.  Hugs.  And then we were standing next to Paul Gatza getting ready to walk on stage for a photo with Charlie Papazian.  AGAIN!

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As we left the stage, there were arrows pointing us back behind some curtain where our actual award engraved with our name was given to us.  Andy Sparhawk, the craft beer coordinator at the Brewer’s Association, came running over to us, eyes as big as saucers.  Andy was the one that asked back in October last year, “What will you do if you win?”, referring to the possibility of a GABF award.

Andy, Brian, and I had an “Oh my god, how is this possible?!” moment together.  More high fives and yelling.  This is the stuff dreams are made of !

This time, Brian had the shakes.  He went to get us celebratory beers, and he couldn’t hold the glasses still.  As we weaved our way through the crowd to get back into the ballroom, our friends from The Public House Brewery in Rolla were on a back row with high fives and hugs.

Hey Brian--It's a World Beer Cup GOLD!

Hey Brian–It’s a World Beer Cup GOLD!

When we got back to our seats, one of the ladies from the California group, said, “You freaked us out.”  Then she wanted to know exactly who we were.

That was the only award for Piney River that night.  But as we know, one is all you need.

Two hundred twenty-six breweries went home with one award that night.  Twenty-six breweries won two awards, and one brewery won three.  Twenty-eight percent of the awards went to breweries outside the US.  We saw World Beer Cup awards go to breweries from all over Europe, and also to breweries in Asia, Australia, South and Central America.

We were there to witness our friends from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego as they received their first major award–a World Cup Gold for Rye beer.  Mike Hess Brewery started out as a nanobrewery, and we first met the Hess family in 2011 at the San Francisco CBC.  Mike Hess recently put in a larger brewhouse and canning line.  I got to yell, “Gold, baby!”  Brian ran up and high fived the whole crew on their way to the stage.  After the ceremony we all went to the top of the hotel and celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

Cloud 9--it's somewhere near the top of the Hyatt Regency in Denver

Cloud 9? It’s somewhere near the top of the Hyatt Regency in Denver.

The Hess crew celebrating GOLD!

The Hess crew celebrating GOLD!

Once again, we are fortunate to receive a huge honor for an extremely Ozark-centric beer.  Float Trip.  A “float trip” is a quintessential Ozark experience.  We’ve made a world class beer that celebrates something that we all love to do in the Ozarks.  Even better–this beer is a great beer to drink when you’re on a float trip!

Yeah, it’s still insane here at Piney River, but the time of our lives just keeps getting better and better.

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Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night.  Shown here, left to right:  Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver.  Shown here, left to right: Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing Wins Gold at the World Beer Cup®

In The Beer on April 13, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Piney River Brewing Company in Bucyrus, MO claimed a gold award in the 2014 World Beer Cup, a global beer competition that evaluates beers from around the world and recognizes the most outstanding brewers and their beers.

Gold, silver and bronze awards in the competition’s 94 beer style categories were presented April 11, 2014 during the World Beer Cup award ceremony at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado.

Piney River Brewing was awarded a gold award in the American-style wheat beer style category for its Float Trip Ale, a wheat-based blonde ale featuring pale wheat and malted barley with balanced, light hop bitterness and a smooth finish.

“We are truly honored to receive this gold award which recognizes our little brewery for brewing the best American-style wheat beer in the world,” Brian Durham, co-founder and head brewer at Piney River Brewing Company, said.

Float Trip Ale has been brewed since the brewery opened its doors in March 2011. In May 2013 the brewery began packaging the beer for distribution in kegs and 16-ounce pint cans. The beer highlights the Ozark experience of “floating” in a canoe, kayak, raft or tube on a Missouri stream.

“Around the world, people of all ages enjoy activities on streams, rivers and lakes, but in the Ozarks we are known for using the term ‘float trip’, which describes what many men, women and children do every year in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways,” Durham said, explaining that the brewery seeks to highlight the Ozarks with its beer.

Durham noted that when he and Joleen, his wife and brewery co-founder, decided to start a craft brewery in the Ozarks, they planned to package their beer in outdoor and river friendly aluminum cans.

“It was only natural that we highlight the quintessential Ozark experience—a float trip—with one of our beers,” Durham said. “Joleen and I love floating, and we developed this beer as something that could be enjoyed all day long while floating or doing anything fun in the Ozarks.”

Piney River Brewing is located on the Durham’s 80-acre farm, operating out of a 70-year old barn. The brewery was founded in 2010 with a 10-gallon brewing system. Today the brewery has a seven-barrel brewhouse which turned out 1,100 barrels of beer in 2013. In addition to draft beer, the brewery cans all of their beer in 16-ounce aluminum cans. The brewery has distribution in Central and Southern Missouri and Arkansas.

Last October, Piney River Brewing received a gold medal for their Old Tom Porter, a brown porter style beer, at the Great American Beer Festival—a national competition.

“We are thrilled to again shine the spotlight on our brewery and the beer that we’re brewing right here in the Ozarks,” Durham said. “To receive the top award for one of our beer styles at national and international competitions within less than one year’s time is a huge recognition for us.”

The Float Trip Ale was brewed by Lucas Clem and Amber Powell, the two full-time brewers at the brewery. Four additional part-time employees also work at the brewery.

“I cannot say enough about our brewery team and their commitment to quality,” Durham said. “Our mission at Piney River Brewing has always been to brew high quality beer that celebrates the Ozarks, and this World Beer Cup gold award for Float Trip is the realization of our brewery’s mission on an international stage.”

World Beer Cup winners were selected by an international panel of 219 beer judges from 31 countries. Regarded as the “Olympics of Beer Competition,” the World Beer Cup saw an impressive field of 4,754 entries from 1,403 breweries in 58 countries.

Presented by the Brewers Association, the World Beer Cup has been held every other year since 1996, to celebrate the art and science of brewing by recognizing outstanding achievement. For more additional information, visit the World Beer Cup website.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night.  Shown here, left to right:  Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night. Shown here, left to right: Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Expanding the Piney River Beer Reach

In The Beer on March 19, 2014 at 10:36 pm

It’s taken a while, but finally we can say that we’re trying to quench the thirst for craft beer in Southeast Missouri!

Last Friday Bluff City Beer in Cape Girardeau sent a big old’ truck to Piney River to pick up a plethora of Piney Pints.

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And the people of Southeast Missouri rejoice!

Let me take you back…a long way back. Brian and I have good friends in SEMO. They have wanted our beer since day #1. Then, Rodney Edwards at Grellner Sales (our first distributor) suggested we talk to his friends, the Bess family, in Cape when we were ready to expand our distribution. Meanwhile, our friends in SEMO were showing up at the brewery and bootlegging growlers and cases of Piney Pints back to their friends who were becoming Piney River fans. Piney River was expanding its reach, but so far no SEMO.

What you may not know is that if Brian didn’t live with me here in the heart of the Ozarks, he would probably live in SEMO. Why? Duck hunting. I will not pass up a wild duck breast and those rice fields are pretty, but I need trees and hills. So Brian dreams of skies filled with ducks and drives a little ways East to find it. And since we started the brewery Brian’s been pretty passionate about getting Piney Pints in all the blinds in SEMO.

Last May it was our great privilege to host Kathy Holloway and her husband, Keith, and David Bess from Bluff City Beer at the brewery. We talked hunting, fishing, raising boys (Kathy & Keith have two boys) and, of course, beer. Talking with them was like talking with friends. And as a small, family owned business, once again we had that great feeling about doing business with another longtime family owned business.

We wanted to get Piney Pints to SEMO last year, but then we had this little beer called Float Trip Ale come along, and we couldn’t make enough, but ALL YEAR LONG we were thinking about SEMO.

Finally this spring were were able to include Bluff City in our 2014 planning and brewing. We can’t send draft, but we have sent Piney Pints to the rice fields, duck blinds and Current River canoes and kayaks in SEMO. There is a great and growing love for craft beer in SEMO, and at Piney River we are all about growing the beer palates of our fellow rural Missourians in the Eastern part of our great state.

Drink up SEMO friends! We’ll make more! And raise a glass to the Bess family and Bluff City Beer for their support of locally brewed beer!

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