Piney River Brewing Company

Posts Tagged ‘Bucyrus’

Piney River Brewing Wins Two Medals at the US Beer Open Championship

In The Beer on August 8, 2016 at 10:18 pm

IMG_1235Piney River Brewing recently won two bronze medals at the US Open Beer Championship for their Black Walnut Wheat and Bronzeback Pale Ale beers.

The US Open Beer Championship is held annually in Oxford, OH. Over 5,000 beers from around the world were entered in 90 different beer style categories. The contest is open to professional brewers and home brewers. US Open judges hail from England, Canada and the US.

Black Walnut Wheat won in the “American Wheat Dark” category. This American-style wheat beer is dark in color and is brewed with hand harvested black walnuts.   The beer features an aroma of black walnuts and finishes with a black walnut flavor.

This is the second year in a row that Black Walnut Wheat has placed in the US Beer Open Championship. In 2015, Piney River took home a silver in the American Wheat Dark category for the beer.

According to Joleen Senter Durham, co-founder of Piney River Brewing, Black Walnut Wheat is the flagship beer of the Ozarks brewery. “No matter where it’s sold, Black Walnut Wheat is always our most popular beer,” Durham said. “It’s easy to drink, and the black walnuts in the beer provide an interesting aroma and flavor profile.”

Bronzeback Pale Ale won in the “International Pale Ale” category. This American-style pale ale is pale yellow in color and features a lot of flavor and aroma from multiple hop additions during brewing and after fermentation is complete. Galaxy and Citra are the featured hops in Bronzeback Pale Ale.

“Bronzeback is one of my favorite beers to brew and to drink,” Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder of Piney River Brewing, said. “This beer is crisp in flavor and has great hop aroma.”

This is the first award for Bronzeback Pale Ale.

Amber Powell is lead brewer at Piney River Brewing. Powell oversaw the production and packaging of both beers that placed in the competition.

“It thrills Joleen and I to bring more recognition to craft beer being made right here in the Ozarks,” Brian Durham said. “Amber and the staff here are consistently turning out great beer.”

Piney River Brewing is located on Durham’s 80-acre farm, operating out of a restored 75-year old barn and a larger barn. The Durhams founded the brewery in 2010 with a 10-gallon brewing system. In 2015, Piney River Brewing produced over 2,200 barrels of beer, and completed a $1.2 million expansion on the farm, allowing the brewery to increase production with a new brew house, canning line and cold storage.

Piney River Brewing operates a tasting room that is open to the public every weekend. The brewery has distribution throughout most of Missouri and Arkansas.

A complete list of US Open Beer Championship winners can be found at



A Grand Opening & You’re Invited

In Beer Events on January 7, 2016 at 11:14 pm

piney river farm with signPiney River Brewing is planning a grand opening weekend for their new brewing facility on February 5, 6, and 7, 2016. The weekend event will begin with ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. that Friday on the Piney River Farm in Bucyrus.

Piney River Brewing recently completed the largest expansion in the history of the brewery. The expansion includes a 12,000 square foot barn located near the current “BARn” production facility and tap room.

The new building houses a custom built 15-barrel three-vessel brew house from Criveller Company of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada; four 60-barrel fermentation vessels and two 60-barrel bright beer tanks from Paul Mueller Company in Springfield, MO and a Series Three eight-head automatic canner from Wild Goose Canning in Boulder, CO.

This expansion is the third expansion since the company opened its doors in March 2011 as a nanobrewery, brewing 10 gallons of beer at a time.  The brewery was also the first microbrewery in the state of Missouri to can beer on site in November 2011 with an MC100 two-head Wild Goose canning machine.

The new brew house and cellar will give Piney River the capacity to brew up to 10,000 barrels of beer, with plenty of room for additional growth.  In 2015, Piney River produced just over 2,000 barrels of beer.

“Everyone that regularly visits the BARn has watched the construction progress at our brewery over the past year,” Brian Durham, head brewer and owner, said. “We are excited to have a weekend to celebrate with our friends, family and everyone that loves Piney River beer.”

The ribbon cutting is open to the public at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 5th. Joleen and Brian Durham will give tours of the new brewing facility all weekend long at the top of every hour beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday until 8 p.m. that night. Tours will be available from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 12 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. There is no charge for a tour of the brewery.

In addition to the opportunity to tour the brewery throughout the weekend, Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats will be available for purchase on Friday and Saturday.

“None of this growth would have been possible without the great support from our local community, the craft beer lovers throughout Missouri and Arkansas that have been drinking our beer for the past four years, and our distribution partners,” Durham said. “We hope that everyone that is able will join us during the grand opening weekend. We are proud to share this beautiful addition on our farm with them.”

Currently the brewery is distributed in most of Missouri and in Arkansas. Distribution is available in Missouri through Bluff City Beer in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff and Herculaneum; Grellner Sales in Rolla, West Plains, Camdenton and Sedalia; Heart of America Beverage in Springfield and Joplin; NH Scheppers in Jefferson City and Columbia; and Summit Distributing in Saint Louis. Glidewell Distributing in Fort Smith distributes Piney River beer throughout the state of Arkansas.image


4th Aleiversary—The Best One Yet

In Beer Events on March 17, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Yes, we had some anxiety about the 4th Aleiversary.

Just like the 3rd Aleiversary, we planned to be overwhelmed.



Two food trucks?




Beer trailer with six taps outside?


ID bracelets and beer tickets?

Had those to.

We even had a brand spanking new deck addition–built just in time.

Everyone knows that the sun always shines on the Aleiversary, so even though we began watching the weather religiously a month in advance, sunshine seemed pretty likely (insert fingers and toes crossed).

On February 13th the construction on our building ground to a halt with snow, cold, snow that melted into ice to be topped by more snow that melted into ice to be topped by more snow that melted into ice. Finally, the weather warmed up on March 7th and the great melt and dry-out began. Only six days to the 4th Aleiversary (insert nervous mud discussions here).

Due to construction, our parking lot was cut down (to a mud pit) the week before the Aleiversary. The week of the Aleiversary, the rebuild of the parking lot began. A couple dozen loads of chat later, hours upon hours of work by Holland Excavating, some additional gravel laid on Walnut Grove Drive by our township, and with some gravel spreading help from Brian in the skid steer, we were ready for the for the 4th Aleiversary.

Of course, it rained up until the morning before the Aleiversary. The yard around the brewery was muddy, but the field (aka additional parking) drained well. A little well-placed gravel, some caution tape and we were ready to go.



Smokey Folk from Springfield and Joshin the Giants from Joplin provided handcrafted tunes that were enjoyed by all ages all day long.

Smokey Folk

Smokey Folk

Joshin the Giants

Joshin the Giants

Emma, Lucas and Ian served in the taproom. Pete and Amber served at the beer tent. Tessa and Jonathan sold beer tickets outside. Jamie and Brian handled parking.

Pete and Amber at the beer trailer with the head root beer maker.

Pete and Amber at the beer trailer with the head root beer maker.

Ian and Emma behind the bar in the tap room.

Ian and Emma behind the bar in the tap room.

Ian and Lucas behind the bar in the tap room.

Ian and Lucas behind the bar in the tap room.

Jonathan and Tessa took care of beer tickets for almost every customer that came through the Aleiversary.

Jonathan and Tessa took care of beer tickets for almost every customer that came through the Aleiversary.

I tried to do everything else as needed (no photos of that).

I cannot say enough about our staff and the work they do to help put the Aleiversary on. In addition to helping get everything ready for the day, they arrive early the day of the event and work their butts off until every customer goes home. There is no time for breaks, eating the great food served or even sipping a beer. They put their heads down and poured beer and tried to keep customers happy for seven hours straight. And they did a fabulous job with helping make another wonderful Piney River experience at the 4th Aleiversary.

Asking 21-year olds to wear a wristband and to purchase beer tickets made for a very smooth day for patrons and for our staff. Nobody had to wait very long for a pint at all.

The 2015 Mule Team IPA was delicious and smooth. Several people were proud to take home a four-pack or more.

Both decks and the tap room were filled.



Even the muddy yard became a place to sit and enjoy a beer with family and friends.


Both food trucks had a steady line of customers all day long, but the waits were very reasonable.  Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats and Aviary on the Fly both received rave reviews and even sold out of some food items. We appreciate everyone supporting our local food vendors, too.


At some point about mid-day a customer said to me, “The parking lot is full.”

I thought, “The parking lot????”

“You mean the field?” I asked.


cars at aleiversary

Indeed the field was nearly full of cars, and all day long only one truck needed some assistance in getting out.

One of our neighbors noted to his wife that at about 12 p.m. when cars were pouring down ZZ Highway, it “was like we live in the city”.

And we appreciate our neighbors sharing this little piece of heaven with the hordes of folks that want to celebrate Piney River in the Ozarks. Thank you!

We believe 850 or so people came out and participated in this particular Piney River experience.

As the official “field attendant” for every car that came down the drive last Saturday, Brian had the opportunity to personally greet most folks that joined us. As I wound my way up and down and in and out of the brewery and the grounds, I kept running into friends, family and fans. We were honored to host staff members from three of our distributors, too. I hope we had a chance to say hello, shake a hand, share a smile or laugh with you.

The Aleiversary is not about selling a bunch of beer a the BARn one day a year. The Aleiversary is about celebrating craft beer in the Ozarks with you. Two people that some thought were a little (or a lot!) crazy had a dream about making beer in a barn on farm just up the hill from the Piney River.

We dreamed of making beer that celebrated our home, a great place in the US—the Ozarks. We dreamed of making beer that could be canned for consumption in the beautiful and secluded places of the Ozarks. Four years later, all those dreams and much more have come true.

From Brian and I and our whole Piney River Crew, THANK YOU for four phenomenal, unforgettable, mind-blowing years!

Cheers to you!  From All of Us--Jamie, Emma, Brian, Joleen, Pete, Amber, Tessa, Jonathan & Ian (Lucas, not shown)

Cheers to you! From All of Us–Jamie, Emma, Brian, Joleen, Pete, Amber, Tessa, Jonathan & Ian (Lucas, not shown)

Brewery Celebrates Four Years of Business with Aleiversary Event

In Beer Events on March 1, 2015 at 8:30 pm

aleiversary 15 larger

Piney River Brewing Company is celebrating their fourth anniversary on Sat., Mar. 14th at the brewery in Bucyrus.

The “4th Aleiversary” party will be held at the BARn—the brewery and tap room located off Junction ZZ—from 12 to 7 p.m.

“After a few weeks of wintery weather, we are looking forward to enjoying a beautiful spring day in the Ozarks at our upcoming Aleiversary,” Joleen Durham, co-founder and owner, said.

Durham described the Aleiversary as “the biggest event in Bucyrus”, and over 600 people from across the region enjoyed the day with the Durham’s at the Piney River Farm.

“The event is family-friendly, and there is no charge for admission,” Durham said. “Many Piney River fans look forward to this day at the BARn all year long.”

The Piney River tap room will pour several beers that are available year round in the tap room including Float Trip Ale, Black Walnut Wheat, McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, Bronzeback Pale Ale, Old Tom Porter and Missouri Mule India Pale Ale.

Piney River Brewing also has some small batch limited release beers available for the Aleiversary.   Paw Paw French Saison and Brick and Mortar Coffee Porter are two of the small batch beers that will be poured that day.

Paw Paw French Saison is a French saison-style beer that is brewed with paw paw fruit. Brick and Mortar Coffee Porter is the brewery’s award winning Old Tom Porter that has fresh coffee from Brick and Mortar Coffee Company in Springfield, MO added.

Crankbait Cream Ale, the brewery’s spring seasonal, will make it’s spring debut at the BARn on the 14th, and it will go out to retail locations through brewery distributors after the party.

“Probably our most anticipated limited release beer to be available at the Aleiversary will be our Mule Team India Pale Ale,” Brian Durham, co-founder and head brewer, said.

Mule Team IPA is an imperial India pale ale that was first brewed for Piney River’s 2014 anniversary event.

“This year’s Mule Team IPA has more pronounced hop flavor and aroma,” Brian Durham said, explaining that the 2015 imperial IPA is also “more dry”, coming in at 10 percent alcohol by volume.

“All of the brewing staff is very excited about releasing this year’s version of Mule Team IPA at the Aleiversary,” Brian Durham said.

Mule Team IPA takes almost a month to complete from brewing to packaging. The “4th Aleiversary Limited Release” Mule Team label thanks the team—“dedicated employees, partnerships with distributors, support of friends, neighbors and craft beer lovers”—that has helped the brewery achieve success over the past four years.

In addition to the handcrafted ales, the Aleiversary will feature two bands providing live music—The Josh Jennings Band from Joplin and Smokey Folk from Springfield. Both bands feature multi-talented instrumentalists and singers that perform Americana, folk and rock covers and original songs.

Two food trucks will be on site–Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats of Huggins and Aviary on the Fly of Springfield–will provide unique handmade foods such as Irish nachos and sweet and savory crepes.

Piney River Brewing is located on Durham’s 80-acre farm, operating out of a restored 70-year old barn. Durham founded the brewery with his wife, Joleen, in 2010 with a 10-gallon brewing system.

In 2014, Piney River Brewing produced over 1,800 barrels of beer, and their Float Trip Ale won a World Beer Cup gold award in Denver in April.

Currently, a $1.2 million expansion is underway on the Piney River Farm. A larger barn will house a new, larger brewhouse and related fermentation and packaging equipment to enable the brewery to produce up to 9,000 barrels of beer a year and increase distribution areas.

The brewery has distribution throughout Central and Southern Missouri and Arkansas.

Additional information about Piney River Brewing and the 4th Aleiversary can be found at

The label for 2015 Mule Team India Pale Ale

The label for 2015 Mule Team India Pale Ale

Prepared to be Overwhelmed–Our 3rd Aleiversary Tale

In Beer Events on March 17, 2014 at 9:36 pm

“If you would have told me a year ago that I would be standing here tonight making potato salad for ‘my staff’ for the Aleiversary After Party, I would have laughed.” That’s what I told Brian on Friday night about 9 p.m.

Install a bar in the upstairs tap room before the 1st Aleiversary? We did that in March 2012.

Put together tables and chairs for 100 before the 2nd Aleiversary? We did that in March of 2013.

Every year we’ve been building something until hours before our big event. This year, we had professional help from Tim Prater at the Wood Mill installing a new cherry rail and standing bar area and Randy Hendricks from Hendricks Home Builders in doing some bathroom work. My dad also went into the picnic table making business, adding another 10 tables to our collection of outdoor furniture. The township sent their grader that week and smoothed out the potholes and rough spots in our gravel road. Larry Booker hauled in chat for our drive and our expanded parking lot. Other than that, we just made sure the beer was ready, and oh yeah, we purchased compostable cups—no glassware washing this year!

“We are prepared to be overwhelmed,” I told everyone that asked “What are you doing?” to prepare for the Aleiversary.

An “All Hands on Deck” bulletin was given out to all the Piney River co-workers in November 2013…Our Christmas Party is on December 21, please attend if you can. Our Aleiversary is March 15th,we need you to work that day, all day.


Brian and I trekked out to the brewery on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., and the rest of our crew arrived between 10:30 and 11. At 10, Brian said, “I’m not sure we’re going to have everything set up by noon.” He was wrong, our staff knows what to do, and with all of us working together, we’re a mighty team. We were ready to pour beer and party at 11:45.

We extended the size of the parking lot…it was too small anyway. We moved the girlfriends out of their favorite pasture into the back and side pastures so more cars and trucks could park in the front field. Brian and Jamie parked vehicles at the beginning, and it wasn’t any time before the front lot was filled and the pasture and roadsides began being filled, too. My dad did an “unofficial count” of 147 cars sometime between 2 and 3 p.m.

Amber and Caleb ran the beer tent—Cream Ale, Black Walnut Wheat, Leo Brown Ale and Bronzeback Pale Ale were all that many people ever drank. They found a picnic table, brought a camp chair, got some food and never bothered to step inside the brewery.


The line to Mike and Julie’s Smoked Meats didn’t end until they ran out of food.

The bands—The Farethewells from Salem and Deep Fried Squirrel from Springfield—pumped their tunes outside so you could dance just about anywhere on the farm.


Debra, Lucas & Jonathan ran the tap room bar—a never ending sea of people clamored for drinks for at least seven hours straight. The tap room and the deck were full all day long.


We brewed and canned a special 3rd Aleiversary beer, Mule Team Imperial IPA. Mule Team was available on draft and four-packs were for sale. The Mule Team was a big hit, and we got to be the proud parents of our first big batch of Imperial IPA (there’s still some left–draft and four packs if you’re so inclined).

We had guests from neighboring states, towns throughout Missouri and locals. We had friends, neighbors and family. We prepared to be overwhelmed, and everything went extremely well. We ran out of almost all the special beers–yay! We ran out of paper towels–oops! Our co-workers were on their feet for 9 to 10 hours straight. They didn’t get planned breaks. They barely got to go to the bathroom. They were awesome! Luckily we asked Mike to smoke ribs and pork butt for us to go with the aforementioned potato salad along with baked beans and brownies. I don’t know what everyone was most grateful for at the end of the day–a seat at the fire pit or food.

After everyone went home, the food and beer were put away, the bonfire was coals, Brian and I couldn’t sleep we were so stoked about everything that happened in the day before. We didn’t sit, we had little time to talk with friends and family, we ran upstairs and down, we hooked and unhooked kegs, we worked, but what’s new. It was a GREAT day.

At some point during the day we ran into each other in the brewery. “We did it!” High five. Hug. Kiss. We are having some of the most fun of our lives.

As our Mule Team Imperial India Pale Ale label says:

Two people with a dream, an old barn, a love for the Ozarks and craft beer cannot succeed on their own. It takes a team–dedicated employees, partnerships with distributors, the support of friends, neighbors and craft beer lovers. Thank you for pulling with us over the past three years.

We’re still having the time of our lives! –Joleen & Brian Durham

Thank you so much! Cheers!

Celebrating Craft Beer in the Ozarks–Piney River Style

In Beer Events, The BARn, The Beer on March 2, 2014 at 10:53 am

It was in March of 2011 that Brian and I cracked open the doors to the BARn for the very first time. Somewhat to our surprise, folks showed up! We filled growlers, we poured pints, we sampled the beer that we were brewing after work, sometimes after midnight, on our Sabco Brew Magic 10-gallon system. The “system” for serving beer that first year at the BARn included a table across the middle of brew house floor and picnic tables and camp chairs located out in front of the BARn.

A year later, we had a bar built in the upstairs of the BARn. Pallets of grain were stacked around the Advantec covered floor, we had seating for 30 (not counting the camp chairs). Friends provided some tunes. Black Walnut Wheat came back (for good) on draft. The First Aleiversary was born.

Then came the 2nd Aleiversary in March 2013. Was that really just one year ago? The first live music was planned and performed at the BARn (thank you, Barak Hill, Jody Bilyeu and The Taylor’s). We featured some special beers–Hot Date Ale and Low Water Bridge IPA. Mike and Julie Anderson never knew that they could handcrank so many potatoes for their Irish nachos.

The middle of March is coming around again, and we are so excited for our 3rd Aleiversary! So many of you are planning to join us on March 15th. We know the Aleiversary is something that is anticipated by many, and we are anticipating the opportunity to give back to you for your great support of Piney River brewing throughout the year.

All hands on deck! Our great staff will ALL be here on the 15th to take care of you…from parking to pints, we’re going to make sure you’ve got plenty of libations to celebrate with us all day long. The BARn will be open from 12 to 7 p.m. that day.

Food! Mike and Julie Anderson of Huggins will be back with delicious smoked meats, and an electric potato slicer for their famous Irish Nachos. Plus, they have a great new trailer that they will have in front of the BARn for serving all of their foods.

Music! Live music has become a regular part of Saturdays at the BARn, and we are so excited to welcome back two bands that have been a fun part of our Saturdays in the past year. The Farethewells from Salem and Deep Fried Squirrel from Springfield will be here with original tunes, covers and taking requests. Banjos, fiddles, upright bass–Brian and I know that the BARn was made for these sounds, and we regularly watch in wonder when the magic is happening on a Saturday at the BARn.

Beer! This is the best part of the Aleiversary, the opportunity to craft new beers for everyone that comes to celebrate craft beer in the Ozarks with us. Throughout the day on March 15th we will be tapping some special beers. We plan to have to some special cask ales that will be cracked throughout the day, some kegs of beer on tap, and we have brewed a large batch of “Mule Team”, an Imperial India Pale Ale, that will only be available at the BARn on March 15th. We will have kegs of it on tap, and we are doing a special packaging run of it, and four-pack pints will be for sale, too. Brian and I have dreamed of making Mule Team for a long time, and we’re very excited to have this beer on draft for the Aleiversary and package it for you to take home, too!mule team labelI keep telling folks that we plan to double, if not triple, the population of Bucyrus on March 15th. We hope there’s a little green grass peeking through the front yard of the BARn that Saturday. Mike and Julie will be parked in front of the BARn, and we will have a “cash only” beer tent outside to serve up beer. We have more picnic tables on order that will be out front, and you’re welcome to bring camp chairs and pop up canopies for your own party at the party. The Farethewells are the first band up, and Deep Fried Squirrel will close the party down. There is no charge to attend the Aleiversary, and it’s family friendly. We’ll have Andy’s Root Beer on tap until we run out of it. If you need a place to stay while at the Aleiversary, may we recommend Almoos’t Heaven Bed & Breakfast in Success and Boiling Springs Resort in Licking.

We can’t wait to celebrate 3 years of craft beer in the Ozarks with you in just two weeks!

3rd aleiversary


The All True Story of Piney River’s First Trip to the GABF

In The Beer on October 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm

There’s a really good chance you know how this story ends. But beyond the official photo and press release, you really need to know the whole story.

Brian and I decided that we were going to attend the GABF (Great American Beer Festival) this year. We wanted the opportunity to enter our beer in a national competition—mostly to see what kind of feedback we would receive. We have two brewers that are new to brewing and to the industry—Lucas joined our team in January and Amber joined our team in April. We wanted them to get their first taste of “the industry” of brewing, and heck, Brian and I always enjoy hanging with “our people”.

We left Bucyrus as 4 a.m. on Wednesday. There was a lot of talk about sleeping on the drive to Denver, but there was very little sleeping done. We were all too keyed up to sleep. There were soybean fields, corn fields, rolling Kansas hills, a big tom turkey standing on the edge of a cornfield, the world’s largest prairie dog….

We got to Denver, settled in to our hotel rooms and went to a special event at Wynkoop for the GABF attendees. There were some great beers on tap, yummy food, and our St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the NLCS.

Cardinals advance to NLCS.  Surly Pentagram.  Hanging with your peeps at a private party at Wynkoop.  #winning

Cardinals advance to NLCS. Surly Pentagram. Hanging with your peeps at a private party at Wynkoop. #winning

We made our way to Star Bar for a few beers, and Brian and I finally went back to our hotel around 1. Lucas and Amber closed the place down. So much for starting the day at 4 a.m.

On Thursday we drove up to Fort Collins to a VIP event at New Belgium—such a great place with awesome co-workers that really care about taking care of fellow brewers.


We stopped in at Odell where a friend showed us the brand spankin’ new brew house and tap room expansion. Odell Brewing, a family-owned business that started on a kitchen stove, is SUCH an inspiration. (Thanks again, Lynsey!)

Thursday night was our first session at GABF. Each session is 5 hours. I don’t know how many people are at each session, but the GABF was a sell out with 48,000 tickets. That’s a lot of people! We were pouring Black Walnut Wheat, McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, Old Tom Porter, Missouri Mule IPA and Sweet Potato Ale. We sent our beer out in advance, in kegs, and they were already set up and ready to go. I should add here that the Brewer’s Association puts on this event with the help of volunteers. The volunteers are AWESOME. They work their butts off, and everyone that helped the area we were in and at our table was spectacular. I don’t remember all their names, but they were great.

Every session opens with a bagpipe parade.

Every session opens with a bagpipe parade.

The Piney River booth.

The Piney River booth.

The Piney River Crew in the booth.

The Piney River Crew in the booth.

The GABF divides the breweries up according to region. Our booth was in between Nebraska Brewing and Budweiser (St. Louis connection). Rockbridge, Tallgrass, Springfield Brewing Company and Mothers were some of the other beers in our section. There were breweries from all over the US—a lot of representation from breweries in Colorado and California. It was neat to have beers from New Glarus, Surly, Sun King, Three Floyds, Russian River and Elysian available to sample—all under one roof. There were also some lesser known breweries (some even smaller than Piney River) with great beers to sample, too.

Our Sweet Potato Ale was a big hit from the first night. There was only one other sweet potato beer being poured, and the brewery it was from was not pouring it. It was being poured at the Craft Brewers Guild tables. On Friday evening, we had to stop pouring the Sweet Potato so we would still have some for the later sessions. We still ran out of Sweet Potato in the first session on Saturday. Then, the attendees began hitting the Black Walnut Wheat.

On Friday we traveled to Upslope in Boulder for a special event with Crown Packaging (the place we get our cans from) and Wild Goose Canning (the company that made our canning machine). The labeled Piney River cans went over better than free beer. There’s serious interest among craft brewers in finding a way to do lots of brands without purchasing lots of truck loads of cans. This little brewery in Bucyrus has found a great option for breweries that can.

The very cool Sanitas Brewing logo--a new brewery that cans which we also visited in Boulder.

The very cool Sanitas Brewing logo–a new brewery that cans which we also visited in Boulder.

Saturday morning, about 5,000 members of the industry gathered in a ballroom in the bottom of the Denver Convention Center for the Great American Beer Festival Award Ceremony. Coffee, donuts, beer, bronze, silver and gold medals were awarded for beers in 84 different categories. We entered 10 beers—the maximum number we could enter–so we had 30 chances to win a medal. The possibilities were exciting, but we felt as though we would really just get good feedback to help us learn what to do for future competitions.

The stats for the 2013 GABF competition.

The stats for the 2013 GABF competition.

I had a dream on Friday night that we won a gold medal for McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, but at the ceremony 9 of the 10 categories came and went—including Amber Ale–without a mention of Piney River. Brown Porter, the 74th category of 84 beer categories, was our final chance. Brian, Lucas and I (Amber had to go back to Missouri for a family event) were sitting on a front row in a section with a bunch of people from CA that we didn’t know. But they knew each other because they kept congratulating other CA breweries as they received awards.

The bronze award winner for Brown Porter was announced. It was not us. Down to two chances.

The silver award winner for Brown Porter was announced. It was not us. And at that point, Brian, Lucas and I felt like our medal chances were over. What first time brewery wins a gold medal at the GABF?

Chris Swersey, the emcee, began announcing, “The Gold Medal goes to Old…”

“What?!,” I was thinking. Suddenly time slowed waaay down.

“Tom…,” Swersey said.

I screamed. I was sitting between Brian and Lucas, and suddenly we were high fiving and jumping up and stumbling down the aisle to accept a GOLD medal from Charlie Papazian.

Each of us has specific memories of going to accept that medal. Brian, who remembers walking on air, was tackled by a sales person from one of our distributors. I never saw it. I was just elated, reminding myself not to run to the stage. Lucas remembers feeling a little emotional, kind of teary-eyed.

And there we were. A gold medal around Brian’s neck. The flashes of dozens of cameras. The silhouettes of thousands of people looking back at us on that brightly lit stage. I never saw the red carpet, but Brian said one was there.

I had to snap a photo of all those people looking back at us.

I had to snap a photo of all those people looking back at us.

Piney River Brewing received their gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony held in Denver on Saturday morning.  Shown here, left to right:  Lucas Clem, brewer; Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association; Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder and original keg washing queen. Not present, Amber Powell, brewer.

Piney River Brewing received their gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony held in Denver on Saturday morning. Shown here, left to right: Lucas Clem, brewer; Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association; Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder and original keg washing queen. Not present, Amber Powell, brewer.

As soon as we walked off the stage, I gave Brian a GIANT hug. I remember thinking, “All that work. All the sacrifices. All days where we went to bed and got up to go to our day jobs in the same day.” I was so proud of Brian. I was so proud of Piney River. And then I started shaking.

I couldn't take a decent photo because I was shaking!

I couldn’t take a decent photo because I was shaking!

Lucas, Brian and I went to get a beer, but the beer stations were dry!!! (We need to time our medal winning a little better.) None of us really remember any of the last 9 award recipients. I was sending texts, tweeting and posting information online. Brian was texting our distributors. Lucas was texting Amber and his family.

By the time we were upstairs in the convention hall, the winners had been announced. Piney River’s booth was a non-stop sea of people. Yes, they were interested in Sweet Potato and Black Walnut, but many people just wanted to try Old Tom Porter. The story of Old Tom Porter would never be the same.

Later that afternoon, one of the judges of the brown porter competition stopped by to say how much they enjoyed our Old Tom Porter, and that even after the judging they finished drinking it. Another judge told us that gold medals only go to technically excellent beers. Brian realized that he no longer cared that he didn’t have formal brewing training and started Piney River as a homebrewer. Just like Paul Gatza from the Brewer’s Association said–when you’ve got a GABF medal around your neck, you can run through walls.

The winning entries ran inside the hall all day on Saturday.  I managed to snap a photo of the screen showing our category.

The winning entries ran inside the hall all day on Saturday. I managed to snap a photo of the screen showing our category.

Our first Piney River toast with our Gold medal winning Old Tom Porter.

Our first Piney River toast with our Gold medal winning Old Tom Porter.

We ended Saturday at the GABF with celebratory beers at Star Bar. It seemed like a good place to round out one of the most amazing days of our lives. On the ride home, I studied the corn fields, hoping to see another old tom. Old Tom didn’t need to make a second appearance. One was all we needed.


Bucyrus, Missouri–A Craft Beer Town

In The BARn on February 15, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Bucyrus.  Pronounced “Bue-sigh-russ”.  I know.  It doesn’t look like that.

Bucyrus is little more than a postal code.  In fact, Bucyrus is one of the rural post office towns that’s on the post office chopping block.  But we’ll get to keep our name.

A whole bunch of good people live in Bucyrus.  I imagine that every single resident of Bucyrus has had the distinct pleasure of giving someone we don’t know our zip code for a town look up only to receive complete silence while they try to figure out how to pronounce the town that just popped up.

At Piney River Brewing Company, we’re pretty proud to brew in Bucyrus.  You may have noticed that right on the front of our cans, we’ve written “Canned & Brewed in Bucyrus, Missouri”.  Our kegs have “Bucyrus, MO” embossed in the stainless steel.  It’s all good here in Bucyrus.

However, a name change was suggested today for Bucyrus.  The new name reflects the current activities in our tiny Missouri town:

Personally, we can’t help but love the idea.

What do you think?