For the second straight year, Sheridan’s Black Tooth Brewery was awarded a gold medal, this time in the 2014 World Beer Cup. This is a big deal as some 4,714 beers were entered from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries worldwide.
All of this was in Denver last week with some 9,000 people attending in the Hyatt Regency Hotel in LoDo. The competition was held in conjunction with the Craft Brewing Conference — part trade show, part training, part networking, part competition and if you win, part celebration.
Black Tooth Brewery owners Tim Barnes and Travis Zeilstra were honored for winning the Wood-and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer category that featured 111 entries. The name of the winning beer: 1314 Anniversary, a nod to the 13,014 feet elevation of Black Tooth peak in the Bighorns.
A year ago, Black Tooth won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival that was also held in Denver and featured a global field. Their entry was the Black Eagle Porter. In all, Black Tooth has received 28 medals for excellence.
The event certainly had a worldwide flavor and would test a geography geek of the highest level. For example, there were 249 entries from Germany, 80 from Australia, 69 from the United Kingdom, 3,402 from the United States and single entries from Malta, Slovakia, Haiti and Swaziland. The number of entries to the competition has wildly grown from 1,173 beers in 2002 to this year’s total. There were 34 entries from Wyoming with three other Wyoming breweries from Jackson, Pinedale and Laramie medaling. The growth of local breweries is well known. To date, there are more than 2,700 nationally; some 700 opened up last year.
“Winning a medal is part of what drives you, to be measured against your peers,” Barnes said. “There’s a good mark on your brand when you succeed. There’s credibility that your beer stands out against the best.” He said, too, that the judging is rigorous — multiple rounds of a blind-numbered draw tastings with judges that are certified or are recognized brewers themselves. His partner, Zeilstra, has been a judge at GABF.
The story of Black Tooth’s growth is a good one. There were zero barrels brewed in 2010. In 2011, that number grew to 965 barrels, to 1,370 barrels in 2012 and to more than 2,100 barrels last year. It’s the second largest brewery in the state. Snake River Brewery in Jackson sells the most, 7,500 barrels annually. That brewery has been in business 20 years. “They’ve been medaled often. It’s a good company,” Barnes added.
He said Tuesday morning more expansion is planned; specifics coming later in the year. Black Tooth has some 116 tap handles throughout Wyoming, like the three at Applebee’s in Casper. Locally, Black Tooth has eight beers on tap and provides four “seasonals” as well – lighter beer in the summer, stouts and heavier brew in the winter. In all, some 30 distinctive beers have been brewed and served since the doors opened in November 2010. The brewery is housed in the former Pohl Motor Co. building. Black Tooth has become one of those downtown “anchor” businesses that attract natives, newcomers and tourists alike to our historical downtown.
There’s a notable distinction between a brewery and brewpub, which I asked Barnes to clarify. A brewpub sells 25 percent or more of their beer on site with food.
Black Tooth is “the model we wanted to create and build upon, a brewery,” he said. “We’re not a restaurant, though we continually invite food trucks to stop in and around our brewery. This summer, there will be a variety of food trucks which will compliment live music that we’ll have on the patio.”
It’s a Sheridan success story for sure — rich in entrepreneurship, pride and a devoted customer base.