On the last day of the 2016 Great American Beer Festival, the vibe inside the Bellco Theatre was subdued. Halfway through the awards ceremony, the packed house of industry representatives pushed through their hangovers to offer applause for their award-winning brethren. But the mood changed the moment the winner of the Session IPA category was announced: out of 118 entries, Cannonball Creek Brewing Company‘s Trump Hands Session IPA emerged as the victor, and the crowd erupted with laughter and raucous cheers.
It wasn’t the Golden brewery’s only win of the day—heck, it wasn’t even the brewery’s first GABF award. Since opening in 2013, Cannonball Creek has been making a name for itself thanks to much more than its witty beer names; it’s racked up six GABF medals and a dedicated fan base to match. We caught up with Cannonball Creek co-owners and long-time brewers, Jason Stengl and Brian Hutchinson, to talk about their seven-barrel brew house, Trump Hands’ success, and what’s coming up on tap for the popular Colorado brewery.
5280: Trump Hands is such a great name for a beer. What’s the story there?
Brian Hutchinson: We hadn’t made a session IPA before because, as a brewer, I always questioned making one when I could just make a good pale ale. I’ve always thought pale ales were better. But I had a couple of good session IPAs when I was in San Diego doing a collaboration beer with Pizza Port. I came home and started working on one, and we were pretty happy with it. In fact, this is one of the few beers that we didn’t change much after the first go around. Then, as is always the case, we had the beer in the tank but no name for it. We were trying to think of something small to name it after since it’s the smallest beer, ABV-wise, that we’ve ever brewed.
Jason Stengl: It just happened to be right at the time when certain current events were happening… and Trump Hands turned out to be the top beer we poured at this year’s fest.
With a win for Trump Hands and a gold medal for the Solid Gold Belgian Golden Ale, your total GABF medal count is up to six. It also continues your streak of winning a medal at the fest every year since you opened. What does that mean to you guys?
BH: Competition isn’t everything, but we put a lot of work into this stuff—it’s really all we do. To know that other people recognize in our beer the quality we’re shooting for is awesome.
JS: We’re proud and feel very fortunate about winning again. It also shows that our products are consistent.
Currently, the only way to get a taste of Cannonball Creek beer is to visit the brewery. Any plans for expansion or packaging in the near future?
BH: No, we don’t really have any concrete plans for packaging or expansion. There are a lot of things that we still want to work on in this space. As we grow maybe our interests will change but nobody is going to force us to grow. We’re very happy and grateful that we’re busy all the time—recognition helps facilitate that—but we’re not going to hit a level where suddenly, whether we like it or not, we have to be something else.
JS: We’re fortunate that we get to make the decisions, and that we’re busy enough to be selling everything we make right now.
Can you give us a sneak peak at any special new beers on the horizon?
BH: We’re always doing new stuff. At this time of year, we’re getting excited about the bigger, maltier styles. Our annual Belgian Dubbel, called Chain Shot Abbey Ale, comes out soon. We also just brewed an Imperial Almond Chocolate Stout that’s 11 percent ABV and barrel-aged. I’m also on a mission to make a better Imperial IPA, so I think you’ll probably see more of those from us in the future.
JS: Our anniversary party is coming up on January 21; we’ll be celebrating four years. We’ll have an anniversary beer and a bunch of specialty tappings. Stay tuned to our website for more details.
393 N. Washington Ave., Golden, 303-278-0111