As the once-bartender and brewmaster, respectively, of Telluride’s first brewpub, the duo would often daydream about opening their own brewery. Perhaps someday, they mused, that brewery would help them come to the end of their arduous pursuit of beer perfection.
When their Telluride Brewing Company opened to accolades last summer, Fish and Thacher finally realized an important first step in achieving that long-held beer dream. But even they were surprised when, earlier this month, the world’s preeminent beer authority awarded one of their seven-month-old progeny’s brews a World Beer Cup gold medal – essentially deeming their Face Down Brown the zenith of American Style Brown Ales.
As a nascent brewing company, head brewer Fish admits he was floored when his company’s name was announced at the World Beer Cup’s awards ceremony May 5 in San Diego.
“I felt good about our beers, of course,” he says. “But as a seven-month-old company just getting started, I didn’t expect to win.”
The World Beer Cup Gold medal sat on the Lawson Hill brewery’s tasting bar last week, all the distinction of such a prestigious award manifest in its embossed gold insignia; meanwhile, its winners couldn’t disguise their elation at its presence in their still-developing establishment.
Crafting what an internationally touted panel of judges deems as the best beer of its style in the world is, after all, a pretty heady accomplishment.
“For us, this is as big as it gets,” Thacher said of winning the gold for TBC’s Face Down Brown, which Fish describes as a well-balanced American-style brown “hybrid” blending American and English malt and hops.
The ninth bi-annual World Beer Cup, deemed the “Olympics of beer competition,” drew 799 breweries from 54 countries and 45 U.S. states, with 3,921 beers entered in 95 beer style categories.
"A brewer who wins a World Beer Cup gold award knows that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world,” said Brewers Association president Charlie Papazian in a press release.
Although gaining industry-wide recognition as the brewer of the best American-style brown in the world came as a bit of a shock to TBC’s Fish, those who have been tasting his wares throughout his past eight years in Telluride know Fish as an accomplished brewer.
He won both a Gold (2005) and Bronze (2003) prize at the largest judged beer festival in the world, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, for beers he crafted for Telluride’s Smuggler’s Brewpub.
Although winning the award effectively puts TBC on the beer connoisseur’s map, Thacher and Fish’s shared pursuit of beer perfection is far from over. The ever-humble business partners, who are also partners with Telluride’s Brian Gavin, maintain that the World Beer Cup gold say there is a lot more on the horizon for Telluride’s home-bred brewery.
TBC will ramp up its current distribution to Montrose and Durango this summer, and anticipate upgrading from their present hand-canning equipment to a fully automated canner sometime soon. TBC will sponsor the upcoming Mountainfilm Festival, then will head out for a long summer of traveling to beer festivals across the country – with their gold medal-winning Face Down Brown in hand, of course.
“It validates our mission and the beer that we’re making,” Thacher says of winning the World Beer Cup medal. “But it’s not the end-all, be all for this company,” Fish adds.
The Telluride Brewing Company sells cans, growlers, and kegs at its Lawson Hill brewery and Tasting Room, which is open Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. TBC canned beer is also available at liquor stores in Telluride, Montrose, and Durango.