There was some really, really big news over the weekend that we haven’t adequately recognized here. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. won a Silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for its Emancipator Doppelbock. The Gold medal went to the Sam Adams Cincinnati brewery for their Imperial Double Bock. For the moment, at least, Cincinnati is where you want to be if you want a Doppelbock.
Winning a medal at GABF is mind-bogglingly hard. It’s a huge competition, and being an excellent beer is only one (albeit the most important) criteria. It’s a competition that rewards strict adherence to style (and the styles shift a little every year). You have to get your beer to Denver in good shape. Heck, you have to make sure you are even able to get your beer entered since there’s a set number of entrants allowed. To win at GABF is really threading the needle. You have to be good, but things also have to break your way. That’s why it’s perfectly justified to be really, really happy if you win, but you shouldn’t get down on yourself too much if you don’t. You’ll never know who came in fourth, after all.
I’m personally very happy for Moerlein’s success at GABF. Don’t get me wrong: It would have been awesome if Listermann/Triple Digit, MadTree, Rhinegeist, or Rivertown had won a medal or two. It would have been fantastic. But I don’t think there’s a brewery in town that elicits such strong negative feelings among a vocal minority as Moerlein does. By writing something about them that doesn’t accuse them of abusing kittens or something, I have guaranteed that I will get attacked by people saying I’m a fan boy at best and ignoring all manner of evil at worst. Or maybe I won’t. I suspect a lot of the people who are really vocal about how much they hate Christian Moerlein and how it somehow represents All-that-is-Evil-in-the-World-of-Beer™ gave up on Hoperatives a long time ago.1
Now I’m definitely not saying that if you don’t like one or another of Moerlein’s beers you’re some sort of froth-mouthed hater. No, I’m talking about a particularly virulent bias that defies logic. It’s a bigotry that has far more to do with potty-training issues than beer. People have different tastes. You can’t do anything special if all you’re trying to do is not offend someone, after all, so it’s inevitable that any brewery will make beer some folks don’t like. Or maybe you don’t like the styles Moerlein makes as well as you like ones from other breweries. That doesn’t make you a hater in any sense of the word. And if there’s stuff they make that you don’t care for and they come out with something new, it’s only natural you might hold them to a different standard than a brewery you’re not as familiar with. Again, that’s just being a normal human being. Not what I’m talking about.
There’s one other reason you might be a little hesitant about Moerlein beers that doesn’t make you a hater. There were real problems with quality control back in the contract-brewing days. No one was happy about it (and I personally saw folks from the brewery be very unhappy about it). But those days are over. Today, everything that says Christian Moerlein is being brewed and bottled here in town by people you can go to the breweies and talk to. And they make beer there that’s good enough to win an award at a competition where it’s very hard to win an award. It’s not for me or anyone to tell you what beer you ought to enjoy, but I would like to suggest that if it’s been a while since you tried Moerlein, you might want to give it another try. I can especially recommend the Doppelbock . I hear good things about it.
Of course, Moerlein got the Silver. The folks down the street at Sam Adams got the Gold in that category. Lord knows if Cincinnati were trying to describe its relationship with Samuel Adams on Facebook, the listing would definitely be “it’s complicated.” But what’s not complicated is that folks who go to the same bars you do and shop at the same Krogers and fight the same traffic you do won a Gold Medal for making a fine beer just off Central Parkway. I’m very happy that they’re getting that recognition. It’s well-deserved.
So congratulations to the teams at Christian Moerlein and Sam Adams Cincinnati. You’ve done us proud.
1 And if you haven’t, is there anything I can say that will make you go away? Please?