Masthead Brewing, Fat Head's Brewery, The BottleHouse win at Great American Beer Festival

Sunday, 08 October 2017, 05:38:19 AM. Three Northeast Ohio breweries won medals at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival.

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Ohio breweries - including one opened only nine months in Cleveland - kept up the state's winning ways at the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Northeast Ohio breweries earned five of the state's nine medals at the annual event, considered the Super Bowl for brewers.

Masthead Brewing Co., opened since January, earned a bronze medal in the Double Red Ale category. The BottleHouse Brewery and Meadery in Cleveland Heights entered for the first time and won a pair of medals. And Fat Head's Brewery won for an amazing ninth consecutive year.

Masthead is one of the year's biggest brewing success stories in Cleveland. Located in a cavernous 16,000 square-foot space between 12th and 13th streets on Superior Avenue, it warmed up for GABF by earning the people's-choice award at Cleveland Oktoberfest last month.

"We're pretty excited," brewer Mike Pelechaty said from Denver. "It was unbelievable, definitely a challenging category. All the hop styles are pretty well entered. We were blown away. It's definitely all we can ask for. It's an awesome first year for us."

Masthead - owned by Frank Luther, Matt Slife and Pelechaty - brought nine people to the fest, including sales director Jeff Draeger, who said the brewery has plans to can its winning beer.

The medals are announced on the final day of the three-day beer extravaganza held annually in October.

"I'm really excited; it's pretty fun," said Brian Benchek of The BottleHouse. "It's the first time we entered. We entered four beers. We're pretty happy - 50 percent."

Benchek was too busy working to head to Denver.

"I wish I had time to leave," he said. "We just packed them up and sent them off. There's so many beers, so many breweries this year, we felt like it was a crapshoot really. We had low expectations. We felt like the beers we sent were really solid."

Matt Cole of Fat Head's is someone who knows something about expectations. He has been sending beers to GABF for 15 years and has been shut out only once.

"I was on the edge of my seat for a while," he said from Denver, where Fat's Head's had brought "an army" of its employees.

"It's a testament to the hard work of the staff," Cole said. "You sit next to your peers. I'm happy to see my buddies win, they're happy to see you win."

2017 Ohio winners

Bronze - Aged Beer: There is No Quad, The BottleHouse Brewery and Meadery, Cleveland Heights.

Bronze - American-style Black Ale: Midnight Moonlight, Fat Head's Brewery, Middleburg Heights.

Bronze - American-style Fruit Beer: Elvis Juice, BrewDog Brewing Co., Canal Winchester.

Bronze - Double Red Ale: Midwest Red IPA, Masthead Brewing Co., Cleveland.

Gold - English-Style Mild Ale: Hold the Reins, Brink Brewing Co., Cincinnati.

Gold - German-style Wheat Ale: Alpenglow, Fat Head's Brewery, North Olmsted.

Bronze - Historical Beer: Spring Gruit: The BottleHouse Brewery and Meadery, Cleveland Heights.

Gold - Old Ale or Strong Ale: 10&2 Barleywine, Fifty West Brewing Co., Cincinnati.

Gold - Vienna-Style Lager: Gustav, Taft's Ale House, Cincinnati.

Last year, Ohio breweries garnered eight medals, with Fat Head's leading the way with five.

If you think beer comes in just a few different styles, consider this: Judges sipped beers in 96 different categories, from A (American-style fruit beer) to Z (Zwickelbier).

The American-style India Pale Ale category alone attracted 408 entries - the largest category ever at GABF. Brewers were allowed to enter as many as four beers.

It's clearly one of the busiest weeks this year for Northeast Ohio breweries. Many of the brewers and workers head to Denver, and upon returning have a few days to prepare for Cleveland Beer Week, which starts Friday, Oct. 13.

2016 Ohio winners at GABF

2015 Ohio winners at GABF

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