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Perry Street Brewing wins big at Great American Beer Festival

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 22, 2020

By Greg Wildermuth For The Spokesman-Review

As the busy owner and head brewer of Spokane’s Perry Street Brewing, Ben Lukes felt the opportunity to enjoy some rare downtime with his 6-month-old daughter last Friday afternoon was preferable to watching the internet livestream of the 2020 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony despite the fact he and co-brewer David Lange submitted beers for judgment.

“We’ve been through this enough to not expect anything. It’s just such an intense competition, and the scope is so huge,” Lukes said.

So when his phone starting going “nuclear,” he figured something was up. That something turned out to be a gold medal in the American IPA category for Perry Street’s flagship IPA.

First held in 1982, the Great American Beer Festival regularly attracts more than 800 American breweries and more than 50,000 beer fanatics to Denver in early October. Although the COVID-19 pandemic relegated the festivities to the internet this year, the brewing competition was just as fierce.

Judges rated thousands of entries spread over more than 100 style categories. It is no easy task to earn a medal in even the smallest categories, and with 355 beers, the American IPA category was the second largest in the competition this year. Perry Street is no stranger to GABF, having earned a gold medal in the smaller session category for its session IPL in 2016.

The hop-forward American IPA is probably the beer style most closely associated with the Pacific Northwest. It was one of the first styles to break through in the early days of the craft beer renaissance throughout the 1980s and ’90s largely because it was so different than the mass-produced lagers that had become ubiquitous in the United States since the 1950s.

This history made the win that much sweeter for Lukes.

“The best and most dynamic hops in the world are grown right here in our backyard (the Yakima Valley), and the Pacific Northwest has celebrated this style from its inception,” he said. “We’ve worked hard on (our IPA) and went in thinking we had as good a shot as anyone.”

The gold medal, while an amazing achievement, also has led to some unforeseen challenges for a brewery the size of Perry Street. It has limited distribution of kegs to a few local partner restaurants and does not do any bottling or canning of its beer. That means the place you can most easily grab a pint of the IPA is its taproom at 1025 S. Perry St.

Unfortunately, because of limited brewing capacity and tap space, the beer was not available in-house when the awards were announced.

“It turns out not having the beer available might actually be our good luck charm,” Lukes said as its 2016 award winner was not on tap when it won, either.

Lukes expects to have his new award winner back and pouring this weekend, so the entire Inland Northwest beer community can celebrate the win.

“We feel lucky to be a part of such a vibrant scene and are fired up we can bring some recognition to the Inland Northwest. Since we opened in 2014, the craft beer and restaurant scene in Spokane has exploded with so many talented entrepreneurs. We love where it’s headed and feel like this is just the start.”

New breweries on the horizon

Although the pandemic has changed a lot of plans this year, several new brewing projects are moving forward this fall and winter.

As the owner and brewer of Paramour Brewing, Anthony Patterson has been hitting the pavement to get his beer out to the community. Although a physical taproom is in the planning stages, Patterson is distributing kegs of his beer to local beer bars and has hosted several “meet the brewer” events to introduce himself and his beer. Look for it on tap in places throughout Spokane. For more information, visit paramourbrewing.com.

As previously reported in The Spokesman-Review, Four Eyed Guys Brewing is opening a new taproom and brewing facility at 910 W. Indiana Ave. Owners Alex and Hillary Rausch have been brewing and distributing beer in the Spokane area since 2017. They are aiming for a late fall or early winter grand opening.

A current member of the Steel Barrel brewery incubator, Golden Handle Project is opening a new taproom at 111 S. Cedar St. in the West Spokane brewery district. Since its founding approximately a year ago as a “social purpose organization,” owners Tim Stoltz and Jason Gerstner have been donating a portion of all proceeds to organizations doing research into neurodegenerative diseases like ALS and Alzheimer’s in the Pacific Northwest. No firm date has been announced, but further details can be found at goldenhandle.org.

Find more beer news by Wildermuth at 509beerblog.com.

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