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CCA puts Claremont on the map with a perfect pint

Claremont Craft Ales’ Happy Days was one of just 102 beers out of nearly 8,500 entered to win a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, held last week in Denver, Colorado. The city’s namesake brewery won in the imperial red ale category.

“It feels so good,” CCA co-owner Emily Moultrie said. “It really is like winning the Oscars of beer.”

Indeed, the Great American Beer Festival is widely considered the preeminent beer festival in the world. Claremont Craft Ales won its first GABF award last year, when its Jacaranda IPA took home a bronze.

“It feels a little bit better than bronze,” said CCA’s head brewer and co-owner Brian Seffer. “It was a very, very good day.”

Rancho Cucamonga’s No Clue Craft Brewery also took home a gold for its Belgian Honey Blonde, which won in the honey beer category.

About 2,400 breweries took part in this year’s GABF, which has been celebrating the best in independent beer making since 1982. It awards three prizes—gold, silver and bronze—in 102 categories, including well known brews like India pale ale, as well as specialized fare such as fruited wood and barrel-aged sour beer.

Claremont Craft Ales, which is owned by Ms. Moultrie, her husband Simon Brown, Mr. Seffer and his wife, Natalie Seffer, has been competing in the GABF since the quartet opened their  doors in 2012. Happy Days has been entered before, but the iteration that won this time has been tweaked over the years by its creator, Mr. Seffer. “I’m just constantly trying to improve it,” he said. “It’s been an evolution for years.”

“He’s worked so hard, and he’s known that this is an award-winning beer, and it’s just so lovely to see him get that recognition for a recipe that he’s really believed in for a long time,” Ms. Moultrie said.

Now that Happy Days has won the gold, its days as a work in progress are over. “I’m not touching this one now,” Mr. Seffer said.

When CCA opened it had no employees and featured six beers on tap. “We had no staff,” Mr. Seffer said. “We ran the tap room, we cleaned the toilets, we did the brewing. We did everything.” CCA ended up making between 200 and 300 barrels (a barrel is 31 gallons, equivalent to two common sized beer kegs) that first year.

Last weekend the brewery had 25 brews to choose from, counted about 15 employees, and is on track to make nearly 4,000 barrels of beer this year.

That kind of growth would be the envy of any new business, and it’s something Mr. Seffer doesn’t take for granted. “The community, our friends and our families have all supported us, and that’s the only reason we’re at where we are now,” he said.

The gold medal helps validate all the hard work that team at CCA has done over past six years, Ms. Moultrie said. “It puts us on the map in a way that other achievements, and even our own subtle achievements that we’re super proud of, don’t necessarily do on that grand scale. It’s a wonderful way to just sort of cap off all the little day-to-day hard work that everybody at the brewery does, and to be able to get celebration of and recognition for that.”

The GABF win will no doubt help solidify the CCA’s reputation as a growing force in the burgeoning craft beer business.

“It opens some doors for us, certainly, with people in the industry recognizing us and understanding that clearly we’re here on purpose and we’re here to stay,” Ms. Moultrie said. “And hopefully they know that we’re making good beer.”

Claremont Craft Ales is at 1420 N. Claremont Blvd #204c, Claremont. More information is available at claremontcraftales.com.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com