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Claremont Craft Ales brings home gold

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

It may not be the world’s greatest winning streak, but for Claremont’s only brewery it’s “lager than life,” as Claremont Craft Ales brings home medals from the Great American Beer Festival for the fourth consecutive year.

The folks at CCA brought home two gold medals in 2020 with Happy Days winning in the strong red ale category and Pepper & Peaches in experimental India pale ale. This is the second gold for Happy Days, which took the top honor in 2018, while last year they won a gold for Station 101, and in 2017 brought home a bronze for their Jacaranda IPA.

“Only 27 breweries won more than one medal and we are one of two breweries that received two gold medals! Also, we are in a group of only 13 breweries in the country that has that kind of winning streak,” co-owner Natalie Seffer told the COURIER.

Claremont Craft Ales opened in 2012, with four co-owners: Ms. Seffer, her husband Brian Seffer, Emily Moultrie and her husband Simon Brown. CCA is currently open on Saturdays 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. for patio dining or curbside pickup from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Some varieties of their beer can be purchased at local retailers including Claremont’s Trader Joe’s.

Mr. Brown says that Pepper & Peaches is the most unique beer that CCA makes, with a unusual combination of peppercorns and peaches infused into a bitter hop-forward beer. “It sounds weird, but it totally works, and because of that, this beer is one our most acclaimed and sought-after beers,” he said.

It’s hard to come up with a truly unique IPA because the market is flooded with that style. Pepper & Peaches was initially made for the brewery’s second anniversary party but has since become one of the best-selling beers and the one CCA gets the most press about.

“The original idea for the beer was the brainchild of our tasting room manager, Nicole Christman. She is an expert in herbs and botanicals, and she has a good intuition for what flavor combinations work well with each other,” Mr. Brown said.

Happy Days is a labor of love for CCA’s head brewer and co-owner, Mr. Seffer. Originally brewed when he was still a homebrewer, this beer has gone through numerous tweaks and improvements to bring it to where it is today—CCA’s most decorated beer.

“There is a lot of luck in winning a medal at GABF since there are so many entries and a constantly rotating panel of judges, so when the same beer wins GOLD multiple times, it really means that it rises above just ‘luck’ and really is a world-class beer. We are incredibly proud of this one,” Mr. Brown said.

The usual three-day beer festival in Denver was cancelled this year but the Brewers Association still held the competition with socially distanced judging taking place in 35 sessions over 18 days. The awards ceremony was held virtually last Friday evening, kicking off the two-day online programming portion of the Great American Beer Festival, according to a news release from the Brewers Association.

Judges for the 34th annual competition evaluated 8,806 entries from 1,720 breweries from all 50 states and Washington D.C. They awarded 272 medals to 240 breweries in 91 categories covering 170 different beer styles.

“This year’s GABF competition may have looked a little different, but the beers entered into the competition were as impressive and innovative as ever,” said Chris Swersey, competition manager for the Great American Beer Festival. “This has arguably been one of the most challenging years breweries have ever faced, so we hope these awards serve as a symbol not only of brewing excellence but also the resiliency of the craft brewing community as a whole.”

Asked about the brewery’s continuing winning streak, Mr. Brown admits it is still a bit of a shock.

“Frankly, I still don’t believe it, he said. “We think of ourselves as a tiny local brewery that’s still making it up as we go along. It doesn’t seem real that we are one of only a dozen breweries in the whole country with a 4-year winning streak. I’m incredibly proud of what that implies about the quality and consistency of our product, but I’m still wrapping my head around it personally. Regardless, we’re not going to sit back and relax after this streak. We’re going to keep pushing quality forward and shoot for 5, 6, and 7 years in a row!”

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