Jan. 7, 2020 | Varietal Beer Company

From left: Varietal Beer Company owners Chris Baum, Chad Roberts and John Cope share a laugh Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, at 416 E. Edison Ave. in Sunnyside, Wash. Not pictured: Karl Vanevenhoven and David Paulson. The group of owners opened their tap room doors in April 2018.

Seattle’s Cloudburst Brewing has been crowned “The Brewery and Brewer of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, one of the nation’s most prestigious beer honors.

Cloudburst Brewing, with a staff of only seven full-time employees, won in the small brewery category (defined as a business brewing 1,001 to 2,000 barrels annually). The Seattle brewery has a small market reach with about 95% of its beers sold within the city limits, much of it out of its tasting rooms north of Pike Place Market and in Ballard.

“It was a shock,” said owner and head brewer Steve Luke, who found out about the honor over the weekend. “It’s something you always dream of, but it’s so hard to get.”

Steve Luke of Cloudburst Brewing

Steve Luke of Cloudburst Brewing smells organic Simcoe hops in the kiln at Perrault Farms in Toppenish in 2018. Luke and Cloudburst Brewing have been named the 2021 Brewery and Brewer of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

The judges cited Luke and his lead brewer, Zach Kornfeld, but didn’t comment on the scoring system or the beers that led to the big win. However, Cloudburst is known for brewing some of the most creative hoppy ales in the Northwest.

It’s the biggest honor for Cloudburst since Luke was named a James Beard semifinalist for “Outstanding Wine, Beer or Spirits Producer” in 2020.

The celebration was short-lived as Luke and his staff scrambled to head to Yakima last week to pick up hops to make its signature fresh brews, which often sell out fast. The latest award surely will make Luke’s IPAs sell out even faster and his tasting rooms will likely be even more crowded in the coming weeks.

At the Great American Beer Festival, Washington state took home 22 medals, mostly for breweries in Seattle and Bellingham. Varietal Beer Co. of Sunnyside earned a silver medal for its Sup Cuz IPA.

The Washington winners:

  • Stoup Brewing, silver, American Amber/Red Ale: Stoup NW Red
  • Cloudburst Brewing, silver, American Pilsner: Happy Little Clouds
  • Stoup Brewing, silver, America-Style Pale Ale: Mosaic Pale Ale
  • The Good Society, gold, Belgian-Style Table Beer or Belgian Style Session Ale: First to Fall
  • Reuben’s Brews, bronze, Belgian-Style Witbier: Lilywhite Wit
  • Chainline Brewing Co., silver, Bohemian-Style Pilsner: Polaris Pilsner
  • Lowercase Brewing, silver, English-Style Brown Ale: Brown Ale
  • Mirage Beer Co., silver, Field Beer: Versatile Solutions for Modern Living
  • Aslan Brewing Co., gold, German Sour Ale: Disco Lemonade
  • Kulshan Brewing Co., silver, German Sour Ale: Gose
  • Chuckanut Brewery, gold, German Style Kolsch: Kolsch
  • Ghostfish Brewing Co., gold, Gluten-Free Beer: Watchstander Stout
  • San Juan Island Brewing Co., bronze, International Dark Lager: The Late Boat Czech-Style Dark Lager
  • , silver, Juicy or Hazy Strong Pale Ale: Sup Cuz IPA
  • Cloudburst Brewing, gold, Kellerbier or Zwickelbier: Entschuldigung!
  • Grains of Wrath Brewing, gold, Munich-Style Helles: Frost Hammer Helles
  • Kulshan Brewing, bronze, Munich-Style Helles: Helles
  • Fremont Brewing, silver, Old Ale or Strong Ale or Barley Wine: Brew 4000
  • Silver City Brewery, bronze, Old Ale or Strong Ale or Barley Wine: Old Scrooge
  • Elysian Brewing, gold, Pumpkin Beer: Night Owl
  • Loowit Brewing Co., bronze, Robust Porter: Grimlock
  • Grains of Wrath Brewing, bronze, Session India Pale Ale: Ticklish Warrior

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