Copper Kettle co-owner Kristen Kozik on GABF judges, award-winning beers and kick-ass sours
Copper Kettle Brewing had only been open five months when it won a gold medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival for its Mexican Chocolate Stout. Owners Kristen Kozik and Jeremy Gobien were ecstatic, but they didn't let the honor go to their heads. Instead, they've been turning out new beers all year, and a steady stream of new and old customers has allowed them toexpand their brewing capacity twice.
Kristen Kozik and Jeremy Gobien after their GABF victory.
As part of our series of beery Q&As this week, we talked with Kozik about her win and got some advice for other breweries.
Westword: What advice would you give an out-of-town beer tourist visiting Denver for the first time for GABF?
Kristen Kozik: Just do one night at GABF, and then focus on the smaller breweries or local beer bars to get more of an intimate feel for what Denver has to offer in the craft beer industry. There are events all over Denver beyond GABF. Maybe walk around GABF, writing down what you do like and don't like from breweries, especially in the Rocky Mountain region; then try going to those places for the remainder of your days here, as most breweries have special offers during this time anyway, and you might get some one-off that you normally wouldn't get.
What advice would you give a local who wants to enjoy their own city during GABF?
Determine what they like from craft beer week. Do they want to hit sours, IPAs, wood-aged? Do they want to hit breweries or beer bars that they haven't had a chance to see yet? Focus on what they want to experience that week and go from there. I think people have to have an agenda, though, because there is so much going on.
What advice would you give to a brewery entering their beers into the judging for the first time?
Set the bar high, but don't let yourself get disappointed if you don't win anything. There are some amazing breweries and beers out there, but just because you have a great beer doesn't mean that it will judge well. The point of GABF, to some extent for local breweries in the Denver area, is to gain exposure. We have gained some full-time regulars who found out about us solely from GABF. We even have customers who come to see us for the first time almost a year later after trying our Mexican Chocolate Stout from 2011. If your beer stands out to them at the booth, they will check you out further and support your brewery. Point being, you don't need to have a medal on your wall to have great beer. Also, take the advice that they give you once you get your notes back. Don't get a big head and clamp down on chance. If there is something that really stands out with all of the judges that was "wrong" with your beer, then perhaps make the change. They might be right.