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State Fair victories at beer competition can give breweries a boost

How the California State Fair can launch a brewery

Darrell Amerine, director of the California State Fair beer competition, explains how success at the fair helps a young brewery increase sales and expand its reputation.
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Darrell Amerine, director of the California State Fair beer competition, explains how success at the fair helps a young brewery increase sales and expand its reputation.

You don’t actually have to win a gold medal at the California State Fair Commercial Beer Competition to win big.

Just ask newly opened Tilted Mash Brewing in Elk Grove. Its Summer In the Grove pale ale received a surprise third place in the highly competitive “Pale Ale” category.

That kind of recognition will give the fledgling brewery instant credibility and increase demand for the beer.

Tilted Mash also entered its cream ale and double India pale ale in the competition. With 1,200-plus entries from the best breweries in the state, Tilted Mash was looking to get some helpful feedback from the judges and see where it stacked up against far more established breweries.

The judges taste all entries blindly and jot down their impressions on their score sheets so the brewers can get a sense of what went right and wrong.

Tilted Mash co-owner Derrick Prasad got far more than he bargained for.

“I was absolutely ecstatic,” he said. “To be recognized by the judges in a blind test is overwhelming for someone like us.”

Tilted Mash will be one of many breweries from the competition that will be pouring at the Best of California Brewfest at the State Fair on July 16. Tickets are $35 in advance for general admission and $45 for VIP. Also in the contest, ol’ Republic Brewing in Nevada City won Best of Show with its Dortmunder export, a lesser known style the brewery is hoping will catch on with new craft beer fans. The beer, called Dead Canary, will be available at the beer garden at Cal Expo for the duration of the fair.

Tilted Mash was quick to blast the good news about Summer In The Grove through its social media channels. The hop-forward pale ale is already popular at the Elk Grove tasting room, but consumer interest has grown since placing third in the competition in mid-June. The State Fair competition is rising in reputation in the beer industry state- and nationwide.

“What we were looking for was to get something with a ton of of hop flavor without being a huge beer. We were trying to get a real sessionable (low alcohol), crushable pale ale,” Prasad said.

Prasad is also the owner of Allied Printing, a small commercial print shop in Sacramento. He is constantly struggling to find time to manage demand and focus on growth at Tilted Mash.

In the months ahead, Prasad plans to add staff at the brewery and gear up production to get the beers in retail stores by enlisting the services of The Can Van, a mobile canning company.

Darrell Amerine, who has run the State Fair competition the past three years, said several breweries have used their victories to accelerate growth and go on to show well in even larger competitions like the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

Redlands-based Ritual Brewing won “best of show” last year for its Fat Hog English barley wine, then used the feedback it received there to win two gold medals in the Denver competition, Amerine said. That type of recognition can make a career for top winners.

Amerine also pointed to Sacramento brewer Track 7, which won “best of show” in 2014 as a fledgling company and has since expanded to a 25,000-square-foot-plus warehouse and ships all over the state.

“We put out a lot of publicity and let people know that this is the best beer in California, and people are now going out and buying it. It’s showing that the feedback from the competition is providing growth for the breweries,” Amerine said.

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

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