Two Greater Cincinnati breweries walked out of the largest commercial craft beer competition in the world with gold medals this past weekend.
Brink Brewing in College Hill and Third Eye Brewing in Sharonville brought home the gold from the Great American Beer Festival. Mason-based Sonder Brewing scored its first GABF medal, as well, taking bronze in the wood- or barrel-aged sour beer category with French 75, a gin barrel-aged wild ale.
Brink struck gold with Father G’s Bees Honey Brown Ale, which was deemed the bee’s knees among the honey beers at GABF.
Third Eye Brewing’s Higher Purpose Milk Stout earned its first GABF gold medal in the sweet stout/cream stout category, which was won in each of the previous three years by Brink's Moozie Milk Stout. Higher Purpose also won gold in the U.S. Open Beer Championship just a week prior.
Higher Purpose is known as the “Maya beer” at Third Eye. Third Eye co-founders Tom and Bonnie Collins lost their daughter, Maya, to leukemia after a 6 ½ year battle in 2017. Of each purchase of Higher Purpose, 10% goes to the Live Like Maya Foundation, which is dedicated to funding pediatric cancer research, providing financial assistance to families of children battling cancer and continuing Maya's legacy of fostering kindness and goodwill within the community.
Maya would have turned 18 on Sunday, Sept. 12, Bonnie Collins wrote on her Facebook blog, the Brewery Wife. Higher Purpose will be put back on tap Saturday when Third Eye holds a fundraiser for the Live Like Maya Foundation.
“How perfect that [Higher Purpose] won two gold [medals] during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Maya’s birthday weekend,” Bonnie Collins wrote. “Coincidence? I think not!”
It’s also probably not a coincidence that Third Eye Higher Purpose was the beer to end Moozie’s streak, considering Brink co-owner and former head brewer Kelly Montgomery – who wrote the Moozie recipe – is now a co-owner and brewer at Third Eye.
The rivalry between Brink and Third Eye is a friendly one, though. Brink founder and COO Andy McCleese said he shared a Higher Purpose with Montgomery ahead of this year’s GABF.
But ending the Moozie streak didn’t end Brink’s hot streak. Brink has won at least one gold medal every year at GABF since its founding in 2017, including back-to-back wins for best Very Small Brewery in 2018 and 2019.
Father G’s Bees was the beer McCleese felt the most confident in among the brewery’s GABF entries. The beer evolved from Brink Brown, one of the brewery’s original beers.
Brink’s honey brown ale – which is made with honey purchased from Father George Jacquemin at nearby St. Clare Parish – has been tweaked over time by head brewer Drew Piller and the Brink team into what it is today, McCleese said.
“We finally nailed that beer and probably don’t need to tinker with it anymore,” McCleese said.
Unfortunately, Father G’s Bees will not be on draft at Brink for a few months. The last keg of the current batch will be taken off and sent to judges at the Ohio Craft Beer Cup, McCleese said. The beer is somewhat seasonal because of the local honey component, and is normally made three or four times per year, he said.
“It’s going to be on a lot more going forward,” McCleese said. “Now everyone is gonna want it, and of course we’re out of it.”
Sounds like it’ll be worth the wait, though. Oh, and McCleese also teased that a Brink-Third Eye collaboration brew will be coming soon, as well, which will be a golden opportunity for both breweries to shine side-by-side.