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Homebrewer Tests Skills at America's Top Beer Festival

Novato's Alan Atha brewed a special batch with a veteran brewer in Farifax to take to the Great American Beer Festival and enter it in the pro-am competition.

Homebrewer Tests Skills at America's Top Beer Festival

Brewing crews from in Novato attend the Great American Beer Festival every year and are considered strong contenders for medals in the highly competitive blind tasting contests. Moylan’s has won dozens of ribbons at national and international competitions since it opened in 1995, and the team has high hopes for accolades this weekend at the festival in Denver.

However, a Novato homebrewer and entrepreneur is at the GABF as well, looking for a breakthrough. Alan Atha, who operates Beltane Brewing Co. out of his home in the downtown area, brewed a batch with veteran craft brewer Christian Kazakoff from Iron Springs Pub & Brewery in Fairfax and took the nectar to Denver. A featured aspect of GABF is the Pro-Am Competition, in which award-winning amateur craft brewers join with commercial breweries to pit their homebrew against others.

Atha, president of the Sonoma Beerocrats Homebrew Club, worked with Kazakoff on a Beltane entry called Luminesce Belgian Tripel. The effort of brewing it onsite at Iron Springs was documented by Justin Whitaker, another Beerocrats member, in this video on Vimeo.

The GABF is one of the world’s biggest events in beer — aside, perhaps, from Munich’s Oktoberfest. The event was first held in 1982 with one five-hour blind tasting session of the 24 beers entered. At this year’s three-day festival, there will be almost 18 hours of official tasting over four sessions, with 466 breweries in competition. Beers will be judged in dozens of vastly different styles, from light pilsners to hearty amber ales to super-potent barleywines.

Kazakoff has entered the competition several times and not yet come away with a coveted GABF medal. Iron Springs is entering 11 beers, which might sound like a lot but for a thriving brewpub it’s probably about average. from Healdsburg is entering 29 beers, for instance.

Other area breweries in the competition include Moylan’s, Petaluma’s and Larkspur's Marin Brewing Co. Each of them have won multiple GABF medals through the years, but Iron Springs is looking for a breakthrough.

You can watch a live stream of Saturday’s GABF awards ceremony online at noon Pacific time.

Atha said he hopes to find a permanent home for his brewing company sometime soon. Meantime, here is a rundown of the ales he’s making on a regular basis:

Rumplestiltskin Double IPA: 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. Highly hopped with Magnum, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo and Citra hops with a hidden malt background.

Black Moria Double Black IPA: 9 percent alcohol. Bitter malt up front with chocolate and coffee and then a very nicely balanced hop bitterness behind using Chinook, Amarillo and Centennial hops.

Luminescence Trippel: 10 percent alcohol. Belgian Style Triple, golden in color, very light hoppiness and beautiful yeast flavor.

Paleo/Belgo Belgian Style Pale Ale: 6 percent alcohol. Light pale color with the addition of coriander and orange.

Find Beltane Brewing on Twitter.

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