Google the word ‘Bohemian’ and you’re told it’s an adjective that means ‘having informal and unconventional social habits.”
If that’s true then Bohemian Pilsner might be the most culturally accurate style in all of craft beer.
Now read the label copy on our Torch Pilsner. (In fact, read all our label copy. We work so hard at being clever.) The last line on the Torch label says “we dig Bohemians”.
It’s true. And apparently we’re not the only ones.
On a day that saw North Carolina more than double its previous record medal total, Foothills was awarded a bronze medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival for Torch Pilsner. (NC got a total of 17 medals – the previous best was 8).
Most of you know about GABF, and many of you have probably attended. For those who aren’t as familiar… imagine you threw the greatest tailgate party ever. And the entire stadium showed up. That’s GABF.
Held every October in Denver, it’s a 3-day, 4-session, 800-brewery, 3800-different-beers marathon of bacchanalian indulgence for craft beer faithful from all over the world.
It’s also the largest beer competition in the country.
How big? This year saw more than 7,200 beers entered, evaluated by 264 judges from 12 different countries. The American IPA category alone had 312 entries.
So you can see why a medal from this competition is kind of a big deal in our world. It’s like winning a beer Emmy.
And this one is special, for a couple of reasons. One, there are 96 style categories judged at GABF. Bohemian Pilsner is one of the simplest and most basic beer styles – not to mention one of the oldest. The Czech city of Plzen was founded in 1295, and shortly thereafter the citizenry was granted the right to brew their own beer by King Wenceslas. Presumably after he looked out on the Feast of Stephen.
The first true Czech (Bohemian) Pilsner was brewed on October 5th, 1842 (174 years and 1 day before we won our medal for that style), and is still being brewed today in that same city.
It’s a style our brewmaster T.L. is quite fond of, from personal experience. True story – while T.L. was still early in his beer career, a friend from his college days at University of Tennessee got hired as the personal chef for the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic. T.L. got invited over for a visit, and spent a few weeks drinking Bohemian Pilsner at its source. His 3-word review: “I was hooked”.
Meanwhile, on a parallel Pilsner track, our owner Jamie got interested in brewing beer while attending University of Georgia. When he brewed his very first batch of beer, he and his buddies visited a comic book store for label inspiration. He saw a cover depicting the hero descending into a cave – holding a torch. The label – and the legend – were born.
In fact ‘Torch Brewing’ was one of the names considered for this place before they settled on Foothills.
Even today’s version of the label has an interesting twist to it – our label artist Kyle used his dad as inspiration for the flame-bearded Viking. Some early sketches:
Soon you’ll be able to see our new ‘beer Emmy’ hanging in our pub, alongside the other 7 we’ve won at GABF. We’re proud of it – but not as proud as we are of our state as a whole. North Carolina brought home more GABF medals this year than any state east of Colorado. More than the revered craft beer state of Washington, even.
That pride extends particularly to the three medals won by Brown Truck Brewery in High Point. Not only are they our Triad craft beer brothers, but their head brewer Ian Burnett was part of our our brewing staff before starting Brown Truck. (oh by the way Brown Truck took home Very Small Brewery of the Year honors in addition to their three medals).
Wow. Seems the North Carolina craft beer scene is burning bright. Almost like a Torch.
UPDATE: It seems 2016 was no fluke – Torch Pilsner once again won bronze in the Bohemian Pilsner category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival!