I think that most beer-lovers around the Pacific Northwest know at least the very basic history of Cloudburst Brewing. It was founded by Steve Luke, an accomplished brewer for Elysian Brewing who left the company not long after it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch. If that’s all you know, you’re good.
Here’s something else you should know. Steve’s brewery, Cloudburst Brewing, was just awarded the title Brewer of the Year by the judges at the nation’s most prestigious beer-judging competition, the Great American Beer Festival. (See our story about this year’s GABF and all the Washington winners.)
Regarding his exit from Elysian, Steve was already working on opening his own brewery when the acquisition happened. He’s a creative sort of fella and longed to get his hands on the reigns of his own brewery so he could focus on making the kind of beers that he wanted.
His creativity wasn’t exactly hamstrung at Elysian, to be fair. While brewing for Elysian, Steve devised some of the brewery’s best-loved brews, like Dayglow IPA, Space Dust IPA, Split Shot Stout, and the infamous Gourgia on my Mind, the pumpkin-peach ale Budweiser canonized in a Super Bowl commercial as an example of an overly fussy beer.
Anyway, in early 2016 Cloudburst Brewing came to fruition, opening its brewery and taproom near Pike Place Market in Seattle. Just over a year ago, it opened a second taproom across town in Ballard. Now, it’s been named Brewer of the Year.
So what’s that mean? The Great American Beer Festival is serious stuff, with thousand of beers judged by a panel of expert judges. Medals are awarded to the top-scoring beers in over 100 style categories. It gets a bit complicated, but all you really need to know is that among all of the winning breweries that are about the same size as Cloudburst, it scored the highest. Cloudburst Brewing won two medals at the GABF this year and its scores put it at the top of the class for breweries that produced between 1,001 – 2,000 total barrels of beer.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying that it is a really impressive honor. Not easy to do. Nobody knows that better than Steve Luke and Cloudburst Brewing, as they expressed on Instagram when the announcement was made.
“OMFG SOMEBODY PINCH US…OUCH! OK!”
“Yesterday was an unexpected, ecstatic blur. Gold for Entschuldigung!, Silver for Happy Little Clouds and [Great American Beer Festival] BREWERY OF THE YEAR for our size.”
“It’s been one helluva grind this year for our little brewery, and we couldn’t be prouder of our entire team. We’d be nowhere without them – and we’d be nowhere without the continued support of YOU.”
Cheers to Steve and the entire crew at Cloudburst Brewing. A well-deserved honor, for sure.