Two local breweries have gone the distance and earned medals in what is known as the "Olympics of Beer."
Crown Brewing, of Crown Point, won the gold medal last week for the English-Style Mild Ale category at the biannual World Beer Cup for the brewery's flagship brown ale, Crown Brown.
Michigan City's Shoreline Brewery earned two bronze awards – one for its Benny's Pale Ale in the Australasian-Style Pale Ale category, and one for its popular Beltaine Scottish Ale for the Scottish-Style Ale category.
"This award puts us on the map," Crown Brewing co-owner Chris Stanek said of the gold medal. "It is the most prestigious award in beer, and the competition is often called the Olympics of beer. The last time that we won the bronze medal we noticed an increase in business and expect an even larger uptick in business from winning a gold medal."
The ninth biannual World Beer Cup competition boasted the strongest field of entrants on record, with 799 breweries from 45 states and 54 countries entering 3,921 beers in 95 beer-style categories.
Crown Brewing won a bronze medal in the 2010 World Beer Cup for its Industrial Porter. Its Crown Brown also won a bronze medal in the 2010 Brewer's Cup. Shoreline's Beltaine earned silvers twice before in 2006 and 2008.
"It is a pretty prestigious award," Sam Strupeck, co-owner and brewmaster at Shoreline, said of its two bronze awards. "It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It's a nice honor in the community to get those."
Strupeck gave a lot of credit to his assistant brewer, Tom Sadja, who Strupeck said brewed the award-winning beers.
The World Beer Cup awards come in the middle of landmark years for both local breweries, which have significant expansions under way and more in the works.
Stanek said Crown Brewery recently added some new tanks, which increases Crown's annual production by about 60 percent to an estimated 1,000 barrels of beer this year.
Crown also is looking to make use of another building in town, Stanek said. The brewery is working on the permits to put some of the extra beer it's brewing in a bourbon barrel-aging facility in downtown Crown Point, which also could be used to host special events such as new beer tappings.
"That's going to really allow us to grow without leaving our downtown location at this point and work a further niche into the brewing world where we're doing sours, bourbon barrel-aged beers, oak barrel-aged beers and more specialty-type items," Stanek said.
Shoreline also added three new tanks, which have been running for about a month now, Strupeck said. This should boost production to about 1,500 barrels this year from 750 barrels in 2011.
Strupeck also said Shoreline will distribute its beer in 22-ounce bottles this year.
"We're going to start with northern Indiana and see how much beer we can produce," Strupeck said. "As our expansion and our capacity grows, we'll start to distribute across the state, and we'll go from there."
The business also boasts an improved menu, helped by a new chef who came from a high-end restaurant in Valparaiso.
And both breweries aren't going to rest on their laurels. Shoreline and Crown will collaborate on a Belgian Wit Beer that will be available this summer at both breweries, something they planned prior to the awards.