That would be head brewer Steve Sloan, formerly of John Harvard's in Wilkins, who after it closed started helping out at the Church in 2009. After a stint in California, where he brewed at Firestone Walker and was quality manager for Lost Coast, he was hired less than a year ago at the Church, said president Sean Casey, in great part to improve quality and consistency.
Now Mr. Sloan and his colleagues can claim a GABF gold medal in the Old Ale or Strong Ale category for Heini's Hooch; a silver medal in European-Style Dunkel for Pious Monk Dunkel; and two bronze medals -- in Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest for Celestial Gold and in International-Style Pale Ale for Pipe Organ Pale Ale.
Assistant brewer Matt Moninger picked up the medals and high-fives in Denver, because Mr. Sloan had decided to stay here. He was shopping in the Strip District with his wife, Diane, Saturday as the calls and texts came in from the festival. After hearing about the third medal, they headed to the Church to watch the ceremonies online and have a beer.
"Steve was instrumental in coming on board and picking up on these building blocks of quality," says Mr. Casey.
But Mr. Sloan, with his characteristic low-key humility, says, "I'm happy for the team here. Everyone's worked hard to produce the quality beer that we do."
Mr. Casey notes that three of the medal-winning brews are available in the Church variety case (with Thunder Hop IPA, which won gold at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition). Mr. Casey is working on private and public celebrations of this "Michael Phelps" style win, and pondering whether the awards case at the former-church-turned-brewpub-and-brewery will need to be enlarged.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sloan says the bourbon-barrel-aged Heini's is available on draft there now.
He says he's happy that Mr. Moninger got to go; his assistant brewer still was glowing as he got back to work Monday. "I got to fist-bump [GABF founder and medal presenter] Charlie Papazian five times in front of a few thousand of my peers," he said in an email. "That's an accomplishment that a brewer can be proud of over the course of his career, let alone over the course of a couple hours."
The Church crew all tipped their hats to Full Pint Brewing Co. of North Versailles, which also medaled, taking a bronze in Belgian-Style Witbier with its White Lightning Belgian White.
Six hundred and sixty-six breweries -- from 48 states plus Washington, D.C. -- and Guam -- submitted 4,338 entries in 84 categories covering 134 beer styles that were judged last weekend at the fest, sponsored by the Brewers Association. Pennsylvania brewers won 18 medals; Troegs of Hershey and its John Trogner won three golds as well as Mid-Size Brewing Company/Brewer of the Year. Fat Head's of Ohio won silver in German-Style Wheat Ale with its AlpenGlow. Find the full list of winners at greatamericanbeerfestival.com.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1930; Twitter: @bobbatzjr.