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Brewmaster celebrates successful year




Revelers at Gella's Diner and Lb. Brewing Co. on Tuesday night will be ringing in the new year in the small brewpub of the year.

They likely will be toasting with an award-winning beer.

Gella's, 117 E. 11th, and its brewmaster, Gerald Wyman, were named small brewpub and small brewpub brewer of the year at the Great American Beer Festival in October.

GABF is presented by the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit educational trade association for craft brewers.

For the competition, a small brewpub is defined as breweries with less than 750 barrels.

"We were 730 (barrels), and then some," Wyman said of the brewing company's production. "After this year, I would imagine we're probably going to be mid-sized."

Each beer has its own category and style guidelines at the competition, and is judged on factors such as alcohol content, color and hoppiness or bitterness.

To be successful, it has to hit those parameters.

"That's what it's all about -- brewing a beer to style -- and that's what I've always stressed. ... Here's where people come in and try your beer. If you're brewing an amber beer, you want it to be to style."

Planning and preparation for the contest began months ahead. Of the 10 beers Wyman entered at this year's competition, six went to the second round of judging.

"In the second round, you're up against the best of the best. If you have one little flaw -- one little tiny flaw in your beer -- there's three judges in the competition, (and) they would knock it out of the competition," he said.

Competitors must have good bottling skills.

Wyman credits eight years "as a pretty strong home brewer," for honing his own skills.

"You can make the best beer in the world, but if you don't purge your bottle -- get the air out of the bottle and fill it right -- your beer won't hold up in a bottle too."

Two of Wyman's entries at the festival won medals this year to earn him enough points for the overall title. The American hefeweizen earned a gold and the American wheat a silver, bringing the brewmaster's count up to nine medals since he started competing in 2005.

That includes a gold award at the World Beer Cup in 2010 for oatmeal stout.

"It's huge," he said of the global competition. "That was quite a thrill."

Wyman said he spent a lot of time working on the oatmeal stout and a wheat beer.

"In western Kansas, I figured if you're going to have a brewpub, you want to have a good wheat beer because that's how you get people started" on craft beer.

He features a different beer every month at the restaurant's New Beer's Eve promotional event.The January selection is a mystery beer. This year it's one he's never brewed before.

While Gella's is a popular spot for locals, Wyman expects the recent honors to draw other craft beer enthusiasts.

"When brewers get this kind of award, a lot of beer drinkers come across the country, hunting the brewpub winners because of the recognition."