Not bad for a bunch of kids from Idaho Falls

Organizers of the 20th annual Mountain Brewers Beer Fest were anticipating a crowd of 7,000 for the day-long event at Sandy Downs Rodeo Grounds on Saturday. But when the dust had settled, North American Brewers Association Vice President Lisa Smith placed the day’s attendance at an unofficial 8,000. Pat Sutphin /

There was a definite bounce in the step of Leon “Wolf” Wolfram on Saturday.

The man behind the Idaho Brewing Co. was in a celebratory mood and why not. His beers were awarded four gold medals and a silver by judges at the 20th annual Mountain Brewers Beer Fest. The judging got underway Tuesday with the winning brews announced Friday evening.

So, when the festival at Sandy Downs opened its gates at noon Saturday, one might think Wolf would have something to shout about.

After all, Wolf’s Oatmeal Stout, Old Grey Wolf Barleywine, Oktoberfest and Ryebock all scored gold. The silver went to the brewery’s Mr. D’s Dunkelweiss.

Not bad for a bunch of kids from Idaho Falls.

The reborn brewery still is a relative upstart — it brewed its first batch of brew on New Year’s Day 2009 — but its reputation is growing, along with its collection of award-winning beers.

Still, Wolf refused to take any credit Saturday.

“We’re the only brewery here that won won four golds (but) I had nothing to do with it,” he said. All the credit goes to Matt.”

That would be Matt as in Matthew Spann, Idaho Brewing’s head brewer.

“We’ve won golds before, but never four. We’re always surprised,” Spann said. “There were 1,421 entries this year — the largest competition ever and everyone is getting better every year, (so) I never go in expecting to win anything. So, this is an extra good surprise.”

Beer Fest veteran Tony Hill of Idaho Falls was not surprised, however.

“They’ve got good beer and they’ve got ‘Lisa,’ ” Hill said. “I think she probably runs the place.”

While “Lisa’s” identity and exact role at Idaho Brewing could not be determined Saturday, Wolf was adamant that people not get the wrong idea about him.

“I do all the jobs no one else wants to do, like dumping the garbage and picking up cigarette butts and fixing the dishwasher when it breaks down and pulling weeds from the cracks in the parking lot, sometimes,” he said.

But Idaho Brewing’s golden success was only one of the stories that played out at Sandy Downs on Saturday.

After all, the festival not only showcases top-quality brews, it raises a considerable amount of money for local charities. Beer Fest 2013, for example, distributed more than $127,000 to charitable groups. This year’s figure was not available Saturday and will be announced later.

And there were a fair number of newbies among the thousands who poured through the gates.

Jajuan Johnson and his girlfriend, Rachel Robertson, were among those experiencing their first Beer Fest. The couple moved from Georgia to Idaho Falls about a month ago.

Both were impressed with the festival.

“This is pretty amazing,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the greatest events I’ve ever attended. There are so many people here and they’re all having a good time — not even a hint of violence,” he said.

Later, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Falls Police Department confirmed that no major incidents were reported at the day-long event.

Lisa Smith, vice president of the North American Brewers Association, praised the efforts of the Idaho Falls Police Department, Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office and Idaho State Police to make sure everybody stays safe while they’re having a good time.

And by early Saturday evening, Smith declared the event a success.

“We’re happy and tired and dirty and headed for the showers,” she said.

As for Wolf, well, he wasn’t at the Idaho Brewing Co. Tasting Room on Saturday night and word was he wouldn’t be in until Monday.

Maybe someone should check the parking lot.