Ex Novo aims to hit for the cycle after a 2nd straight WBC medal for V for Vienna

All the brewery folks who participated in last weekend’s United in Beer festival, including Ex Novo founder Joel Gregory (green shirt, in the center).

It is an exceptionally rare feat for any brewery to win back-to-back medals for the same beer in the same category at a major competition.

Ex Novo Brewing just pulled it off, however, and will be aiming for a trifecta at the 2024 World Beer Cup. V for Vienna, the popular annual seasonal, earned a bronze this year in Nashville, one year after taking silver at the now-annual competition.

“It was extra sweet, obviously, because we medaled in it last year,” said Ex Novo founder Joel Gregory. “We just got done talking about how it’s amazing to win any award ever, but it’s really hard to repeat. I don’t see people do it very often. I see it very much as the exception (to the rule).

“Whether we got lucky twice or we just happen to make a really damn good beer for that category, maybe a little bit of both, we were stoked. There were four of us there. We went from all butterflies to smiles. It was great.”

Head brewer Ryan Hillesland said he could not put his finger on what exactly makes V for Vienna stand out in its field, taking third out of 109 entries this year.

“I don’t know, (but) we’re doing something right, obviously,” he said. “I think we’ve got a pretty decent way that we’re doing lagers here. That one specifically is working out. I can’t put my finger on it. I thought it was tasting pretty solid when we sent it out, and they actually agreed. We’re doing just a step mash with that guy. We lager it about the same way we do any of our other lagers. Something about Vienna is resonating. We’re pretty happy about that.”

The only slight downside is that this batch of V for Vienna tapped out just before it won the award, so no fans of Ex Novo could hoist a pint in direct celebration.

“We’re making that an annual, or maybe twice-a-year kind of thing,” Gregory said. “It’s a staple now, a seasonal staple. It’s TBD if we’ll keep it year round. Maybe if we win gold next year, hit for the cycle.”

Ah, yes, the cycle. Going over the beer archives, the Crew could only find two New Mexico beers at either the WBC or the Great American Beer Festival that ever won all three different medals in its category in consecutive competitions — Bosque’s Acequia IPA and Sierra Blanca’s Cherry Wheat. The former pulled off the trifecta in 2014 (bronze), 2015 (gold), and 2016 (silver) in the Fresh or Wet Hop Ale category. The latter pulled off its remarkable run from 2017 to 2019, earning in order gold, bronze, and silver in the Fruited Wheat Beer category at GABF.

Of course, the WBC used to be every two years, before switching to an annual format starting this year, so Ex Novo still has the chance to be first New Mexico brewery to hit for the cycle in that competition.

“Yeah, we’ve got to get gold next year, we’ll add some extra juice,” Hillesland said with a smile. “It would be pretty spectacular to go for three in a row with that guy. To win at the World Beer Cup for a European style is pretty fantastic, we’re pretty proud of that beer.”

“For now, we’re (happy to) bring home an award,” Gregory added. “Just like anything else good, it takes a whole bunch of people to make it work.”

Clearly, it is working over there at Ex Novo when it comes to award-winning lagers. A big thanks to Joel and Ryan for taking a couple minutes out of the United in Beer festival to chat. It was a great event and we cannot wait for both it and the WBC to return in 2024.

Keep supporting local!

— Stoutmeister

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