The Great American Beer Fest 2009

Posted on October 6th, 2009

GABF

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Beeriety’s Denver correspondent Rachel Dipalma. Thanks Rachel!

The Great American Beer Fest (GABF) sloshed its way through Denver from September 24th to the 26th. The GABF is really an incredible experience, but like any epic undertaking it does not benefit from going into it blind-eyed. A four hour session can fly by if you go in unprepared. The best place for me to do research was on Twitter, where searching for #GABF would yield tons of tweets from Thursday’s session about everything from the beers to try, the overrated brews not worth waiting for, to the lines in the bathroom. You can also prepare in the admission line, because it’s one of the longest ones you’ll ever stand in. Hopefully you’ve already made your pretzel necklace by now (to ward off the beer belly-ache, of course) so you can focus your hour-plus stand in line to map out where to go first, what not to miss, etc.

Once I was inside I took a deep breath and a good look around. A massive showroom floor is in front of me, with thousands of happy people representing 450 breweries waiting to serve over 2,000 beers. Thankfully, the groupings of tables are broken up by geographic region, which makes it easier to prioritize. I had the benefit of going with three GABF virgins who all had different goals and tastes- one wanted milk stouts, another wanted sour styles, and another went into it like I did- asking the brewers and reps (if they’re around) what their favorite is. Truthfully, it’s damn near impossible to try every single beer on your wish list, so for me, going with a recommendation is the best way to handle a new brewery.

Photo: Jason E. Kaplan

Photo: Jason E. Kaplan

Some highlights for all of us were beers from Lost Abbey, Duck-Rabbit, Brugges Brasserie, Alesmiths, and the always-charming Brooklyn Brewery. I tried some excellent beer made with Yerba Mate tea (from MateVeza Brewers out of Ukiah, California,) and got a chance to say hi to the brewers from Olde Saratoga/Mendocino brewery, whom are among the East Coast establishments I miss dearly. I think the most important part for me was to spend time with good friends drinking and talking about beer.

Another surprising highlight was the amount of amateur events going on. We got to try the three Sam Adams Long-Shot competitors, Sam Adams’ homebrew competition. They were all great- Lemon Pepper Saison? YES PLEASE! We also spent some serious time at the GABF Pro-Am tables. 25 or so of the nation’s most creative and delicious small batch brews were served up, conceptualized by Average Joes and sponsored by their local breweries to be there. It really speaks to the purpose of GABF itself- a gathering to encourage and inspire people to do what they love, and do it well. The Pro-Am standout for me was a golden ale made with elderflowers- the flavor was so crisp that it made an impression on my beer-burnt out tongue.

Alas, taste bud fatigue is the demise of many a GABF-er, and the only remedy for that is, obviously, a late-night snack. Thankfully, we know the perfect place for that. The Vine St. Pub in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood serves up organic bar food and a late-night happy hour full of microbrews from their mother brewpub in Boulder, as well as several carefully selected guest brews. This place is definitely a laid-back spot, and is always a great way to end a blurry evening.