Posted on October 24th, 2011
The Great American Beer Festival, the second largest beer festival in the world took place last month and I had the good fortune of attending this year’s festivities. ¬†Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, the GABF tickets sold out in record time, clocking in with 49,000 attendees. ¬†There were 466 breweries at the festival, serving 2,375 different beers, and 238 medals were awarded, including 18 to breweries entering the competition for the first time.¬† In a word, it was EPIC.
In addition to the festival itself, there are dozens of ancillary events at beer bars and breweries around town. ¬†From beer releases to beer dinners to lectures and tastings, it was a week of non-stop beer love. I attended a few extra events, including a beer tasting class with BJCP judge Gwen Conley, and a midnight beer dinner with Avery Brewing at Euclid Hall. My¬†point being that the week surrounding the Great American Beer Festival was a jam-packed week of awesome events, amazing beer, and crazy people. I didn’t take a single picture (who has time for cameras when you have a beer in your hand?), but I did take notes. ¬†They’re more like scribbles vaguely resembling words, but for the purposes of this article, they’ll have to do. So without further ado, I give you some of my favorite beers from this week’s festival
1. Short’s Brewing – This Michigan-based brewery received permission to distribute their beer in Colorado for the week surrounding GABF, something that had never been done before. ¬†So in addition to trying their stuff at the festival, I was also able to pick up some of their six packs. ¬†If you can, find the Bellaire Brown Ale (a year-round release) and their Woodmaster, a high gravity brown ale fermented with maple syrup and toasted pecans.
2. Bull & Bush Pub and Brewery – In spite of their ridiculous name and even more absurd costumes (disco balls on top of construction hats?), Bull & Bush turned out one of my favorite beers of the festival: Turnip the Beets. ¬†Honestly, I don’t remember in what stage of brewing the beets were used, but I do remember the lovely balance between the malty and earthy flavors of this stellar ale.
3. Ignite Denver – ¬†Think lecture series meets speed dating, in which beer industry big-wigs are given 5 minutes to talk about their role in the beer industry, while their powerpoint slides are advanced automatically every 15 seconds. ¬†Wild, crazy, hilarious, and surprisingly informative. Also, unlimited beer. Only downside: Greg Koch of Stone Brewing wearing a t-shirt with his own face on it.
4. Avery Brabant – Served at the Euclid Hall Midnight Brunch event, Avery’s Brabant is a wild ale aged for 8 months in Zinfandel barrels with brettanomyces. Sour. Dark. Delicious.
5. Right Brain Brewing’s Lavender Wheat Beer – Every lavender-flavored beverage I’ve ever had (including my own lavender pale ale) has inevitably tasted like soap. ¬†That was until I tried Right Brain Brewing’s Lavender wheat beer. Clean and floral, balanced with a light caramel malt flavor. ¬†Perfect amount of lavender. ¬†Well done Right Brain.
6. ¬†Pints for Prostates’ Rare Beer Tasting – 30 different hard to find beers from some of the best breweries in the country. My favorite: Lost Abbey’s Deliverance, a blend of brandy barrel-aged Angel’s Share and bourbon barrel aged Serpent’s Stout, packaged in 2010. ¬†This smooth and well-balanced ale offered a subtle boozy heat with notes of caramel, vanilla, and raisins. Least favorite: Sam Adams’ Utopias. ¬†This 27% ABV ¬†beer was overly boozy, syrupy, and completely unbalanced. Generally just not worth my time.
I could go on and on and on about all of the amazing things that happened during the week surrounding GABF. ¬†But in reality, the Great American Beer Festival is something that needs to be experienced in person, because no words can actually describe the enormity of this event. ¬†People come from all across the states to be a part of ¬†the magic that the craft beer industry has created. It’s a beautiful time for discovery and exploration of all those beers you can’t find in your city, and trying everything you can until your palate can’t take it anymore. ¬†With every passing year, the festival gets bigger and bigger, so I suggest you mark your calendars and book your tickets for next year’s fest. ¬†You can thank me later.