Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Great American Beer Fest Recap 2009

(ed note: SD:Dialed In contributor Jonathan spent some time up at the Great American Beer Fest in Denver. This is his recap of the event. In other beer news, Mens Journal chose San Diego as the Number 1 beer town in America. Jonathan took several photos, you can see his Picasa album here. )

There is one thing that is for sure, I can't stop thinking thinking about GAB-F. I felt like a giddy kid again walking aisle to aisle of nothing but beer. There was a tons of food there, too, but I just want to talk about beer. Otherwise I will never finish this post. Every year there's this beer mecca that occurs in Denver, Colorado, that spoken in tongue by me as GAB-F or otherwise known as the Great American Beer Festival. I have been home brewing for a few years now so this year I made the call and congregated to Denver, Colorado, where I attempted to drink every beer I could set my sights on. I failed... but I was close! It just so happens to be the largest beer festival in North America with over 7 1/2 acres of beer. It was love at first sight. For full recap, click 'keep on reading' below.

My first night in Denver was spent drinking with friends at the Falling Rock near Coors Field. Supposedly, the beer at a mile high is supposed to affect you a little more but I never felt altitude, although I did witness others feeling the effects. Falling Rock in LoDo (Lower Downtown), owned by Clint Black, has a tap list that will make your jaw drop. The pub is filled with old bottle trophies of beers I had never seen and their kitchen stays up late. Did I mention their kitchen stays open late? Everything there is reasonably priced and since this was the week of GABF is was even packed with more rarities than normal.

The following night I walked more south and wandered over to Wyncoop. Wyncoop is known as Denver's first brewpub. Their menu is balanced between a pub and a chop house. I had the Mighty Red Gumbo and Shepherd's Pie but I was thinking about Venison after a few beers. Wyncoop occupies the whole building and would be a go-to place for dinner paired with some beers. From there, I walked north along Blake, passing Falling Rock to 22nd which happens to be perpendicular from Coors. About 7 blocks down is a brewery called Great Divide. There, I drank a Rye lager called Hoss that was clean and a little spicy from what I can remember. After drinking a bomber of a Yeti my taste buds were shot so I headed to bed. If you haven't noticed, everything is in walking distance. I recommend bringing a good pair of shoes if you want to explore the city like I did.

GABF Festival is broken into four sessions with the competition medals being announced during the third session. My first session was spent mostly drinking beers from the bigger breweries. Unfortunately, there were lines since everybody seemed to have the same game plan and I did. The most memorable beers from the first night were sours from New Glaurus and Guild Row as I like to call it. On Guild Row, I got a brief introduction to breweries I had never heard of from across the country. I got to interact with the brewers who were pouring their beers and I picked their brains mostly for home brewing purposes.. That was definitely one of my highlights. Although party time seemed to end quickly, I wasn't worried because there were three more sessions. I quickly exited with friends and headed to Appaloosa Grill around the corner to counter my drinking binge.

Friday's session was more of a walk through the park to me compared to Thursday. No I didn't wake up with a hangover. I was surprised myself. I didn't have a plan and I just enjoyed myself more. I got my first taste of The Bruery's Black Tuesday which I had been looking for. Some of the different beers I remember were the Samuel Adam's Utopias, a smoked chili pepper bock and the Pro-Am beers. The pro-Am beers are beers created by a amateur and professional brewer. This year featured the most pro-am beers and I spent a lot of time in front of the Pro-Am booth. The beers changed everyday and the Pro-Am category was awarded a medal on Saturday. You can view the winners on the GABF website here.

The first session on Saturday was more of the same thing as the Friday session. I spent most of my time with friends who lived in Denver who had never had most of these beers. We would walk around the floor and sample beers but this time from a glass. Of course I drank more local goodness like Black Tuesday and Autumn Maple from the Bruery, Speedway Stout and Wee Heavy from Alesmith, and whatever was left from Pizza Port. When the medals started to be announced we quickly headed to the opening speech by Norm (of Cheers fame) and later to drink more beer while everyone was watching the medals being handed out. After the session ended, I headed north to catch Dr. Bill's beer tasting in the basement of Falling Rock. There I sampled beers like the Old Ale from Alesmith and Trappist Westvleteren 12. I think the comraderie among beer geeks was phenomenal and sharing wasn't a probablem. The space was small and Bill was generous enough to share these beers with use for a small donation to help pay for the location. Cheers to Bill for a outstanding event by the way. After about a hour or so tasting I just hit the sack for a early morning flight out of Denver.

Although I breifly spoke of what I did in Denver the list of events was never ending. There was an Oktoberfest just down the street that I never got time to visit as well as all the breweries in the outlying cities I never got to explore. I never had one bad moment there, the weather was colder than I expected but I was inside most of the time. The people in Denver were hospitable, the food was amazing, and then of course, the beers. I hate to admit this but lately I have been beered out. Unforetunately, Sunday Football is starting and I have to finish off a couple of kegs so I can brew again!

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