(Pictured: Samurai Artist, Jason Alstrom of Beer Advocate and Bill of It’s Pub Night)
The Great American Beer Festival held in Denver each year is many things to different people. For the fanboys and beer geeks, it’s a chance to try breweries from all over the country, some of which will never again be available outside of their state. For ambitious brewers, winning an award at the competition is a shot at glory and a small bit of fame. For me, it’s a chance to find all of those things, but even moreso to connect with friends from all across the country and make new ones in this industry. Consider this the first of a handful of posts by myself and contributors Bill Night and Holly Emery-Walen covering different aspects of the most well-known American beer festival.
The lighting on the floor of the Colorado Convention Center leaves something to be desired; the dim yellow warmth of the GABF sucks up colors and leaves dark film noir shadows. Pictured above left to right are myself, Saraveza manager Erika Huston, and The New School’s Bill, aka It’s Pub Night.
Above, Holly Emery-Walen and myself outside of Boulder, Colorado’s Twisted Pine Brewing that makes some interesting beers like a Carrot IPA and the infamous Ghost Face Killah chile beer.
Above: Holly outside of “The Source,” a new redeveloped old warehouse building that is the new home of Crooked Stave Brewery. Inside the building’s walls is a mini artisinal shopping center with 2 restaurants, a cheese and fine foods shop, a distillery, a coffee roastery, a florist, and a butcher shop. It’s an amazing concept and a fun place to visit for fans of beer, food, cheese, charcuterie, and pickles.
Above left is a Pickled Pear Push-Up Pop that was served to us during the Brewers Association’s annual media luncheon. Above right, Holly stands next to the fermenters at the brand new Epic Brewing, which has just opened a new brewpub and production facility in Denver.
Above left is Brewpublic’s DJ Paul, Erika Huston, and myself at Epic Brewing. Above right, golden boy medal winner Dave Marliave of Flat Tail Brewing is beaming after picking up two awards at the GABF awards ceremony.
Above left: A phalanx of bagpipe players march through the GABF festival floor, and on the right is Bill Night surveying our taster trays at Twisted Pine Brewing.
10 Barrel Brewing’s Tonya Cornett shows off her Gold Medal win in the German sour beer category and Brewmaster Ian Larkin–who replaced Tonya at Bend Brewing–shows off the three medals he won this year.
Both photos above are from Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colorado. We were all really impressed with the different brews that were outside of the norm, including an unfiltered double dry-hopped version of Hog Heaven Barleywine. A couple of wine barrel-aged sour beers were great, Bill enjoyed a Fresh Hop IPA, and Holly liked a very tropical refreshing Passion Fruit Hefeweizen.
Another exciting discover was Hogshead Brewery out in the Denver suburbs. This small brewery with a popular tasting room has an emphasis on traditional cask beers served with a handpump. Everything we had there was solid.
Pictured above and below are Denver’s heavy metal-themed breweries. Yes, there are now two of them. Black Sky Brewery had just rushed open in time for GABF with a sort of cool, rough, but very metal brewpub in a beat up part of town. TRVE brewing, (pronounced True) has been open for a little while now and produces the better beers of the two. Bill loved a dark hoppy version of a California Common, while I enjoyed a strange Black Gratzer and a refreshing Gose. TRVE is a long narrow hall of a space painted all black with one large communal table and a couple of seats by the roll-up doors in front and some at the bar. The brewery is located all the way in the back behind a bar decorated with satanic-looking art, burning candles, animal skulls, and medieval weaponry. Meanwhile the bar blasts metal music all night long, in contrast with the balanced, approachable beer lineup.
I got to meet Sam Adams/Boston Beer founder and newly minted billionaire Jim Koch at a Sam Adams breakfast. We also got an advanced look at the new Longshot Series mixed case of beers, all if which are created by winners of their annual homebrew competition. It was weird but cool to find a Gratzer (polish smoked wheat beer) among them, and it was quite nice, as were all the award winning homebrews chosen.
In the photo above, brewers and reps sit on the edge of their seats as the awards were announced before the final day of the festival began.
Oregon came out very strong this year with a commanding presence over the Fresh Hop category with Old Town Brewing winning a Gold and Barley Browns fresh hop Pallet Jack with a Silver. Barley Browns, a perennial awards favorite, pulled off probably the most difficult win of the whole thing with a Gold for American IPA for the regular Pallet Jack IPA. Pictured above left is Mike Wright of The Commons Brewery, which won a Silver medal for its Urban Farmhouse Ale. Above right Ben Edmunds of Breakside Brewery won two bronzes, one each for the Passionfruit Sour and the ESB.