Welcome back to my version of the exploits and adventures of the 2010 Great American Beer Festival and surrounding events.
Bacon. This will become a theme. The day started with bacon.
After grabbing our press passes, tasting glasses (they expected us to hold on to them for three whole days!), and other accoutrements, there was one more trip to the airport; my apartment was unofficially a hostel. This trip brought back Alex and a box of beer. Before breaking into the mini-rare-beer-tasting-in-a-box, we split an Avery Quinquepartite. This is definitely the advised method for starting off your day (it was about 2pm).
Hunger was consuming our little crew, so we wandered downtown to get some deliciously heavy beers at Great Divide. On the way, the exquisite odor of Biker Jim’s Hot Dog Stand pulled us in, and we each devoured some non-traditional meat, with cream cheese and caramelized onions to boot.
Finally, after trudging almost a full mile through the mean streets of lower downtown Denver, we arrive at our destination: Great Divide Brewing Company.
Great Divide was pouring some delicious beers. In addition to their normal spread, they had some of last year’s barrel aged Hibernation, and some other treats. So we treated ourselves to a taste or few. We met up with the best beer couple of all time, Jordan and Renee Rounds, and ran into Cambria of DrinkEatTravel.com, and our crew began to grow some more.
One of the most memorable quotes of… this hour was Cambria, having finished her beer:
We should go get another beer. Oh wait! There’s a beer festival!
And now we get to the first of the actual festival sessions. Like I’ve said before, GABF is more than just the festival itself. The entire town is buzzing (and buzzed). But, the focal point is the festival, so let’s look at that.
Thursday is a school night. So, of course, the Thursday night session is sold out and a bit crazy. Less so than Friday or Saturday night, by several orders of magnitude, but crazy nonetheless.
Every session of the festival is fun. I mean, it’s the Great American Beer Festival. Thursday has the added benefit that all the breweries still have all their beer. And as crowded and crazy as the festival can be, the crowd on Thursday nights is a little… calmer than Friday and Saturday nights.
We had trouble leaving the Midwest on Thursday night. There were just too many good beers to try. Every time we came close to leaving the region, we’d spot something new and awesome. There were standard styles, new styles, and styles that were super original. Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout was a solid start to the region.
My friend Todd from Copper Canyon Brewing was serving up an Apple Strudel Tripel, which was amazing. I’m not usually one for fruit beers, or beers with any sort of fruit, or fruit in the name, or anything fruit-related. But this one was fantastic, and was the first of many great fruit-based beers I tried at the sessions.
Another crazy awesome fruit beer was Shorts Brewing’s Key Lime Pie. Seriously. It tasted just like key lime pie.
One beer I couldn’t get enough of was Fat Head‘s Collaborative Evil. The Collaborative Evil project is a brewing experiment by a bunch of small breweries around the country. They each start with the same basic recipe, and each adds their own special ingredient to set their version apart from the rest. They then bring the beer to GABF and serve all the varieties under one big roof. I only sampled Fat Head’s version, but I did sample it multiple times. It was this smokey brownish liquid of awesome that felt like you just caught a whiff of a nearby campfire as the wind changed. It also reminded me of bacon.
I like bacon.
My roommate and I were lucky enough to have tickets to the Farm To Table Pavilion on Thursday night. This is a back room in the beer hall, which alone is nice. You get to sit down, and it’s quiet.
Oh, and there’s a bunch of different tables, each with a combination of food from local farms cooked by local chefs, paired with specially selected beer. Here’s an example:
Smoked Trout, Corn Cake & Tomatillo Chutney – Rogue Juniper Pale Ale
Other things on the menu:
House Made Pork Sausage with Smoked Fingerling Potato, Mixed Cabbage & Pear Slaw - Victory Brewing – V12
The full menu is on the GABF site.
Next year, when you buy your tickets early, spring for the Farm To Table. Especially if you attend more than one general session. It was truly a wonderful experience.
I’m not going to list every beer I had during each session, for multiple reasons. For one, I don’t remember them all. Shame on me for not taking better notes. For another, it’s really just not that exciting to list every single beer I tried.
However, I must say that I visited The Bruery‘s booth every session. And every session I got at least one sample of Black Tuesday and Oude Tart. These two beers make me want to be a better brewer. They make me want to drink better beer whenever possible. They are such incredible examples of over the top beers done right.
As the Thursday session ended, cries went out across the crowd gathering outside by the Blue Bear (an actual blue bear, not a bar like some might think): Where do we go now?
Where does one go after a session of the Great American Beer Festival? With that many people, beers, and general instances of awesome (read: full kilted bagpipe parade), it’s hard to pick just one measly bar, even if said bar has 75 taps.
So obviously, we took on the town.
We ambled on over to Fresh Craft, one of the newest and coolest beer bars in Denver. Considering they opened a few weeks ago, it’s pretty incredible to see a line out the door and down the block. Thursday night was a special tapping of Avery’s Missionary, a guava infused version of The Reverend.
It was quickly time to clear out and let others get at the tap. The next logical step was Falling Rock. Falling Rock being the unofficial HQ for all festival attendees, it was a bit crowded. And angry. It’s pretty rare to a fight at a bar like Falling Rock, let alone 4. The chickens were restless, as they say. Or something.
Anyway, it quickly became apparent that another change of scenery was in order. A smaller version of our continuously evolving crew moved on, chins jutted and struts a strutting. Or something. Our destination was Whiskey Bar, but something happened along the way.
Star Bar happened along the way. It was karaoke! You know in movies when the two lead characters get in some sort of screaming match and then start making out? Star Bar is like that, with dive bars and craft beer being the two lead characters. And there was karaoke!
I wish I had video of the girl singing Salt N Peppa’s Shoop, with two backup dancers. Epic.
Let me summarize the rest of the night, as this story is getting a bit ridiculous.
Whiskey Bar for some Pappy Van Winkle and other assorted delights, back to Star Bar for more friends, more karaoke, and more craft noms, a 3am search for food, breakfast delights at the Denver Diner, and to bed.
And another intermission.
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