Joy and Merriment at Denver Summer Brew Fest ’12

Yesterday (7/27/12) I had the delightful opportunity to go to the Denver Summer Brew Fest. It wasn’t my first time, and I had also gone to one of the accompanying Winter Brew Fests as well. But it was yesterday that I realized that I look forward to this shindig about as much as I do GABF. It’s difficult to come close to that level of beer and hype, but after last night I cemented in my heart that the Denver Summer/Winter Brew Fests are my solid silver medal.

Celebrating its 6th year and 12 fests under its belt, the organization was at its peak. It was one thing to put a tent/pavilion on the outside patio of the Mile High Station (where the fest has been for the past few years), to help spread out the crowd and offer space for a few more brewers. But now, gone is the tent; the whole back lot is open, allowing space for food trucks, a pretty sizable sound stage, and many more brewers.  Combined with the two floors inside the venue, the addition of the entire parking lot effectively increases fest space by 33%.

But it’s still a relatively small fest.  Attendance is capped at 2,000, and even then it gets pretty crowded.  But the intimacy with the brewers before hand was worth it.  One could tell that in the wee minutes before the doors opened that many of the brewers and sales reps looked forward to this fest and seeing old faces again, that small chance to see friends from across the state/country again.  And helping the Lagunitas fellas re-secure the Breckenridge tent in the intense stormy summer winds pretty much brought me face to face with that.

Oh yeah, and there were definitely some killer beers there.  The past few beerfests (not going to name names) found me wanting for something exceptional.  People would ask “what’s your favorite so far?”…and I would draw a blank.  But not here.  I found a slew of delectable goodies, like:

  • Sam Adams Verloren, a newly released Gose in part of their limited release series.  The hint of salt and light citrus in this mellow wheaty beer was a pleasant departure from the traditional styles I’ve come to know and love.
  • Wolfgang, a new seasonal doppelbock from local powerhouse Great Divide.  More sweet than smoky, in fact, more like a Belgian Dubbel than a true German “liquid bread” with it’s almost dessert like caramel/toffee/dark fruit tones.
  • Firestone Walker Double DBA.  Holy moley this guy was insane.  All the toasty toffee balanced goodness of the flagship DBA, times two, and aged in oak barrels.  Yes, please. (This bottle was hiding in secret, not really displayed at the Firestone Walker table.  How did I get some?  Their water pitcher was dry, and I volunteered to refill it in the bathroom.  Good things come to the altruistic)
There were also a slew of smaller and newer brewers around, like:
  • Wits End, who continues to show up at local beerfests in spite of being the smallest brewer in the state.  Their Green Man Ale is solid as a rock, as always.
  • Very-newcomers Elevation Beer Co. out of Poncha Springs (3 hours southwest of Denver) had continuous lines that would rival GABF booths.  I waited in line twice, but my second attempt was met with an empty keg of their Signal de Botrange, an oak-aged Belgian ale, I don’t know what style it was because I didn’t get any. Depression.
  • I thought I knew all there was to know about Strange, but then they craft a lovely little schwarzbier (“Summer Nights”) that made me reconsider the entire style in a new light.
  • I am a complete fool for not expecting much from a franchised brewery, but Rock Bottom Denver (South) shut my mouth with their Cascadian Dark Rye IPA.  I don’t even like Black IPAs, but this guy…wow. Wow-wee.

In all, I had a blast, even if there were too many densely packed slightly-sweaty people.  But it’s a beerfest, I’ve come to know and love that feeling like a comfortable home.  I know no one person or organizer in particular is responsible for the quantity and quality of outstanding beer at any given fest, but…man, Summer Brew Fest ’12 was a home run.

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