October 18, 2012

GABF Recap: Part 1

Last week, I went to the Great American Beer Festival as a representative of the North Carolina Brewers Guild. I didn't drink as much as a lot of people at GABF, but I had my fill and had an awesome time in Denver, probably one of the best beer and food cities in the US. Here's the highlight reel from my long weekend:

Wednesday

Arriving Wednesday afternoon, I went straight to Great Divide Brewing Company in downtown Denver on Arapahoe and 22nd Street. The place was slammed with GABF pre-gamers and a disproportionate number of bearded men. I got an Oak-Aged Yeti, a big, robust Imperial Stout, which at 9.5% kept me good and warm.

Next stop, I went with my cousin and his roommate over to the Walnut Room for pizza and a Fat Tire, the classic amber ale from Colorado's own New Belgium Brewing Company. It was nice to get away from the GABF hot zone for a bit to see part of the "real" Denver, which turned out to be a theme that carried on through the weekend and made for a unique experience.

After dinner, I played it safe and got some much needed rest for the days ahead.


Thursday

The adventure began with a bike ride into downtown Denver. My cousin lives right on the Cherry Creek Trail, which runs diagonally across the city and right past the convention center. A gorgeous start to the day.



My first stop was Freshcraft ("Fresh Food, Craft Beer"), located on Blake Street. Again packed with bearded GABF pre-gamers, the place was hopping due to a Cigar City special tapping. I started off with an Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA (8% ABV and 85 IBUs), which in retrospect proved to be a little aggressive. I followed that up with a Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, which is basically the Stone IPA fermented with a Belgian Ale yeast, and a B.A.R. Reuben Sandwich. If you've followed the Local Beer Blog for a while, you may have noticed that I love this kind of sandwich. Freshcraft's B.A.R. is a Reuben with bacon(!) and stands right up there with the Wrecking Bar's Hot Pastrami Sandwich and 5 Season's Reuben. Rest assured, I will continue to seek out this killer beer/beef combo and let you know what I find.

I couldn't resist the waitress's suggestion for one more beer, so I finished the meal with a Cigar City Guava Grove Farmhouse Ale. Ever heard of too much of good thing? Me neither.

GABF: Thursday Session

As swarms of beer fans descended on the Colorado Convention Center, I collected the NC Brewers Guild banners and swag and joined the crowd. I'm not gonna lie, the sheer magnitude of this event was a little overwhelming. Nearly 50,000 people over four sessions attended GABF, sampling over 2,700 beers from 578 breweries! I found the NC Brewers Guild Booth amidst the ruckus and got to serving the Guild's two beers of the day:
  • Carver Sweet Potato Lager - Fullsteam Brewery, Durham, NC - North Carolina is the #1 producer of the Sweet Potato in the US. With that in mind, and as a tribute to George Washington Carver (he wasn't just into peanuts), Fullsteam's Sweet Potato Lager uses the sweet spud to provide one-third of this beer's fermentables. 4.8% ABV.
  • Milk Stout - The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville, NC - Is it a duck or a rabbit? "The Dark Beer Specialist," Duck-Rabbit is a small brewery in a small town, but they make some awesome beers! The Milk Stout uses lactose sugar to balance out the bitterness from roasted grains.

I got to explore a bit, but mostly I was just in awe of the sheer size of the event.

Feel free to check out the Local Beer Blog on Facebook for more photos from GABF 2012 and stay tuned for notes from the rest of the weekend in Denver! (or just read on to Part 2)