October 25, 2012

GABF Recap: Part 2

The remainder of the Great American Beer Festival and the long weekend in Denver was a blast. A little hazy, a little rough on the body, but packed with good food, good times, and great beer. (Read Part 1 here.)


The Kitchen's Portobello Sandwich with a
Denver Beer Co. Summer Ale.
After some much needed sleep and lots of water, Friday began with another trek up the Cherry Creek Trail towards downtown. I stopped in for lunch at the Kitchen, located on the corner of 16th and Wazee St. in LoDo.

Anticipating that some veggies might help soak up the beer ahead, I opted for the Portobello Sandwich. Locally-baked ciabatta with sautéed red onions, gouda cheese, house-made hummus, and greens -- the sandwich was fantastic! The mushrooms, onions, and greens were all regionally sourced and organic. The sandwich was accompanied by house fries (from organic Idaho potatoes) and homemade ketchup. (Homemade ketchup? Gotta try that!) Some Denver Beer Company Summer Ale washed it down. Awesome.

Heading to the festival a little early, I walked around the convention center for a bit sans crowd and snapped some photos.

At the North Carolina Brewers Guild booth that day, we served:
  • Gaelic Ale - Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC - Highland's amber flagship is easy drinking, yet hoppy enough to keep the hop-heads satisfied. You get a nice toasty, nutty character from the malt and Chinook, Cascade, and Willamette hops contribute bitterness, flavor, and aroma. (30 IBUs, 5.6% ABV)
  • High Roller IPA - Big Boss Brewing Company, Raleigh, NC - Amber and clear, piney and citrusy, High Roller is a good all-around American-Style India Pale Ale. (55 IBUs, 6.75% ABV)

The North Carolina and Indiana Guilds ready to go.
Three and a half hours of interacting with festival-goers later, I met up with my cousin and went to a couple really cool bars:
  • Meadowlark - We happened to visit Meadowlark on their once-monthly Soul Night. The basement bar was pretty packed, where a couple DJs were spinning soul and R&B tracks from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The upstairs section on street level was open air and a lot more spacious. People were not afraid to shake a leg on the dance floor/outdoor stage. Great vibes.
  • Mile High Spirits - This microdistillery just down the road on Larimer Street makes their own vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, and brandy. Their tasting room is in a warehouse with a bar, pool table, and plenty of seating. Outside they've got a fenced-in area with cornhole that probably gets pretty busy when it's not too cold.
Saturday: GABF Awards Ceremony

The day began a little early, but a coffee from the Kaladi Brothers soon set me straight. 

Scheduled for Saturday morning was the awards ceremony from the GABF competition. 666 breweries submitted 4,338 entries in 84 categories to be judged by 185 judges from around the world. Roughly 3,000 bleary-eyed brewers, guild representatives, and media personel shuffled into the Wells Fargo Theatre to await the announcements.

Out of the 254 medals awarded, these were some of the highlights that jumped out at me:
  • Pabst Brewing Company won Large Brewery and Brewer of the Year as well as a gold medal in the American Style Light Lager category. I guess the hipsters are onto something...
  • Given their size, the state of Wyoming killed it. Five of the state's 14 breweries took home eight medals, including a gold for Thai Me Up Brewery's 2x4 Imperial IPA. Read more here.
  • Devil's Backbone Brewing Company turned a lot of heads by winning a total of eight medals. They also won Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year. Devil's Backbone is based in Roseland, VA, with a production brewery in Lexington, VA.
  • Not surprisingly, California and Colorado both did well, winning 49 and 35 medals respectively.
  • The state of North Carolina had four winners:
Check out all of the winners from GABF 2012 here.

Saturday: GABF Sessions 3 & 4

After the awards ceremony, everyone shuffled back to the convention center for a double shift: back-to-back sessions to wrap up the festival.

Served at the NC Brewers Guild for the third and fourth sessions:
  • Shiva IPA - Asheville Brewing Company, Asheville, NC - Brewed with Columbus hops, this one has loads of citrus and grapefruit flavor, really distinguishing it from IPAs loaded with Cascade and Centennial. (5.3% ABV)
  • Sweet Josie Brown - Lonerider Brewing Company, Raleigh, NC - An easy-drinking brown ale, with subtle chocolate notes and moderate hopping. Nice contrast to a lot of the big West Coast IPAs at the festival. (6.1% ABV)
  • Black Mocha Stout - Highland Brewing Company, Asheville, NC - A very dark beer, full of coffee and chocolate flavors. It doesn't actually have coffee or chocolate -- these flavors come from highly kilned barley malt. (5.6% ABV, 25 IBUs)
Rather than try to sample every award winner, I set out to try some beers (and meads!) that were either made with unusual ingredients or hard to find on the East Coast. Here are a few that stood out:
  • Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter - (512) Brewing Company, Austin, TX - Great balance between the pecans and the whiskey notes.
  • Ozymandias - Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge, MA - Brewed to celebrate CBC's 23rd anniversary, Ozymandias is super complex, brewed with multiple yeasts and aged in bourbon and red wine barrels. Read more here.
  • Framboise de Amorosa - The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA - A Belgian ale brewed with raisins, then aged in red wine barrels with three additions of raspberries. Sweet, a little tart, with some complexity from the oak. Really stood out compared to the multitude of pale ales at the festival.
  • Sunshine Nectar and Black Raspberry Nectar - Redstone Meadery, Boulder, CO - I was really happy I got a chance to try some meads. These two were amazingly sweet for their 8% ABV. 
  • Bitter American Extra Pale Ale21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA - Great go-to for some big hop flavor. And yes, it's bitter.
  • Three Philosophers - Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY - I had to remind myself just how good this Belgian Quadruple was: really good.
  • RauchbierDenver Beer Company, Denver, CO - A very clean smoked lager. Nice.
  • Root Beer - Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO - OK, this one is a soda, but delicious nonetheless. 
Tommyknocker Root Beer
Saturday Night: Post Session

By the end of the festival I was pretty worn out, but I went with my cousin to a couple bars that are worth a mention:
  • Linger - A restaurant with a rooftop bar overlooking the city. The upstairs bar is inside a mini-bus -- on the roof. A Levity Amber Ale from Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins provided just what I needed -- something sessionable with lots of flavor.
  • Dazzle - A great little jazz joint. Heard an amazing local trio. The cocktails looked intriguing (made by dancing waitresses), but by that point it wouldn't have been wise.

So there it is. Three days (plus some) filled with good eats, great drinks, and people having a good time and enjoying life. My only complaint: So many beers, so little time! I guess I'll have to go back next year!

Special thanks to my cousin, Adam, for hosting me through the weekend!

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