2010 GABF: Great American Beer Festival Recap
Well, I’ve had a couple of days to unwind and recover from this year’s Great American Beer Festival, and, well, there’s no better way to sum up the event: GABF was so cool, it would turn the Rockies bright blue on those stupid Coors Light bottles. I can’t wait to go back next year.
And while there were certainly the obvious reasons to enjoy the festival – 455 breweries, over 2,200 craft beers being served – there was so much more to GABF than just beer. Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t want to come off sounding like the beer alone isn’t reason enough to attend. It is.
It was fun seeing all the familiar faces from my local Southern California breweries (and all in the same place at the same time!), but it was just as exciting to see what other craft brewers around the country are up to. I mean, where else am I going to get to try beers from Adirondack Pub and Brewery and Yazoo Brewing Company? Heck, I hadn’t even heard of them, let alone tried their brews, but here they were, ready to pour their blood, sweat, and tears into my handy little taster glass.
And I suppose it’s a strange idea in a way. With such small distribution, there’s a very good chance many of the attendees will never get to try their beers ever again. All they’ll be left with is a fond memory, and even that’s up to chance given alcohol’s infamous ability to void our minds of them. Regardless, we all made it out alive. And while I can’t speak for everybody, I sure came home with a helluva lot of great memories.
Beyond the beer on the exhibit floor, there was beer to be had all around town. Anyone who goes to the Great American Beer Festival and doesn’t make it over to Falling Rock Tap House is missing out. It’s sort of like the Official Unoffical GABF Bar – everybody goes there, which is cool, but it does mean there’s a crowd. Regardless, you deal with it, because the beers they are serving are more than worth it. Every heard of Moloch from Avery Brewing Co.? I hadn’t either. It’s a blend of Reverend and Samael’s that has been aged in Buffalo Trace Distillery Bourbon barrels. Or maybe you felt like trying some special offerings from Oskar Blues Brewery? How about Whiskey Barrel Aged Ten FIDY? Double Dry-Hopped Gubna? Sour Cherry Barrel Aged Old Chub? You aren’t going to find these anywhere else, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Walking distance from Falling Rock is The Sandlot Brewpub at Coors Field, which is kind of a weird Blue Moon/Coors offshoot, but it was actually a cool place and they had some good stuff on tap. Another block or two and you’ll wander in to your new favorite brewery, Great Divide Brewing Co. Give the Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout a taste and you too will believe.
Head back to the exhibit hall for the official sampling sessions. Stop in at the Farm to Table Pavilion to see what local chefs are pairing alongside craft beer. Ask your burning homebrewing questions at the American Homebrewers Association booth. Hear your favorite brewers chime in on what’s happening in the industry at the Brewers Studio Pavilion. See what the judges are looking for during the You Be The Judge sessions, where you can evaluate a beer alongside some of the competition judges during a directed tasting.
Oh yeah, the competition. It’s hard to believe that in the middle of this celebration, amidst all the free-flowing beer and bonhomie, there’s an actual competition going on. There is, and it’s the largest beer competition in the world, with its Gold Medals being, well, worth their weight in gold. Standing in the back of the crowd during the awards ceremony, I found myself surrounded by the Port Brewing/Lost Abbey and Pizza Port bunch, and what a great spot to be. When Pizza Port Carlsbad took home Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year, immediately followed by Pizza Port San Clemente snagging Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year, it was a cool place to be loitering around.
The excitement surrounding it all was contagious. Every facet of the GABF was spectacular – you couldn’t help but have a great time. You’re at the biggest beer festival in the world. You’re showing your support for the craft brewers around the country that are changing the way we think about beer. I even kind of miss the sophomoric uproar that erupted every time somebody dropped their taster “glass” (made of plastic, thank God).
So, what are you doing 29 September – 01 October 2011? I’ll be at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, helping ring in its momentous 30th Anniversary, and I hope to see you there. It’s going to be epic.