Judges hard at work at the GABF. PHOTO © JASON E.KAPLAN
It was the time of the year your most loyal brewpub patrons are out of town. That picky guy at the liquor store has vanished. And the who's who of brewers and bartenders around the state have seemingly fallen of the face of the earth. No, they were actually at the most grown-up playground you can imagine, The Great American Beer Fest in Denver, Colorado. And with my laptop by my side, and a drifting allocation of sobriety, SLUG sent me off to cover the brew mecca of Denver.
The first day was kicked off by a brief, yet thorough pillaging of Denver's finest liquor stores before the masses would rape and condemn the buildings. (Let the record state, I did not bring anything home, across any borders or break any laws in doing so.) After the booze were squirreled away and hidden, we were off to the Falling Rock Tap House for a little pre-game action. The fine people of The Bayou were already there, showing they are the best beer drinkers in the state! As I did not want to go into the festival with youthfully ripened liver, the smartest thing I thought was to get hydrated and prep our palates. The walk to the Convention Center was a brisk and sadly sobering walk only to witness the masses had already formed lines of eagerly waiting nerds. The line was a slow one, but I had a pretty good feeling that the booze would not run out. Once I was in, it was directly to The Lost Abbey for whatever involved a barrel and had some bugs. Directly next to them was Russian River the eternal saints of sour. After a long stay and several rounds of the line, I was ready to see what the rest of this fine festival had to offer.
[At this point Tyler had lost his way, become disoriented, and you can imagine the rest]
Day two was not the most pleasant awakening. It did lead to my discovery of my new favorite bar in Denver, The Cheeky Monk. This bar is a terrific place that taps all the belgian beer you can imagine including U.S. interpretations of the styles. After a couple belgian white mimosas and a pint or so in the name of recovery, I hit the streets of Denver to see what else they had to offer. One thing I would love to mention is how the city of Denver explodes in activities to do around the time of GABF. It is one of those epic events that you could even visit Denver (sans GABF tickets) and have one hell of time at all the local breweries and tap rooms. That being said it was over to The Wyncoop Brewpub to get some food and give my liver some padding before I gave it another ass whoopin'. Friday at GABF was highlighted by my visit to the Farm to Table exhibit hosted in the back of the Convention Center, where local culinary students and a select few breweries put beer and food together to make killer pairings and pour some quality draught. While these tickets are at an additional cost, it was well worth it. While the masses were getting the first picking of what the festival had to offer there were rare brews being poured here that made it worth the sacrifice. After I had gotten my fill, it was off to see some of the local breweries and what they busted out. Although I had promised myself that I would only stick to beers I could not get my hands on, I almost blew my load when I saw that Squatters and the Utah Brewers Cooperative had pitchers, yes pitchers, of Fifth Element and 529. Next to them RedRock was pouring all their greats including my favorite Organic Zwickelbier. Hoppers had their entire bottled line of high gravity along with Uinta showing off their Crooked Line Series, Epic was keeping up with their strong beer attitude and The Bohemian was swarmed at the entrance of the fest itself. Overall, it was a great showing of Utah breweries and Utah brewers. Cheers.
The final day was once again started off with a trip to the Cheeky Monk to repair and unfuck my head. But as opposed to staying for some extras it was a dart to the convention center to the Members Only Session and awards ceremony. A well-deserved handful of these awards were able to cross state lines back into Utah:
Epic Brewing Company
RedRock Brewing Company
RedRock Black Bier-Gold
RedRock Nut Brown Ale-Bronze
American Brown Ale
Utah Brewers Cooperative
Squatters Hells Keep-Bronze
Belgian Style Strong Specialty Ale
Squatters Wit Bier-Gold
Uinta Brewing Company
Kings Peak Porter-Bronze
Utah Brewers Cooperative
Mid-Sized Brewing Company and Brewers of the Year
When the beer awards were finished it was onto the breweries of recognition. The announcement came over the PA that The Utah Brewers Cooperative had won Mid-Sized Brewery and Brewers of the Year. It was pretty easy to see where the Utahans were in the crowd as we were jumping up and down screaming. The Co-Op went up, graciously accepted their awards and then it was off to tear it up some more. Saturday night was filled with more brewery outings and a final visit to Falling Rock with some of the Utah drinking crowd and a final victory lap.
[The details at this point once again, were a little dodgy, but we managed to give Utah a good name.]
The festival was a success for Utah, the craft beer drinking community, and the city of Denver. Its never a bad year when you see that our states brewers are kicking this much ass and representing us well, so be sure to hit up your nearest brew pub and have a pint or so for them.