Saturday dawned at the Great American Beer Festival with the gusto of having burned the candle at every possible end for the previous two days. Neither of us was anything approaching bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but there was a light at the end of tunnel. We were only going the member’s session on Saturday then flying home. We would safely be back in our bed with the pups on Saturday night.
We started our day at Marlowe’s for a breakfast hosted by Boston Beer Company. Besides food, beer and friends, we were at Marlowe’s to hear Jim Koch announce the winners of their Longshot homebrew contests. There were two announcements, the winner of the national contest, as well as the Boston Beer Company homebrew contest winner. As opposed to years past, the 2010 edition of Longshot had all entrants create brews fitting category 23 of BJCP, “Specialty” beer.
When we arrived, they had just started pouring the three employee finalist’s brews. Over 300 employee entries were brewed and the three finalists were all women; all first time hombrewers. Besides enjoying a breakfast, our job was to try these beers and vote for our favorite.
Besides the Longshot beers, the breakfast was also a chance to try some special Sam Adams brews that I don’t often see or have the inclination to buy. This year the special brews were from the Barrel House Collection, American Kriek, New World Tripel and Stony Brook Red. I’m not the biggest Sam Adams fan in the world but all three beers were excellent. If I had to chose a favorite, it probably was a Stony Brook Red, a fabulous tart brew that hid it’s 9% ABV quite well.
This year, two winners were chosen. Rodney Kibzey won Longshot for the second time with Blackened Hops, a Black IPA. He was joined by Richard Roper who brewed Friar Hop Ale, a really delicious Belgian-style IPA. Caitlin DeClerq triumphed in the employee contest with Honey Beer’s Lavender Wheat. My second time voting in the employee contest; my second time not choosing the winner.
Arriving at the member’s session, Merideth and I bee-lined for the Sierra Nevada booth. Well, I bee-lined and she followed. I had learned the previous night that they would be tapping a rare keg of Bourbon Barrel-aged Life and Limb. Very first in line, I was disappointed when Sierra Nevada Bill told me that the tapping wasn’t going to happen for an hour. I’ll admit, I begged and pleaded. And I got the first pour. I think I like regular Life and Limb more, as the barrel aging overwhelmed the maple flavor that I enjoyed in that brew. It was still really good, though.
Merideth was finally ready to have a beer. She started easy with Magnolia’s wonderful Kalifornia Kolsch. That must have done the trick because next thing I know Merideth was sampling Onslaught, a 9.6% ABV Belgo-American Imperial IPA from Mountain Sun in Boulder. Despite being way outside her comfort zone, Merideth liked it.
After wandering around for about an hour talking with friends and running into Mr. Beer Goddess about a dozen times, we finally heard the announcement. The awards ceremony was about to start. We joined the mass migration to the stage area. We found a nice spot near the large orange-clad, cowbell ringing contingent from Iron Hill.
The big questions for the awards ceremony were:
1) How many medals would Pizza Port Carlsbad win?
2) Could Firestone Walker Union Jack three-peat the coveted IPA gold?
I really enjoy the awards ceremony. It’s my favorite part of GABF. The crowd groans and chuckles when Category 30 medals (American-style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale) were announced: Hamms, Rainier and Old Style. But it’s the special moments that I like the best. We were standing in front of the Fat Head’s brewers when they won the silver medal in the hard fought IPA category. The looks on their faces was priceless.
Congratulations to our friends who won medals this year: Steve Donohue from Firehouse Grill and Brewery, Shaun O’Sullivan from 21st Amendment and Rodger Davis from Triple Rock. And a very big congrats goes out to Mad River Brewing Company for winning Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the year! I regret to say that Mad River had fallen off my radar in the last decade or so. I guess I need to revisit their brews.
Oh, to answer the two questions, Pizza Port Carlsbad won another boat load of medals and Union Jack did not three-peat.
After the awards ceremony, Merideth and I were in wind down mode because right after the session, we were headed to the airport. While we searched out a few award winners, we had one more major task to accomplish before we left: find Melissa Cole. A beer writer from London, we have been online friends with her for quite some time but had never met. It took us awhile but we finally found her with about an hour left in the session. It was great to finally meet.
Seven hours after we walked out of the Colorado Convention Center, we were at home with Porter and Stout jumping all over us. Another great trip to Denver was over. I am already looking forward to the 2011 Great American Beer Festival.