“One Ounce at a Time” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
Despite our whining about the one ounce pours, the Great American Beer Festival member’s session is now a highlight of our beer year. Beyond the vast beer choices, GABF is the one time of year where most of our beer friends from around the country gather in one place. Good beer, good friends… that’s what it’s all about.
So enjoy our latest Great American Beer Festival adventure…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
Another short trip is in the books; the second of three successive quick beer trips. This quickie adventure was to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. We packed a lot into a 22-hour visit.
Being the anxious traveler that I am, I fretted the whole week about getting to Denver. We had a only a small window of error and any delays could negatively impact the whole day.
But our early, early flight from San Jose got us to Denver on time. Quickly making it downtown, we had time to check into our hotel and then walk over to Rock Bottom for a quick pint.
Rock Bottom was less crowded than I expected and we easily found a seat in the front bar area. A pint of beer was definitely needed not only to calm my traveling nerves. More important, I find the one ounce pours at GABF annoying and needed an adult-sized beer before enduring the Lilliputian-sized pours at the festival. And a pint of Falcon Pale Ale on cask fit the bill nicely. Merideth even got to indulge in her beloved Kölsch. With our beer craving satisfied, it was time to head over to the convention center.
At the opening bell, we were at Jolly Pumpkin where we had been patiently waiting for several minutes. Jolly Pumpkin only had two beers left which points out one of the downfalls of missing the earlier sessions. Beers run out never to reappear. Merideth and I started our 2009 GABF experience with EYO (pronounced I-O), a Red Saison brewed with rose petals and hibiscus, oak aged and bottle conditioned.
Call me pig-headed. With so many choices at GABF, this year over 2,100 brews from 457 breweries, I refuse to stand in a long line for a beer. Even if the lines supposedly move quickly.
With that in mind, I really wanted to try the New Glarus beers. I think the last time I sampled New Glarus was in the mid 1990s at the Oregon Brewers Festival. Back then, they were this new brewery doing fruit beers. But somehow there was already a long line one minute into the session. So, we passed on New Glarus and looked for easier opportunities.
We used to our tried and true method that we learned last year of wandering up and down the aisles picking random breweries based upon lack of line. But doing only one session this year, our wandering was a bit quicker and more focused. Using this tactic, we tried beers from breweries such as Lakefront (Milwaukee, WI), Real Ale (Blanco, TX), Sprecher (Glendale, WI), Sullivan’s Black Forest Brew Haus (Frankenmuth, MI) and 23rd Street (Lawrence, KS).
Our method also found us trying the range of beers from such notables as Bell’s, Allagash and Cambridge. Somewhat shocking to me given their reputations, none of these breweries had a line. So, it was easy to camp out and try all the beers.
First up was Bell’s. We don’t get the famed Michigan brews here in California so I was excited to give them a try. Still in a sour phase, Wild One was my pick of their offerings.
Next up was Allagash and Cambridge Brewing who were conveniently neighbors in the New England section. Focusing on them was a bit odd considering we are visiting both breweries in a few weeks. But I love their beers.
I’ll admit that Allagash prices has prevented us from sampling a wider range of the their brews. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to try some of their more esoteric brews such as Curieux and Victor.
Cambridge Brewing has always been our favorite brewery in Boston. So, it was no surprise that they had my favorite beer of GABF: Sgt. Pepper, a saison-style brew made with whole peppercorn. And The Wind Cried Mary was a very impressive Heather Ale.
With plenty of one ounce pours under our belts, it was time for the award ceremony. A large percentage of the session crowd gathered in the far corner of the hall to see medals awarded in 78 categories. From American-Style Cream Ale or Lager (Milwaukee’s Best) to the hotly contested American-style IPA (Firestone Walker Union Jack) to Barleywine (Valley Brewing Old Inventory) the winners were announced to the raucous crowd.
I would be remiss if we didn’t congratulate our friends who pulled in medals this year. Steve Donohue from Firehouse Grill and Brewery in Sunnyvale pulled in a bronze for his Veles Baltic Porter. We tried this beer in its infancy 4 months ago and it was brilliant then.
21st Amendment in San Francisco also won a bronze in the Smoked Beer category with Diesel Imperial Smoked Porter.
Finally, Peter Hoey from Sacramento Brewing won a bronze in the Belgian and French Style Ale category with Collaborative Evil.
This year there seemed to be a high number of entertaining brew names. If I could offer a suggestion to improve GABF (besides bigger pours), maybe there should be an award for most creative name. Coincidentally, the gold and silver could have gone to the gold and silver medal winners in the Kellerbier/Zwickelbier category. However, I might reverse the order and give the gold to Devil’s Backbone Brewing for “Natural Born Keller”.
After the awards, we ran around trying some of the medal winners. Then, before we knew it, our GABF experience was over and we shuffled out of the hall. My last act at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival was my glass dropping out of my bag and shattering all over the concrete floor. Of course, this elicited the requisite cheers and jeers.
The Great American Beer Festival might have been over but our day wasn’t. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and made our way down to Falling Rock Tap House to have a few beers before we headed out to Red Rocks.
Falling Rock was crowded but surprisingly not packed when we arrived. We found our friends JJ and Scott and grabbed a table downstairs. While we were chatting and enjoying a few beers, who should come up but our American altbier drinking buddy from Düsseldorf, Dennis. Though it was only two months ago, we reminisced about our time beer-filled time with the Slovaks at Hausbrauerei zum Schlüssel.
Just like GABF, our time at Falling Rock was quickly over as we had to head out to Red Rocks for the Flogging Molly show. In the end, we didn’t try all the beers we wanted, didn’t see all the people were were hoping to, but still had a memorable day. It was the beer geek thing to do…
“Rolling to Boulder” is the latest episode of One Pint at a Time.
We were back in Denver to meet up with our friends and fellow beer travelers, Matt and Michelle, who we had not seen in almost a year. Over a long weekend, we drank beer in Denver, Golden and Boulder and attended the Beerdrinker of the Year contest. It is meeting up with good friends that makes beer travel all the more enjoyable.
So enjoy our adventures…
For all the episodes of One Pint at a Time go to beergeekTV.
Our beer geek foursome spent the last day in Colorado in the Rockies foothill town of Boulder. Amongst its many charms, Boulder is home to one the best beer scenes in all of Colorado.
On our way there we stopped off in Arvada to check out the unique brewpub, Yak & Yeti. Their uniqueness is that they have house-brewed beer paired with the cuisines of India, Nepal and Tibet. Not being a fan of those cuisines I have to admit my expectations were not very high.
Oh, how I was wrong. Arriving right at opening time, we sat ourselves in the pleasant little bar area and ordered a taster set. There were six house beers, ranging from Pilsner to Stout. Of note to me were Namaste Pilsner and Himalayan IPA. Merideth was particularly fond of the Chai Stout.
We also ordered a few light appetizers, Naan bread and these light crisp lentil chips called Papadams that came with four dipping sauces. Our snacks probably weren’t paired with the correct beers, but were tasty all the same. All and all a pleasing experience so I guess need to keep reminding myself to have a open mind.
Onward to Boulder, our next stop was Avery Brewing. Located at the edge of town in a industrial park, Avery was a brewery of which I had very high expectations. One of the ‘cult’ breweries we needed to add to the list, there were a number of beers that I have been wanting to try.
It was another nice February day in Colorado so we grabbed one of the MacDonald’s playland looking tables out front with the rest of the hipster Sunday afternoon crowd.
Of the dozen beers available, I chose seven samples. The most anticipated was Maharaja Imperial IPA whose release party the previous day drew a crowd of 400 people. I have had Maharaja before and it was as good as I remember. Salvation, a Belgian-style Golden Ale was also very pleasing to the taste buds.
However, the star of my little seven beer show was New World Porter, a beer that I was tasting for the first time. And thanks to the bartender for suggesting I get three versions of it: draught, cask and dry-hopped. Most of the time I prefer cask, but the dry-hopped was the best of the three beer comparison. May I suggest a dry hopped cask version of the beer….
We were met by our friend Dan Rabin who, among other things, is the Rocky Mountain reporter for the Celebrator Beer News. Besides the pleasant conversation, Dan also introduced us to Adam Avery. Noticing his arrival on a bicycle, we had no idea who he was despite the Team Avery jersey.
Having lived up to my expectations, I can’t wait to go back to Boulder in the summer to waste away an afternoon at Avery Brewing.
The final stop on our little beer tour of Boulder was Southern Sun, the sister brewery to downtown Boulder’s Mountain Sun. Swinging the pendulum from hipster Avery to family-friendly Southern Sun, we settled in with another taster set. After the massive beers at Avery, it was nice to throttle back on the ABV.
It would have been nice to say that we had more gas in the tank after Southern Sun. Mountain Sun was having Stout month and it would have been nice to walk around downtown. But Merideth and Matt were feeling the effects of three days of beer drinking with a nasty cold. Our trip ended with the four of us in a hotel room watching the Oscars trying a few beers that I had brought from California. We ate popcorn for dinner.
The main event of our trip to Colorado was attending the 2009 Beerdrinker of the Year contest. This year, we had two friends as finalists, Mark and Phil. Plus, Matt as a judge.
Cody, the third finalist and local favorite, claimed the Wynkoop as his local. We met Cody for the first time the previous night at the judge/contestant meet and greet and he seemed like a really nice guy.
We headed down to the Wynkoop a little early to get some food and beer in our bellies and let Matt bask in his last few hours of wearing the tiara. The contest was still a couple of hours away, but the Wynkoop buzzed with activity and merriment. We met up with our friends Eli and Fran as well as meeting fellow beer geek Chipper Dave for the first time.
The contest is held in a side room behind the bar. Cody had a huge contingent of friends on hand to cheer him on, so the room was packed. Last year, Matt was the clear front runner, but this year it was a much closer contest. Both Mark and Phil held their own despite Cody’s homefield advantage. The judges asked great questions which the contestants fielded with skill. Kudos to Phil for his creativity, Mark for his wit and Cody for his passion. All three seemed worthy of the title “Beerdrinker of the Year”.
In the end, only one person can be the winner. And this year it was Cody. The winner gets free beer for life at Wynkoop and being local Cody will certainly benefit from this perk. The first winner from a non-coastal state, Cody also broke the run of winners hailing from Virginia.
We ended the evening by dining with Cody and his wife, Mark and his wife and Matt and Michelle. It was nice to increase our circle of friends and we look forward to having a beer with Cody in the future.
Not that there should always be a local finalist, but I have to say that the presence of a local gave the contest much more of a buzz than last year. Thanks to Marty Jones for being a brilliant host again this year as well as having the crowd toast Bill Brand.