It was that time of year again… the pilgrimage of beer geeks from all over the world to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival. Merideth and I were going for the third year in a row with the added bonus of our friends from beermenTV coming in from Australia to join in the fun. We arrived mid-morning in Denver and parted ways at the airport. While she took care of some business, I headed into Denver to hang out, waiting for her call. And by hang out, I mean drink beer…. sorta.
We had lived out this scenario once before on our first visit to Denver in 2001. While waiting for Merideth, I visited several of the numerous beer places in Denver (Falling Rock and Great Divide come to mind). By the time we were reunited in the evening, I was completely pissed. Merideth knows when I’ve had a lot to drink because I start telling her all these great entrepreneurial ideas that I have. After the second completely brilliant idea, she says to me, “Are your drunk?” Fast forward to 2010: as we said our goodbyes at the airport, I gave Merideth a kiss and promised that this year would not be a repeat of 2001.
I dropped my bag off at our hotel and I really wasn’t sure what to do next. With probably six hours to display some sort of self-control, delaying tactics were certainly in order. I left the hotel and wandered leisurely in the direction of the Convention Center to pick up our passes. There was no line so that took all of fifteen minutes. But they had given me a bunch of printed materials that I didn’t want to carry around, so I headed back to the hotel to drop the folder off. Another fifteen minutes off the clock.
Now I felt silly. I couldn’t do this all day. I made my first real decision. I would walk over to Great Divide and get a Titan IPA. Maybe a friend would even be there and I would have someone to chat with. Great Divide was crowded when I arrived. There was an industry get-together about to start in the brewery and the invitees were all crowded in the bar area getting a head start. Despite the number of people, I quickly had a glass of Titan IPA in my hand.
Glancing around, my heart sank. I knew no one. Well, there were the Alström brothers but we’re not quite on a first name basis yet. As I settled into a spot in corner of the tasting room, an odd feeling settled over me. I realized I was alone, without Merideth. We rarely spend any time apart and especially not during beer travels. In my mind, everyone was staring at me thinking “who is that loser here all alone…”
Three very friendly guys from Texas tried to engage me in conversation. But I was too frazzled to manage much conversation beyond that they were from Houston and it took them 18 hours driving to get to Denver. I resolved to finish my Titan and walk over to Falling Rock Tap House. I WOULD know someone there.
Falling Rock was crowded but not as crowded as I thought it might have been a few hours before the first GABF session. Fortuitously, I was reunited with Lisa and Mark (Beer Goddess and Mr. Beer Goddess). I had shared a shuttle from the airport into the city with them a few hours before. During the ride over, I told them the 2001 story and my pledge to Merideth. I had even put them in charge of keeping an eye on me. Joining them at an outside table, I ordered some much needed food and my second beer of the day, an Odell IPA.
The afternoon went smoothly after that. I chatted with Mark and Lisa, the two Matts from Big Sky and three quarters of the beermenTV crew. I even moderated my drinking though that became more difficult once the Aussies arrived.
Merideth finally called around 3:30pm. I left everyone at Falling Rock to connect with her at the hotel and get ready for the first GABF session.
For some reason, I always need a strategy or theme to choosing beers at GABF. In the past, I have focused on breweries with no lines. This year, I thought I was particularly brilliant. I would try beers from breweries that I had never heard of. Given the sparsity of our beer travels in the South and Midwest, I thought this would afford me a large number of targets.
Two things went wrong with my “brilliant” strategy. First, the beers from earlier in the day finally must have caught up with me because my very first beer from a brewery that I have never heard of… was a brewery that we visited in 2007.
The second problem was more perplexing. There had to be plenty of breweries that I never heard of making great beer. But after the first five or six beers I tried, I had yet to have one I liked. After the sixth disappointing beer, I spied the Fat Heads booth. From North Olmsted, OH, I knew of Fat Heads from their surprise win at the Bistro’s IPA festival a few years ago. Never having tried any of their winning brews, the brilliant strategy was ditched. Head Hunter IPA was a great beer. The rest of the evening, I stuck with more sure things.
Our GABF evening was short. With still two hours left in the Thursday night session, we left the beer world and assumed our punk music fan personas. As many of you know, we are huge Flogging Molly fans. Nathen Maxwell, bassist for the band was playing a solo acoustic show at a Denver Irish pub, Scruffy Murphys. He has a side project band called Nathen Maxwell and the Original Bunny Gang where he performs his own songs. We spent the rest of the evening listening to Nate and a few other local musicians. Nate was awesome but Todd, lead singer of the Denver punk/ska band Synthetic Elements stole the show with his acoustic cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”