GABF: 3 Days of Supreme Suds

SamsDay One: We started the first day of the Great American Beer Festival right with breakfast at Sam’s #3. A Denver omelette and mini cakes is a good way to get the old bod ready for this evening’s event. More than 3,100 beers await my arrival. So kind of them.

Lunch time found us at the Great Divide Brewery at 22nd and Arapahoe. The place was packed with GABF pre-functioners. Four busy bartenders tended the 16 taps of everything from Nomad Pilsner to Hibernation Ale. I found some personal favorites in the Claymore Scotch Ale, Hoss, Colette and Wolfgang.

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The Titan IPA is the big seller but from what I saw, this was an adventurous crowd and ordered everything from the Barrel Aged Grand Cru, Chocolate and Oak Aged Yeti. This is one of Denver’s big brewers with annual production of 40-50,000 barrels, and a top end potential capacity of 70,000 barrels at this location.

The Festival

Pipers

The 2013 GABF started in traditional fashion with the playing of the pipes and the mad scramble up the stairs to get a tasting glass (plastic) and start the relentless search for that perfect beer. This is sort of like looking for a pretty girl at a beauty contest, or a cute dog at the Westminster Dog Show.

Day Two: Media Treats

Samuel-Adams-Cold-SnapToday started out with a brunch hosted by Sam Adams Brewery at Marlowe’s on the 16th Avenue Mall. Owner/Founder Jim Koch was on hand to talk about the brewery, the status of the craft beer boom, how Sam Adams helps encourage up-and-coming craft brewers and homebrewers hone their craft and develop successful businesses. A new Sam Adams release, Cold Snap, a winter wit, was released at the brunch as well.

Next up, a media luncheon with a variety of posh beer and food pairings accompanied by speakers from several mid-sized breweries who talked about the variety of styles that make craft beer so different from what Americans have been conditioned to think beer is all about. There is a major push in the big craft beer cities to show how well beer choices can compete at the same level as fine wines.

Some of the folks jumped about a couple of buses after the luncheon and headed out to three of Denver’s newest small breweries, each with a very different focus on the kinds of beer they want to make and the niche they want to develop. It was very educational and of course accompanied by some very nice beers.

One thing that makes this festival so much fun is the array of costumery the locals and visitors come up with.

Day Three: The Competition

For the brewers, the big focus is winning the prestigious Gold, Silver or Bronze awards from the Great American Beer Festival. It is a national competition pitting the favorite beers from each city, state and region in 84 different styles against one another for top honors and bragging rights back home. GABF brings in more than 200 certified judges from all over the world to help judge the entries.

It was definitely a C-state love-fest, as California breweries took home the most medals (52). Colorado brewers followed with 46, and Oregon’s brewers captured an impressive 25. Washington brewers only took four medals this year, substantially down from years past; good job Elysian (2), Boundary Bay and American. One reason cited for WA brewers’ poor showing was the heavy demand for entry into the competition and a slow-on-the-trigger response from WA brewers. I am told that all the brewer-spaces (nearly 700 spots) were booked in less than 90 minutes.

The complete list of winners is available on the GABF website. You also can check out winners from previous years there. Planning a road trip to Oregon soon? Here are the medal-winning beers you may want to try. Pelican Brewery was honored as the Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year. Also Baker City Brewing was named Very Small Brewing Company and Very Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.

Medal Beer Name Brewery Style
Gold German   Sparkle Party Berliner Weiss 10   Barrel Brewing Co. German-Style   Sour Ale
Gold Shredders   Wheat Baker   City Brewing Co. American-Style   Wheat Beer
Gold Hand   Truck Baker   City Brewing Co. International-Style   Pale Ale
Silver Don   Vanuchi “The Killer” Baker   City Brewing Co. Foreign-Style   Stout
Bronze Fresh   Hop Pallet Jack Barley   Brown’s Brew Pub Fresh   Hop Ale
Gold Pallet   Jack IPA Barley   Brown’s Brew Pub American-Style   India Pale Ale
Bronze Black   Diamond Bend   Brewing Co. American-Style   Dark Lager
Gold Lovely Bend   Brewing Co. Aged   Beer
Gold Ching   Ching Bend   Brewing Co. American-Style   Sour Ale
Bronze Passionfruit   Sour Breakside   Brewery – Milwaukie Brewery German-Style   Sour Ale
Bronze Breakside   ESB Breakside   Brewery – Pub Brewery Classic   English-Style Pale Ale
Silver Gluten   Free Deschutes   Brewery Bend Public House Gluten-Free   Beer
Silver Sage   Fight Imperial IPA Deschutes   Brewery Bend Public House Indigenous   Beer
Bronze Little   Green Flat   Tail Brewing Co. American-Belgo-Style   Ale
Silver Tailgater   Kölsch Flat   Tail Brewing Co. German-Style   Kölsch
Gold Harvester   Brewing IPA No. 1 Harvester   Brewing Gluten-Free   Beer
Gold Bohemian   Pilsner Ninkasi   Brewing Co. Bohemian-Style   Pilsener
Gold Hellshire   III Oakshire   Brewing Wood-   and Barrel-Aged Beer
Gold Cent’s   and Censability Old   Town Brewing Co. Fresh   Hop Ale
Bronze Doryman’s   Dark Ale Pelican   Brewing Co. American-Style   Brown Ale
Bronze Tsunami   Stout Pelican   Brewing Co. Foreign-Style   Stout
Bronze Kiwanda   Cream Ale Pelican   Brewing Co. Golden   or Blonde Ale
Silver Silverspot   IPA Pelican   Brewing Co. English-Style   India Pale Ale
Silver Myrtle The   Commons Brewery American-Style   Sour Ale
Silver Urban   Farmhouse Ale The   Commons Brewery French   & Belgian-Style Saison

Bob Shoemaker

Grew up in Renton, WA. Writer. Photographer. Homebrewer. Woodworker. Beer lover. UW grad. - 14 years in Marketing and Advertising communications - 16 years in technical product support, quality, loyalty, support analyst - 12 years as communications business owner