The Great American Beer Festival is a three-day extravaganza of more than 3,000 American beers from 48 of the 50 states. It is a wonderful way to experience varieties in style from the different regions and try some great beer you may never see where you live.
Day One: We started the first day of the Great American Beer Festival right with breakfast at Sam’s #3. A Denver omelet 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.
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 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
Today 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.
|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|