This was my second trip to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival and this time I did more than survive. The first visit can be so overwhelming. There are so many breweries at the festival and so many events all over Denver, Fort Collins and Boulder, that it is easy to lose track. So let’s narrow the focus and go region by region to what I think are breweries to watch and beers that you should have in your ‘fridge.
Midwest – The big winners are states without big brewing traditions. Utah and Texas. Texas had quite an impressive showing spread out over many breweries. You may not think Texas for beer but they are making strides. Same goes for Utah which has labored under some Byzantine alcohol rules. The Brewery to watch is Peticolas.
South – For all the talk about Asheville and North Carolina, the place to be is Virginia. Devil’s Backbone Brewing won the most medals of any single brewery! I should know. I was sitting next to them. No sooner would they get back to their seats with a medal and they would hear their name called again.
Pacific Northwest – Sound Brewery from Poulsbo was a revelation to me. Similar to Monkish in flavor profile, they served up one of my top three beers in the festival hall, Monk’s Indiscretion. A dry hopped 10% Belgian ale that was scary in how easy it was to drink.
California – Tap It won the highly competitive IPA category but what struck me was the impressive haul by Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. which picked up three medals. The same amount that Firestone Walker did! A trip up the 101 to all three spots may well be in order.
Your Beers of the Week are the local GABF medal winners. Beachwood Brewing and BBQ hauled in two awards. Sample El Verano (silver in the saison category) and Udder Love (silver in the sweet stout category). Then move on to the winning beers from TAPS in Brea. Try the Irish Red (silver in the Irish red ale category) and the cream ale (bronze in the golden ale category). Then top it off with the Gold Medal winning Groundworks Coffee Porter from Smog City Brewing.
Your Homework is to reclaim L.A. Live for craft beer. Downtown L.A. has some excellent beer options. But thanks to Rock & Brews and Wolfgang Puck, it will have a big coming out party (right before a Laker pre-season game). According to Brandon Halvorson who is coordinating the breweries, “The cool thing about this is that this is the first time EVER that these beers have been poured on the plaza and I’m hoping to be able to get some of the businesses in L.A. LIVE to try some local crafts (and hopefully tap them).”
The fest runs from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $55.50 including service fees through Rocktoberfest and include a glass and 12 3-oz pours. A donation will be made to the Grammy Museum with the proceeds. Wolfgang Puck’s Octoberfest themed menu will be available to pair with breweries new (Latitude 33 and Bravery) to young (Smog City and Cismontane) to familiar favorites (Firestone Walker and Goose Island) and a jam band filling the plaza with music.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.